So you’ve transitioned to a gluten or dairy free diet (or both!) thinking this will be the silver bullet for your digestive issues, only to find that you’re still experiencing symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation or too many trips to loo. This can be really frustrating and make you feel as though the effort of following a “special” diet isn’t worth it. In my experience, it’s still worth persevering with keeping these foods out of your diet if you suspect they are a problem for you, but it’s likely that some other factors are contributing to your issues too.
1. You Need Some More Good Guys
Did you know we’ve got over 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut? We are actually made up of more bacteria than we are cells. The different types of bacteria and their presence plays an important role in our digestive and overall health. Dysbiosis occurs when there’s an imbalance; usually too many “bad”
bacteria in relation to “good” bacteria.
Use of medications such as antibiotics, other prescription medications, stress and processed foods can contribute to this imbalance. If you’re still suffering from digestive issues, you may need to ‘reseed’ your gut with good bacteria. This can be achieved through taking a probiotic supplement or fermented foods and drinks such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. To maintain good digestive health, I recommend including fermented foods into your diet every day.
2. You’re Improperly Combining Foods
Different types of food require their own types of enzymes for digestion. When too many different types of food are eaten at once, the body can find it difficult to produce all of the proper enzymes to support that meal. This may cause improper digestion of certain foods and lead to unwanted symptoms like gas and bloating and poor absorption. There are simple rules to follow to ensure proper digestion:
- Eat high-protein foods at the beginning of a meal, because they require a lot of stomach acid to properly digest
- Proteins are best combined with greens and non-starchy vegetables, as are starches
- Proteins and starches are best not eaten together because they digest better on their own
- Fruit is often better eaten alone or in very small amounts directly after a meal to avoid fermentation of itself and other foods causing uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating
3. Stress Is Getting You Down
High levels of stress are often responsible for disturbed digestion. When we perceive or experience stress, a series of physiological reactions are triggered in the body and we move into a state of responding to this “threat”. This is called the “fight or flight” response.
In this state, the body essentially places digestion on hold, as a result, blood is diverted away from our digestive tract, fewer digestive enzymes are released and less hydrochloric acid is secreted to aid in the breakdown of carbs, fat, and protein. Stress also disrupts the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
As someone who suffered from IBS for years, learning how to manage stress was the game changer for my digestive health. Regularly commit to activities that help you to de-stress.
Check in with yourself, and assess what is lighting you up and what is bringing you down. Assess what must stay in your life and what must go. If it can't be avoided, have a think about how you could integrate some de-stressors into your life to limit the effect on your health & wellbeing.
4. You’re Doing Other Things While You’re Eating
Watching TV, sitting at your laptop, reading or driving while you eat are all distracting stimuli which can impair our ability to digest food. Distractions such as multi-tasking can register as stress in the body, triggering a response just like the one explained above.
An often cited study conducted in 1987 and published in the Gastroenterology Journal, showed that the simple act of attending to two different stimuli at once while eating, dramatically affected the metabolism and digestion of food, even if these situations wouldn’t normally be considered stressful. Paying attention to what you are eating and practicing mindful eating ensures that you fully digest your food and receive the full nutritional benefit from it.
5. You’re Eating A Lot Of Commercially Made/Packaged Gluten Or Dairy-Free Products
While the gluten and dairy have been removed from bread, biscuits, crackers and other packaged goods, they often are filled with additives and preservatives which can exacerbate digestive issues. Focus on eating real, whole foods which are naturally gluten and dairy free and in the least processed state as possible. Use these ingredients to create your own version of old favorites. Our bodies are designed to process natural foods!