Who hasn’t had digestion issues at one point or another? Whether you are gluten sensitive, lactose intolerant, or have irritable bowel syndrome or acid reflux, gastrointestinal troubles are no walk in the park. Our gut contains over 100 trillion bacteria and is the center of our immune defense. All of those bacteria constitute about three to five pounds of anyone's body weight, and we need to ensure that we are harboring beneficial bacteria. Our total health is dependent on our gut flora, and when that gets screwed up, everything else goes awry. You might not think that neurological, psychiatric, or cardiovascular risks are linked to poor gut health, but studies have shown autism and ADD to be connected with poor gastrointestinal health as well.
Detoxifying the gut is a key factor in improving digestion. Believe it or not, yoga is an amazing tool to start you on your journey to better gut health — and better health overall. As I mentioned in my article 12 Yoga Poses to Cure Your Hangover (try it! You will be pleasantly surprised), yoga is a Hindu spiritual ascetic discipline that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It includes breathing control and meditation through specific body postures. It is practiced to promote health and relaxation with synergy of the mind, body, and spirit.
In my integrative practice, all the patients I see have gut-related issues. The gut is central to our total physical and mental well-being. Sadly, due to poor diet, toxins from the environment and foods, lack of exercise, and misinformation about nutrition, the gut often suffers.
Many patients I treat suffer from IBS, chronic constipation, Crohn's disease, leaky gut, food intolerances, gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, and/or bloating, which can lead to anxiety, allergies, hormonal imbalances, metabolic syndrome, and so much more. Rather than doing piecemeal, patchwork fixes for these problems, I believe that we have to figure out why the problem started in the first place: get to the core and root of the issue, which is often linked to gut health.
After getting in-depth lab testing such as ALCAT and measuring neurotransmitters, micronutrients, and immune profiles, I start many of my patients on a 14 to 28-day detox cleanse, which can be done 1 to 2 times per year. By using plant protein in the form of shakes and following a clean diet centered around more alkaline foods with elimination of red meats, dairy, caffeine, and high fructose syrup, the gut is revamped and beneficial bacteria are given a chance to thrive. My patients' energy levels increase, and symptoms such as bloating and constipation disappear. After the detox is done, patients have a better idea of how to structure their diet.
In addition to yoga, for optimal digestion, cut down on caffeine and sugars, which decreases yeast production. High-quality probiotics are helpful, but always consult with your doctor first to see what works for you. Regular fitness and any exercise are excellent for great gut health. Meditation is valuable for stress reduction, as a lot of neuropsychological ailments are linked back to poor gut health.
Even people who don’t have chronic gut-health problems can have sometimes use a healthful yogic pick-me-up, so if you're curious about building a healthier body, try these poses out.
This article was originally published on June 12, 2014.