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Digestion is at the center of health and wellness. If we can’t digest our food, digestive function will become impaired – and so will the rest of the body’s organ systems.

85 percent of your immune system resides in the digestive tract, and this system can become weakened and compromised when processed foods are consumed or challenging factors are present such as environmental toxins or emotional stress. Support your body with real food and dietary supplements that will help to keep the body strong and healthy.

Here are 18 tips to help you stay well and heal from digestive issues:

1. Consider taking a daily therapeutic probiotic

Probiotics provide beneficial bacteria support for healthy digestion. Try MegaSporeBiotic, Mercola Complete Probiotics or GutPro.

2. Consume foods with Omega 3 essential fatty acids daily

Try Green Pasture Products Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Concentrated Butter Oil Blend or Emulsified Finest Pure Cod Liver Oil by Pharmax. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are also found in foods from animals raised on pasture naturally without chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) such as grassfed meat and game meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, butter, cream, ghee, yogurt, and sour cream.

3. Limit beverage intake to 4 ounces or less during meals

Plan on hydrating before and after meals, no more than 1/2 hour before and 1 to 2 hours after eating. Too much liquid during meals dilutes hydrochloric acid production in the stomach and can diminish the digestive tract’s ability to properly digest food you eat. Fermented beverages such as kombucha, beet kvass or water kefir can be beneficial to the digestive process during meals, when limited and sipped. Or try an organic, hot or warm herbal tea such as ginger or peppermint for added digestive support.

4.Try a hydrochloric acid supplement such as Premier HCL by Premier Research Labs or Betaine HCL by Pharmax

Many people find they have low stomach acid production, which can start to occur with stressful and toxic lifestyle habits and poor dietary habits. Supplementing can help raise normal levels of stomach acid production, improving digestion and overall health and wellness. For specific instructions on how many to take with each meal, please consult with a knowledgeable health care practitioner.

5. Try digestive bitters, a natural herbal tincture combination designed to support liver and digestive function, and/or natural liver tincture

For more health benefits, please see links for each solution.

6. Avoid processed, packaged, and prepared foods and refined sugar

Sugar and processed foods weaken the digestive tract and lowers immune system function.

Sugar and processed foods weaken the digestive tract and lowers immune system function. If you don’t do a lot of food preparation or cooking at home, consider doing this more in the future. Prepared and processed   foods usually contain preservatives, chemicals, toxins, and have     been altered in some way as to make nutrients dead and unavailable to the body. Real food prepared from scratch at home will support your digestive tract and health optimally.

7. Eliminate modern, industrial fats and hydrogenated oils

Replace with real butter, ghee and palm oil, and tallow and other fats from healthy animals on pasture, coconut oil, and cold-pressed, virgin raw oils such as olive oil, palm oil, pumpkin seed, avocado or macadamia nut.

8. Consider reducing or eliminating grains

If you do consume grains, try whole, soaked and/or sprouted grains including amaranth, quinoa, millet, kamut, buckwheat, or spelt. Try to keep to no more than 2 servings of grains per week, and consider eliminating altogether if you experience chronic health challenges. This measure can help eliminate issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, candida syndrome, and start to address root causes for more serious, ongoing issues  such as IBS or Crohn’s Disease.

9. Consume raw dairy from healthy cows on pasture

Milk, butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream. Healthy fats and natural probiotics found in from dairy support digestion and immune system function. If you have a known intolerance to or allergy to dairy, you may consider avoiding until sufficient healing has taken place (this can take 6 months to several years, depending on individual health needs).

10. Consume cultured dairy and fermented foods

Kefir and yogurt made from raw milk, kombucha, cultured vegetables, and sauerkraut. Fermented foods naturally contain probiotics which are important for digestion and strengthening your immune system. Cultured or fermented dairy is typically easier to digest than dairy foods that aren’t. If you have had digestive compromise, cultured dairy foods may be tolerated, but it is advised to test these foods and notice how your body reacts to them. If you have reactions or allergic response, you may want to avoid these until your issues have been resolved.

11. Drink aloe vera

Aloe vera juice is soothing and detoxifying to the digestive system.  Try Aloe Vera Juice by Emerson Ecologics. Drink several ounces of aloe vera  in the morning at least a half an hour before breakfast and between meals (two hours after eating) for maximum benefit.

12. Replace conventional and industrial sources of protein and meat with grassfed meat and other pasture-raised animal foods

Instead of conventional eggs and poultry, switch to pasture-raised poultry and eggs. Meats, poultry, and eggs from healthy animals and birds on pasture are not treated with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals. They are also from environments using organic and sustainable practices, and by their very growing methods contain more essential nutrients for health.

13. Drink bone broths made from home-made stock from healthy birds and animals on pasture

Bone broths are easy-to-digest and are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals that heal the body.

14. Eat vegetables cooked and with healthy fats like butter, ghee, or tallow

Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 present in healthy fats help to digest and assimilate vegetables into your body more efficiently.

Make sure you are getting some relaxation and movement or exercise each day. Exercise stimulates the colon, lungs, lymphatic, and other eliminatory systems into functioning properly. Take breaks every 1-2 hours from sitting or whatever you are doing and use stretching, lengthening, and deep breathing exercises in addition to some activity you enjoy such as walking, hiking or rebounding. Take care to avoid over-exercise as this can adversely effect your adrenal glands and contribute to chronic adrenal exhaustion.

15. Raw juicing with greens is a good way to get your daily intake

Juicing can provide an abundance of easy-to-digest nutrients and enzymes for a body that needs healing. For a guide to juicing, read Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). For those who aren’t in a position to juice, try Fruits and Greens by Newmark, Ultra Greens pH by Biogenesis Nutraceuticals, or Greens First. Your immune system and digestive tract become weakened by a profusion of toxins and impurities. Greens help eliminate these and replenish the body with needed antioxidants, nutrients, enzymes and vitamins and minerals.

16. Avoid soy unless fermented such as miso or tempeh

Avoid soy products such as cheese, milk, or soy proteins. These foods are all processed and soy contains phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of minerals and nutrients into the body. Soy also contains estrogen which can be harmful in excess and especially for men and boy’s reproductive systems.

17. Drink filtered water regularly

Another way to stay hydrated is to add unsweetened,  not-from-concentrate organic cranberry juice (and lemon juice) to your water. These are excellent detoxifying agents and help promote healing.

18. Mealtime should be relaxed and  stress-free

If you are anxious, avoid eating until you can maintain  a relaxed state.

NOTE: If you have experienced a compromised immune system and/or digestion which has occurred because of less-than optimal diet and other factors for a period of time, or are suffering from challenges such as Crohn’s Disease, colitis, IBS or food allergies and intolerances, consider a dietary protocol to help alleviate a lifetime of poor dietary habits such as the GAPS diet as recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. For more information, visit the GAPS web site.

Foods that do not digest properly such as processed foods or because of stress result in overgrowth of harmful bacteria and digestive disorders as well as lethargy, mood disorders, and other issues. You may want to consider a detoxification protocol to help heal your gut. For best results, go slowly and gently and consider consulting a knowledgable health practitioner.