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You are what you digest!

I had it in mind to write a big roundup post all about digestion for a little while now.

In the last few months I seem to have experienced a few digestive issues myself. I think I pretty much know what it stems from, and to a certain extent it's unavoidable for meat the moment (I'll go into that a bit more later) so for the most part I was keen to investigate foods and recipes that would assist me to optimise my nutrition and most importantly address the notion:

"it's not so much what are what you eat, more accurately you are what you digest"

...There's no point eating all the good stuff if your body is not then utilising it in the most optimal way.

So, what things have I been trying out? As many tips and tricks as possible really- some were little interventions and some are more significant ways of going about things. I will note that it's a process of experimentation so what may work well for me may not have as much significance for you, though you may find that something else on my list works wonders for you!  As with everything in life I always encourage you to be experimental and listen to your body!

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I have a recipe or you tomorrow, and you will have seen my Kombucha post here already. But below I have summarised everything I have experimented with- there are lots of simple tips and tricks you can try out to help beat the bloat (that was/is my main symptom). I have added a sentence explanation against each one but feel free to do some research of your own.

  • Apple cider vinegar- dilute with water for great detox/digestive aid. Great first thing in the morning. Can also be made with cayenne pepper and honey (not technically vegan). I'll be honest and say I wasn't a big fan of the taste.
  • Kombucha- we covered that here
  • Kimchi- a spicy traditional Korean side dish (i tried making my own but wasn't ken on the taste)
  • Sauerkraut- fermented cabbage i've been loving this and it so simple to make!
  • Coconut milk keffir- this is one i've yet to ry but i've read great stuff about it. There is also a non-vegan dairy version. This can be are at home wit a starter culture.
  • Soaking and sprouting- I plan to do a separate post about this as it is a deeper topic for discussion but the general idea is that soaking nuts and soaking and sprouting seeds and grains eliminates physic acid and makes them more readily digestible. 
  • Food combining- another interesting topic that fundamentally centres on not combining foods that have very different digestion rates. i.e combining proteins and carbohydrates are not recommended under this approach.
  • Chewing- it seems so simple but digestion starts in the mouth...chew your food well and eat mindfully. It is generality recommended to chew each mouthful 20 types before swallowing.
  • Pineapple- contains the enzyme bromelain which assists digestion
  • Fenugreek tea- fenugreek releases mucilage which produces a protective layer for stomach and intestines and lowers gastric problems and indigestion.
  • Cooking beans with seaweed- such a simple tip to add seaweed when cooking beans, it helps improve digestibility.
  • Cruciferous foods- some foods are more commonly bloating so may be worth avoiding- cruciferous vegetable cotain raffinose and sulphur which cause the bloat. Similary foods high in sorbitol also have a bloat inducing effect.
  • Low FODMAP's foods- The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. These sugars also exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel. The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are a cause of major IBS symptoms such as gas, pain, and diarrhoea. 
  • Peppermint essential oil- The compounds of peppermint oil reduce spasms of the colon and intestinal tract, and, due to the presence of thymol and eugenolbalance oral and intestinal flora, thereby reducing fermentation of undigested food. Try diluting in an oil base and massaging into the abdomen.
  • Slipper Elm Powder- this is the ground inner bark of the slippery elm tree. It is a mucilage, meaning that it is hydrophilic and is able to trap water where it then swells and becomes like a gel. Once consumed, this gel is broken down by the gut bacteria and has a soothing effect on gastrointestinal inflammation. I have bought some but have yet to add it into any recipes.
  • Congee- this is a watery slow boiled rice 'broth' that is healing to the gut and good for convalescence. I made this but added way to much kelp powder, so it tasted like the bottom of the sea (not great).... I will be trying it again but be more careful what I add!
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I mentioned up top I've been having a few digestive issues, mainly with bloating. I think for me this is largely down to food-combining and intially came about around Spring/Summer of last year when I was just launching my food business and testing and trialling recipes for my Wholeplus food products to an excessive degree. In effect, now when I eat a combination of dried fruit and nuts (anything larger than a very tiny handful) within minutes I bloat out and feel very lethargic, almost as if the energy within my entire body is trying to help me process the food. It's so frustrating, but they say that overexposure to any food can run the risk of leading to a sensitivity- I think that is what has happened to me.

It's incredibly frustrating since much of business revolves around these foods, and even today I test a sample of every batch I make. In my head I know this is technically healthy food… so it's really difficult to get on board with the fact my body just can't deal with very well any more- I simply overloaded my system in months gone by. I'm trying to find ways to eat as little of it as I can...but it just tastes sooooo good, it's so hard.

Anyway, that's my digestive story- what's yours? Have you tried any of the tips i've listed or have you got any more of your own you'd add to the list?  I'd love to hear from you!

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