We eat food for energy, but what happens if we aren’t absorbing what we eat? Then we don’t have the energy levels we want, and even in first-world countries, we can suffer from malnutrition. Understanding how to optimize our digestive system is key in ensuring we can actually properly absorb our food. In this episode, I teach you how to optimize your digestive system, as well as an at-home test to determine if you have good levels of stomach acid, which we need in order to break down our food. TIP: Antacids make things worse! Listen to this episode to learn more!
Complimentary 30 minute consult:
Discover Your Toxic Load Quiz: https://welcome.yourguidedhealthjourney.com/yourtoxicload
September Health Optimizer:
About the Host:
Melissa is an Integrative Health Practitioner helping people get to the root cause of their health issues. Melissa neither diagnoses nor cures but helps bring your body back into balance by helping discover your “toxic load” and then removing the toxins. Melissa offers functional medicine lab testing that helps you “see inside” to know exactly what is going on, and then provides a personalized wellness protocol using natural herbs and supplements. Melissa’s business is 100% virtual –the lab tests are mailed directly to your home and she specializes in holding your hand and guiding the way to healing so that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Melissa has been featured at a number of Health & Wellness Summits, such as the Health, Wealth & Wisdom Summit, The Power To Profit Summit, The Feel Fan-freaking-tas-tic Summit, and the Aim Higher Summit, and has guested on over 30 different podcasts teaching people about the importance of prioritizing our health and how to get get started.
Thanks for listening!
If you know somebody who would benefit from this message, or would be an awesome addition to our community, please share it using the social media buttons on this page. Do you have some feedback or questions about this episode? Leave a note in the comment section below!
Subscribe to the podcast!
If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast episodes, you can subscribe on the podcast app on your mobile device.
Leave us a review!
We appreciate every bit of feedback to make this a value-adding part of your day. Ratings and reviews from our listeners not only help us improve, but also help others find us in their podcast app. If you have a minute, an honest review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes goes a long way! Thank You!
Imagine getting up every day full of energy is if you were in your 20s. Again, what would that be? Like? What would that be worth to you?Melissa Deally:
What is your health worth to you?Melissa Deally:
Think about it. Your health isn't everything. But without it, everything else is nothing. And yet too many of us are taking it for granted until something goes wrong. No one wakes up hoping to be diagnosed with a disease or chronic illness. And yet, we've never been taught how to be proactive in our health through our school system, or public health. As a registered health coach and integrative health practitioner, I believe it is time this information is made available to everyone. Combining new knowledge around your health and the ability to do my functional medicine lab tests in the comfort of your own home will allow you to optimize your health for today and all your tomorrows don't wait for your wake up call.Melissa Deally:
Welcome backMelissa Deally:
to The don't wait for your wake up call podcast. This episode is the start of four episodes around digestion. I'm Melissa Deally, your host, and I'm excited to dive into this. And you might be like, wow, digestion, that's kind of boring. I don't want to listen. But here's the thing. You've heard the saying before that we are what we eat. But my take on that is actually that we are what we absorb. And we eat food for energy. But if we can't absorb it, we are going to be lacking energy. And so it's really important to understand how our digestive system works, and how to optimize it. And that's what I'm going to be diving into today. Now, we also get energy from sleep. And I have done episodes on sleep. So if you haven't listened to those, and you're one of the millions of people out there that are struggling with fatigue and lack of energy, you might also want to tune in to episodes, five through eight to check those out. So as I said, we are what we absorb. Our entire digestive system is designed to break down our food and get that food to the cells so that we have the energy to do what we want to do in any given day. And yet, so many people are struggling with digestive issues. In fact, I would say over 80% of my clients are struggling with digestive issues, whether it's gas and bloating, or pain, and cramping after eating, or maybe it's constipation, or diarrhea. And they're narrowing down the foods that they can eat trying to alleviate these symptoms. And that's not fun either, because we all want to be able to enjoy food. And when we can eat less and less food, it makes it hard to live a full life and have a social life, etc, etc. and narrowing down the foods can help alleviate the symptoms, but it's not getting to the root cause of what's going on. And so that's what I help people do. So this episode is going to be around how to optimize our digestive system. Next week, I have a guest coming on. And the week after that, I'm going to talk more about what can go wrong with our digestive system and some of the common issues that people struggle with.Melissa Deally:
let's just talk about the fact that a healthy digestive system uses 30% of your energy every time you eat our digestive system Trumps other systems in the body. And every time we put food in our mouth, we turn it on. And it uses 30% of your energy. And that's if it's a healthy digestive system, if it's a digestive system that's getting bogged down, then it can be using more energy. And that might be interesting for you to think about as well because you know in our time of lockdown right now working from home, the refrigerator just over here, there's a lot more grazing that might be happening that wasn't happening in the past. And if every time you're putting food in your mouth, you're actually causing your body to use energy. Are you putting in food that is going to still give you energy or is the food that you're getting, you're putting in kind of being wiped out by the that 30% of your energy that's being used to digest it. So that's something interesting to think about and choosing foods that are nutrient dense and high energy are going to serve you far better than those quick fix energy things that we tend to go for as snacks like that, you know chocolate bar or sugary muffin or you know, any kind of candy that you might just be popping into your mind. out of habit, and not even thinking, right. So that's why I like to bring you this information to kind of give you that little aha to go, huh, I might take that candy jar off my desk, or think about healthier snacks that I'm going to have in the middle of my afternoon, so I can make sure I'm getting energy from them. Because it's the middle of the afternoon where I feel like my energy is fading. So, the other thing that is really important to understand around your digestive system is that it is only ever turned on when we are in our rest and digest stage, our parasympathetic nervous system. However, many of us are living in a state of chronic stress with our sympathetic nervous system switched on. If you've listened to my podcast, Episode 17 to 20. In regards to stress, you will have learned a lot about our parasympathetic and our sympathetic nervous system. But I'm gonna repeat it here because there may be new listeners, but also sometimes it takes hearing things more than once for it to actually sink in. So what's going on in our autonomic nervous system, which is a guiding us between our sympathetic and our parasympathetic systems is that our brain is charged with keeping us safe. And if we go back to our hunter gatherer days where we had to hunt for our food, our brain was on alert for danger. To this day, even though we don't have to hunt for our food, our brain is still on alert for danger, it wants to keep us safe. Now, if we were out hunting, and there was a lion nearby that was actually hunting us, our brain would trigger within us, the sympathetic nervous system would switch on. And our blood would start pumping faster, our pupils with dilate, our senses would become stronger, cortisol would be being produced adrenaline being produced, so that we can flee and get to safety. And in order for the body to do all of that it shuts down other systems. So it's shutting down our digestive system, because we don't care about the sandwich or whatever we might have eaten earlier in that moment of trying to get to safety from the lion, and it shutting down procreation as well, among other systems.Melissa Deally:
when our digestive system is shut down, hydrochloric acid is not being produced in the stomach in order to break down our food, salivary enzymes are not functioning either. And so our, our body can't break down the food that we're putting in. And the problem today in our modern world is, is that we are living in this gogogo doo doo doo society with deadlines and just trying to get it all done. And we very often are stuck in this chronic straight state of stress, which means our digestive system is not even turned off. And if we're sitting down to eat in a stressed out state, you could be eating the healthiest meal on the planet, and your body isn't going to be able to break it down properly, which means you are not getting the benefit of all the nutrition in that meal, that super healthy meal, getting broken down and into your bloodstream and into your cells. And instead, what happens is it's being not broken down properly, could end up resulting in constipation could end up as diarrhea. Or it could even be stored in fat closets in the body because the body just can't cope with this right now. Because it's dealing with this stress state. And it can't deal with digestion. So what does that mean? What that means is that every time you sit down to eat, you need to do a check in with yourself and say, Hey, am I stressed out right now. And if you are, then we need to do a little trick in order to turn off our sympathetic nervous system and turn on our parasympathetic rest and digest system. So we're turning on digestion before we start eating, because when we turn on digestion before we start eating, that triggers the brain to then start producing salivary enzymes, stomach acid, hydrochloric acid, and all of the other enzymes needed throughout our digestive system. So that our body can break down the good food that we're about to put in. So my trick for that is the same trick I've taught before and several other episodes, but it's called 557 breathing. And what that means is you're going to inhale for a count of five, hold your breath for a count of five, and then exhale for a count of seven and do 10 cycles of that. And what happens is your brain goes Hmm, I felt I was stressed out, but I'm breathing like a safe person, I must be safe. And we'll drop out of that chronic stress state and move in to our rest and digest state, and digestion can be turned on. And this is This happens because if you were running away from a lion, there is no way that your exhale would be longer than your inhale, you would be panting and pumping your arms and running as fast as you can. So your brain recognizes with that longer exhale at a seven count, that's what triggers the brain to realize I'm safe, and turn on our rest and digest system. So 10 cycles of 557 breathing, you can do it right at the dinner table, you can do that anywhere, in fact, and nobody even has to know that you're doing it. But it's a very powerful way to turn on digestion as you get yourself out of that stress state. It's also powerful, because as you're doing counting the cycles, and you're counting the breath all at once, you have to actually concentrate. And that also has your brain let go of what otherMelissa Deally:
what ever elseMelissa Deally:
was running around in your brain and keeping you in that stressed out state. So that's the first thing you want to do. And a tip is that we chronically underestimate our level of stress. So if you sit down before a meal, and you think, am I stressed out? And you come up with the answer of No, do the 557 breathing anyway, because you might think you're not stressed out. But physiologically, you might be stressed out, and digestion hasn't been turned on. Yeah. It's also important to think about who we are being when we eat. And what I mean by that is, are we being that calm person, are we engaging and cute in communication with others around the dinner table, etc. Food is meant to be shared in community. And over time, not a wolf down on the run, get me to the next place, which is what so many of us do, because we just get so busy. But can you sit down in community have conversation over the meal and truly enjoy it, because this will get you to slow down. And ideally, you want to eat your meal, and take about 20 minutes to eat your meal. So next time you sit down for a meal, look at the clock. And then notice the clock when you finish it. In many cases, today, people are eating their meals in five to seven minutes. We want to elongate that to 20 minutes in order to allow the time for our body to be able to get that digestive process going, as well as for hormones to have a chance to react, particularly our fullness hormone leptin to tell us that we're getting full, so that we're not overeating. And that's also really important, because when we overeat, we're putting more pressure on our digestive system. And using more energy to break it down. An example of that would be Thanksgiving dinner, we've all had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, there's so much food there, it's so good, you're just gonna have a little bit more, and then there's dessert, then you find yourself later flying around on the couch, possibly having to unzip your genes and feeling really uncomfortable. That's the feeling of having over eaten. And that's the feeling of a bogged down digestive system that's got a lot of work to do. And it's using way more than 30% of your energy. And so guess what, that's why you're lying on the couch, not feeling like you can really do anything much at all right? We've all been there. So if you think of your hunger and your fullness scale on a thermometer with zero, being that you're hungry and 10 that you're absolutely chock a block full like that Thanksgiving dinner, you actually want to stop eating when you're at about a seven on that fullness scale, that's eating for energy. That allows your digestive system to be able to break down the food using the 30% of your energy and get the good nutrients into your bloodstream and provide you the energy you need without overdoing it. And if you stop being a seven, you might actually feel like I'm still a little bit hungry. Because you're not used to stopping eating at a seven maybe you eat until an eight or a nine normally right so your calorie intake might be slightly lower now, but you're going to stop eating at a seven and you're going to look at the clock. And before you go back for seconds, even if you think you're still on I want you to wait 20 minutes. Because when you give your body that extra 20 minutes to continue digesting what you've already eaten, and your hormone leptin kicks in and can signal to you that you're getting full, that all has time to happen. And you will likely find that you don't need to go back for seconds. And now you have eaten to a seven on that hunger scale. And digestion can happen easily, and you haven't over eaten. And I know if it's really good food might be hard to do that, because you might really want seconds. But here's the thing. And the mindset shift for me that I used when I first learned this and started implementing it was that I would actually be grateful to have leftovers that I could have for lunch or dinner the following day without having to cook anything more, because I didn't need it all now.Melissa Deally:
I've I've eaten what I needed now to not be overfill. And now I have leftovers. And I love celebrating have leftovers because that means I have more time to do the work that I want to do or play and less time having to cook a meal. So that's how I always managed to wrap my brain around serving myself last, eating really mindfully, allowing my hormones to kick in and let me know that I'm feeling fullMelissa Deally:
not having to or not ending upMelissa Deally:
over eating.Melissa Deally:
So some tips to slowing down when we eat in order to eat mindfully. So first of all, just choose to slow down, choose to sit down and between bites, put your fork down. Breathe between bites, getting oxygen down into your digestive system is actually really helpful at fueling the fire so to speak, just like oxygen will fuel a fire in a fire pit. It's the same thing with your metabolism, the heat helps to be breaking down the food. And so bringing in oxygen by just taking a moment to breathe between bites, helps stimulate your metabolism. And it helps it break down your food better.Melissa Deally:
This is something that we are also notoriously bad at, we have these very powerful jaw muscles, and teeth. And they are part of our digestive process, along with our salivary enzymes in our mouth. And so often, we don't use these enough. And that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the digestive system down below. So when you choose to chew your mouthfuls more, you can get your teeth into doing the work for you. And it eases the workload of your stomach and small intestines. Again, many people hardly chew at all three to five times a mouthful. But if you actually test this in, it's kind of a fun thing to do with your family at the dinner table is have chewing contests. Have a mouthful and see just how many times you can chew it. I've taken bites of apple and when I've been consciously doing this, I can choose one bite to Apple over 50 times. And what I noticed when I do that is that it gets so juicy, I get so much flavor out of it that I actually enjoy it more. Now I'm not going to chew every piece of Apple 50 times because it would take me a really long time to eat the apple. But even if I chew every piece of Apple 20 times, that's a lot more than just three, or five. And the power of chewing is so beneficial to the rest of the digestive system. In fact, I like to say that we should be chewing our liquids and drinking our solids for optimal digestion. And what I mean by that is that our solid food we chew up so much that it's just about a liquid by the time weMelissa Deally:
swallow it.Melissa Deally:
And then our liquids if you start the day with a smoothie, for instance, like I do, making that smoothie doesn't really stimulate digestion, because there's typically not a smell to it, etc. So that first mouthful if I start chewing it and swirling it around in my mouth that will then stimulate digestion and have my salivary enzymes get started and let the rest of my digestive tract know that food is coming. And so each mouthful of my smoothie I like to swirl around in my mouth and sometimes it is a bit chunky because it's got some greens in it and some fruit etc. And so I can chew those. So chew your liquids and drink your solids. I know it sounds crazy, but it really helps optimizeMelissa Deally:
When you're slowing down to eat, as I said eating community with people that you can enjoy conversation, breathing between bites, putting your fork down, but also really enjoyed the texture of your food, the flavor, the colors, the aromas. These are things that again, in our busy, busy, busy life, we tend to just completely overlook. And we just walk it down. And yes, we might enjoy it in the moment for 30 seconds, but then it's done and gone. And afterwards, maybe we even feel like well, I enjoyed that. But I wish it had lasted longer. If we slow down, we can have that enjoyment lastMelissa Deally:
a lot longer.Melissa Deally:
these are all powerful tips that if you're someone that is struggling with digestion, whether it is you know, cramping or pain after a meal, or gas or bloating, or any kind of discomfort that you are putting back to your digestive process, these tips can absolutely help. They're not the only ones that can help. We do do lab testing, sometimes the pain or discomfort can come from food intolerances, although we generally don't have symptoms of food intolerances for 48 to 72 hours after eating, which is why it can be really hard to determine that it was food, because you don't even remember what you ate two to three days ago in most cases, and so people do have a hard time figuring out food intolerances. But it is important to because food intolerances can cause different symptoms, depending on the individual and the food but also inflammation in the body. And that can then over time lead to other symptoms and good trigger cells to turn on disease which nobody wants, right. And many people will say to me, but it can't be the food. I've eaten this food my whole life. But the reality is, is that our body can hit a tipping point. And it's a tipping point of eating food that hasn't liked for your whole life, as well as the impact of poor sleep, high stress and your toxic overload coming into the body. And the body just hits the tipping point says I've had enough. I can't deal with all of this. And so it starts to give stronger and stronger symptoms. And then you're left wondering what's causing these what's going on. And so that's where lab testing for food intolerances can be really helpful because then you know, and just because you have a food intolerance doesn't mean you can't ever eat that, again, it's an intolerance is not an allergy. But what it does mean is we can remove it depending on the degree of the intolerance for a certain amount of time, in order to allow your gut to heal. And then once your gut has healed, we can start to reintroduce and see how you do. And you might find that you can have it once a week, or maybe it's only once a month, but you're also going to have greater awareness around feeling better, and how some foods might make you feel and then you can make choices. I want to eat this pizza because everybody else is eating pizza and tomorrow, Saturday. And it doesn't matter if I roll around on the couch, or I'm not going to eat this pizza because it's Thursday night and I have a really big presentation tomorrow morning. And pizza always makes me feel kind of brain foggy and lethargic. And I want to be sharp tomorrow morning, so I'm not going to eat it. Those are the kind of choices that you're able to make when you have more awareness around the foods that your body likes, and doesn't like when it comes to food intolerances. So that's tons of information there for you. And I also want to leave you with one other thing is, in a stress state, when our body isn't turning on digestion, our body is not making stomach acid. And so many people today are using and acids. And they're using and acids because they think that they have too much stomach acid. But the reality is that they probably have too little and the and acids are making things worse. Now, how does this happen? It happens because in the stress state are the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a flap at the bottom of our esophagus that is meant to close up nice and tight once food has gone through into the stomach cavity. And then it lifts up and closes up nice and tight so that nothing else can get in or out of the stomach cavity between the stomach and the esophagus. But when we are in a chronic state for a stress state, it starts to malfunction and it gets a little bit floppy. And so what happens then is the little bit of stomach acid that we do have in our stomach and it's Escape and get up into the esophagus. And this can happen at any time. But it's actually very common to happen if we eat dinner too close to bedtime, and we don't allow the two hours for digestion to take place first. And we lie down soon after eating. When we go horizontal like that, the stomach acid can escape into the esophagus. But it can also happen during the day when we're still standing up and vertical.Melissa Deally:
And we go to the doctor, and we have heartburn and we have acid reflux, and we get prescribed an AB acid, and they add acid stops producing stomach acid. So what does that mean? That means that each time you eat a meal, your stomach is not producing stomach acid, because the end acid is stopping it from doing so. And unfortunately, and acids are like the number one over the counter soul drug out there today. So there's a lot of people with heartburn and acid reflux that are trying to block it or help themselves with and acids and it's making things worse for their digestive system. Because we're stopping the production of stomach acid or hydrochloric acid. And every time you eat, your body is not breaking down that food properly. And so it becomes a real problem because it means that the food can then start to ferment in the gut, and putrefy that the body wants to keep moving all of the food through the body in certain timeframes. And it's balancing pH levels, and it knows what it's doing. The body is always right. Unfortunately, we don't understand how the body works. And we're making it really hard on our body to do what it's trying to do. And we end up with food that is putrifying inside our digestive system. And then that can cause further digestive issues down the line. And as I mentioned earlier, diarrhea and constipation and other conditions as well, which I will talk about in another episode coming up. So something that you can do at home in order to do it to test your level of stomach acid. If you're wondering, it's really easy to do this, you want to do it on an empty stomach. So two hours after eating or first thing in the morning, take a glass of water and stir in one teaspoon of baking soda and drink it all. And then think hard about your next meal like Close your eyes and vision that meal what's going to be noticed the smell of that food, inhale it. And you can also do this by actually cooking. If you're making something then again, smell the fragrances of the food because that does trigger the brain. And to start the symbolic response, letting your body know food is coming. So then your body will start producing stomach acid and your salivary enzymes will start to be produced and wait 10 to 15 minutes after this response has happened. When you feel that saliva flow. If there is an S present in your stomach, then you will actually start burping because the baking soda is going to react with the hydrochloric acid and produce carbon dioxide, which will make you burp. That means you have good stomach acid levels. But if you do this little at home test and you're not burping, then it's an indication that you have low stomach acid. And if you have low stomach acid, then you definitely want to be taking steps that I've mentioned earlier from making sure you're getting out of the chronic stress state before sitting down to a meal using your 557 breathing, as well as ensuring you're breathing between bites to stoke the fire putting your fork down chewing a lot.Melissa Deally:
So all of these tips will help and something else that you might need to be doing is using digestive enzymes in order to help your body break down the food because ultimately, the reason we eat is to fuel our body and provide energy. So if we're putting food in and it's not getting broken down, well, then the purpose of you eating is not even being fulfilled. So we need to eat. But what's really critical is the absorption of the food that we're eating. So if you need to be using stomach acids, while working with an integrative health practitioner to help rebuild your digestive system and get it functioning well again, then that is one thing that you can potentially consider doing. So I hope this topic on digestion and optimizing your digestive system has been helpful to you. Maybe there's been one or two aha that you've had during this session. It's interesting when I sat down to write my content for digestion. At first, I was thinking, What am I going to say about digestion? I don't think I have a lot to say. And then I started writing it all down. And I realized there is a lot that I can speak about in regards to digestion. So I hope this has been helpful. Thank you for joining me. And I welcome you back next week, when I introduce my guest, Kathy white, a yoga instructor as we dig into a conversation around how yoga can also help enhance our digestive processes. So thanks for joining me, have a wonderful week. And thanks for being a listener of the don't wait for your wake up call podcast. I hope that the content I bring to you in my podcast is inspiring you to take action in your health, and to come to the realization that you and only you are responsible for your health, and your health is your greatest asset. health isn't everything. But without it, everything else is nothing. I also hope you're starting to realize how much is not taught to us through our education system and through mainstream health. And if you would like to learn more about your health, I welcome you to look into my upcoming health optimizer program. It's a four week program. And I dive into key aspects of optimizing your health knowledge that you will then have for life that you can share with your loved ones. And that will change your health outcomes. So check out the link to the health optimizer course in the show notes. And I look forward to seeing you in the program.