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Home > The Vapour Blog > Spring Cleaning From the Inside Out, Part Three: Digestive Health

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Spring Cleaning From the Inside Out, Part Three: Digestive Health
By Ashleigh Beyer, Vapour BlogGirl

SO... if we’re going to be friends, I have one caveat: it’s important to me that you’re comfortable talking about digestion and elimination. I guess you don’t have to talk about it, I will.

I became interested in these topics during a particularly difficult time in my life when I did not go “number two” for 3 weeks. I think Mr. Einstein was right when he said that time is relative; that 3 weeks seemed like a very, very long time. Not only did I feel super physically uncomfortable, I also felt emotionally uncomfortable. The results are in: after that experience, having a good bowel movement everyday is a major priority of mine. And although I can get a little obsessed with this priority, research is showing that my physical and mental health are better for it: our gut health contributes a great deal to our overall health.

Mark Hyman M.D., a doctor of functional and integrative medicine in Lenox, Massachusetts says, “A healthy gut is central to your overall health.”
According to the National Institute of Health, 70 million Americans (approximately a quarter of us) suffer from digestive disorders. Yikes!

More and more, research is pointing to the way gut health affects mental health.  Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride says, “Most psychiatric patients suffer from digestive problems. They have unhealthy inner ecosystems where there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast and fungus; they cannot digest food properly. This creates a large number of neurotoxins that can move from their intestines through the damaged intestinal lining into the blood stream where the toxins are carried to the brain.” Preliminary research published in the National Academy of Sciences showed that scientists were able to reduce anxiety and stress hormones in mice by feeding them a particular probiotic strain. And Michael Gershon, author of The Second Brain says that, “Very often, people with [Irritable Bowel Syndrome] suffer from depression and anxiety.”

The gut has its very own nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which controls digestion. Health and science journalist Emma Young says that, “Digestion is a complicated business, so it makes sense to have a dedicated network of nerves to oversee it.” In addition to being a super-awesome network of 500 million neurons stretching from your esophagus to your anus your ENS is connected to your brain via the vagus nerve; according to Young, “...about 90 percent of the signals passing along the vagus nerve come not from above, but from the ENS.”

For me, knowing all of that makes me want to make it as easy as possible for my gut to digest and the best way to do that is with a clean diet, and to make sure that things “keep moving.” Dr. Hyman says that, “You should have at least one bowel movement a day, it should be banana-shaped and it should float.” However, professionals do say that if you're having more than 3 or 4 bowel movements a day, you may want to consult your doctor.


Experts Agree on Fiber

Lifestyle and Plant-Based Diet Superstar, Kris Carr explains the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber so nicely: “Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel in your intestines, which bulks up your poop and makes it smooth enough to keep the trains moving. Soluble fiber also helps regulate blood sugar and can lower cholesterol levels. Add these foods to increase soluble fiber: oatmeal, apples, oranges, pears, berries, flax, beans, peas, lentils and psyllium husk. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, so it acts like the bristles in a broom to sweep poop along. It also has a mild laxative effect, which helps with healthy elimination. Add these foods to increase insoluble fiber: whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, dried fruit and root vegetable skins.”

Go Crazy (but not too crazy) with Water 
Dr. Edward Loftus, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic says “If you’re well hydrated, there’s a greater chance your stools will be softer which make them easier to pass. Remember you can tell if you’re properly hydrated by the color of your pee, and it should be light yellow. Try and remember not to drink too much water during mealtime, drinking water, especially cool water, during meals dampens digestive fires.

Keep Up the Good (Bacteria) Work 
Kris Carr nails it again, “Good bacteria (also known as probiotics) are very important to help keep us regular. We need probiotics to work alongside our digestive enzymes and help break down food to release the nutrients our bodies need. In return, probiotics survive and multiply in our gut when they dine on the leftover fiber from our digested food. To increase good bacteria in your gut: Eat fermented foods like tempeh, miso, kombucha and sauerkraut, eat high-fiber foods (prebiotics) and take a high-quality probiotic supplement.

Literally Keep It Moving 

Doctors concur that one of the key risk factors for constipation is inactivity. But hold your horses until at least an hour after eating a big meal, so that the blood that wants to be in your gut helping you digest your food, doesn’t go to your heart. Really any movement is good movement, even walking 15 to 20 minutes a day helps. Exercise tones the muscles in your core which helps the contractions and rhythms associated with peristalsis and elimination. If you’re feeling more ambitious than just a walk, Kris Carr says that “...moderate aerobic activity on a regular basis is a more effective way to keep constipation at bay in the long run.” Many yoga postures are helpful for digestion and elimination and are just a Google away.

Finally, if you can’t get your digestive system going, it may need a little prompting. Dr Hyman suggests, “consuming two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds (sprinkle them over a salad or stir them into a cup of applesauce). If you don’t see a positive change, try taking one teaspoon of buffered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder in a glass of water. Still no relief? Two or four capsules of magnesium citrate a day may help.”

Are we still friends dear readers? I hope so.

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On 6/18/2014 Rebecca wrote:

Great informative article-I didn't know that my poo should float!

On 6/18/2014 Amanda wrote:

Great info. Thanks!

On 6/18/2014 JULIE TARDI wrote:

a lot of good info

On 6/18/2014 Bhavani Sekar wrote:

cool. Good info!!

On 6/18/2014 Bhavani sekar wrote:

cool. Good info!!

On 6/17/2014 Michelle Heurung wrote:

Very helpful information...thanks!

On 6/17/2014 barbara butler wrote:

"Try and remember not to drink too much water during mealtime, drinking water, especially cool water, during meals dampens digestive fires. " I always forget's so hard to stray from habit and refrain from drinking while eating, but this is so true!

barbara butler
http://1200 hanover rd apt d 2

On 6/17/2014 kris wrote:

Thanks so much. Great Information on digestive health, key to overall health.

On 6/17/2014 Lyndsey Lie wrote:

Found cool. Good info!!

On 6/17/2014 Robin wrote:

"Try and remember not to drink too much water during mealtime, drinking water, especially cool water, during meals dampens digestive fires. " I always forget's so hard to stray from habit and refrain from drinking while eating, but this is so true!


On 6/17/2014 Tracy wrote:

Found the word "cool" as it was about not drinking to much water at meal time and cool water dampens the digestive fires. Good information

On 6/17/2014 Susan wrote:

Water all day long - except with meals and especially not "cool" water! Thanks for the good info.

On 6/17/2014 Cin wrote:

"Cool water". Hydration and whole foods are key to me. Thanks. :)

On 6/16/2014 Kristen Johnson wrote:

Thanks for the great info

On 6/16/2014 Michelle wrote:

Yay! I found the word "cool" in the blog post! And the blog was full of good info too...Win/win! Yay :)

On 6/16/2014 Amanda M wrote:

I'm 8 months pregnant and my doctor says the same things - get exercise, eat fiber, and drink lots of water. No matter what each of us are going through, it remains a fact that these keys to a healthy gut are essential.

On 6/16/2014 Laura wrote:

Great article. The role of gut health in psychological disorders is new info for me. Looking forward to researching that more. I would love to suggest in a follow up article to discuss the role of breast feeding/mother's milk as first food as crucial to establishing the foundation of healthy gut flora for long term health. My guess is that a lot of young women, many of them young mothers are customers of Vapour, hence readers of the blog.

On 6/14/2014 lisa wrote:

kombucha has been an essential part of my routine, along with the subtraction of sugar, in keeping my digestive system healthy & happy. the overall effects are profoundly positive ( inside/out) when you diligently maintain a healthy environment in the tum!

On 6/13/2014 Kris Anderson wrote:

Sometimes it's the old simple things that make a big difference.

On 6/13/2014 Emma wrote:


On 6/13/2014 Miquela wrote:

Fascinating post Ashleigh! I love your candor.

On 6/13/2014 Miquela wrote:

Fascinating post Ashleigh! I love your candor.

On 6/13/2014 Dana Cavallaro Dignam wrote:

Very informative.

On 6/12/2014 Rachel wrote:

I have definitely benefited from consuming probiotics supplements on a daily basis. Thanks for the informative article.

On 6/12/2014 Emmannuela Caldas wrote:

Very interesting!! =)

On 6/12/2014 hanh nguyen wrote:

Great information! Thanks!

On 6/12/2014 hanh nguyen wrote:

Great information! Thanks!

On 6/12/2014 Cecilia wrote:

Spring Cleaning From the Inside Out is the best way to keep healthy and look healthy! Such good advice!

On 6/12/2014 Shaila Fairbanks wrote:

So informative! Thankyou for this amazingly helpful article

On 6/12/2014 Heidi Harrigan wrote:

I could so relate to this post. When I went to China the same thing happened and it was miserable. I think change of diet can also affect digestive health.

On 6/12/2014 Terressa Zook wrote:

Very good, common sense info. Thank you.

On 6/12/2014 Peachy wrote:

Love drinking water keeps me hydrated, love fermented foods like Sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber, okra and a lot more. This article really a big help to staying healthy. Thanks!

On 6/12/2014 aslihan wrote:

awesome thank you

On 6/12/2014 Cassi Meelhuysen wrote:

Water is important for me. The most important for me is exercise. I can be doing everything else right, but without that, my body just doesn't feel as well.

On 6/12/2014 Sara A wrote:

I have found all of these help immensely! But what has helped me lately has been limiting my liquids with my meals and lots of probiotics. I have been so hooked on Kombucha lately and dying to try Kimchi!

Awesome article with lots of helpful information and tips. :)

On 6/12/2014 H. Shuler wrote:

Good info for sure. I hope this reaches a lot of people.

On 6/12/2014 janie wrote:


On 6/12/2014 Lucy McAdams wrote:

Great tips!! Thank you.

On 6/12/2014 krysia wrote:

thank you Ashleigh for all all the research on why healthy digestion is essential

On 6/12/2014 M wrote:

So glad to read all these vital tips for keeping healthy gut. Thanks!

On 6/12/2014 B wrote:

So glad that the word is getting out about digestive health and mental health! Thanks!

On 6/12/2014 Colleen Kresoja wrote:

Thanks for this enlightening post! Digestive health is important to me too!

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