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We are three weeks into the New Year. So, how are you doing with your resolutions and intentions?

If you’ve read my last emails, you may be starting to see my theme. In my 25+ years of studying the body, and all its’ systems, digestion consistently lands at the top of the list of health influencers. Your digestive system is key to living life with joy and vitality. Simple practices net big results. That is why I’m excited to share these with you.

Did you know that 74% of Americans are experiencing some form of digestive distress? With optimal digestion being the driver of a healthy immune system, balanced moods, steady energy, stable blood sugar, and strong vitality, this is a very disturbing statistic!

A deeper understanding of the physiological digestive system reveals how it is intrinsically linked to our heart and mind. I’ve studied how today’s science correlates with the teachings of ancient systems. I love incorporating both, and in my practice, I get to support people with many different techniques, modalities, systems and supplements.

There are some basic doctrines of digestive health that serve most everyone, including me. That’s right, I too have health challenges – adult-onset asthma, fatigue, depression, weight control – issues that can stagnate my life on every level. I continually practice these healing and growth tools as I strive for a more vibrant lifestyle.

To support you on your road to perfect digestion, I’ve compiled these Five Lifestyle Tips:

Tip #1: Eat Three (not Six) Meals a Day!
Eating six meals a day never gives the body a reason to burn its fat reserves. If you eat six meals a day, the body becomes dependent on eating every 2-3 hours, which overworks the digestive system, which is also the detoxification system, and further de-conditions the body’s need to burn fat. Think about it! Why should the body burn stored fat when it is fed every 2-3 hours? The fact is, it won’t, and over time, the body will continue to burn the readily available food from meals and leave the fat as a stored fuel.

This kind of fat burning is not about weight loss. Fat is an important source of fuel for the body, and many have lost the ability to digest and utilize it. When fat is burned, it is a stable, long-lasting, calming, non-emergency fuel. As a culture without the ability or reason to become good fat burners, the result is a population who craves sugar, carbs and stimulants!

In my Emotional Eating Program, it is one of the foundations… we call it Three Meal Magic.

Tip #2: Relax and Take Time to Eat Your Food
The digestive system is turned on by the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system engages in times of rest and relaxation – when the body is stress-free. Eating on the run or while stressed, activates the “fight or flight” nervous system, which literally turns off the ability to digest properly. “Fight or flight” is a “run for your life” message, which contradicts a “sit down and dine” message!

Even a low-level stress response halts digestion, so for now, perhaps the most important digestive tip I can offer is to sit down, relax, and put your awareness (and appreciation) on your food and the dining experience.

(Guyton and Hall. Textbook of Medical Physiology. Saunders. 2011. pages: 734,762,787,759,776,738)

Tip #3: Turn On Your Digestive Fire Before You Eat
Did you know that digestion is triggered by the first thought, sight or scent of a meal? The digestive fire (hydrochloric acid or HCl) is required to be extremely strong in order to break down a plethora of hard-to-digest nutrients, proteins and toxins. In order for the stomach’s HCl production to be sufficient, it requires a variety of buffers. Feedback loops tell the stomach how safe it is to produce HCl and how strong to make it.

The first buffer is a bicarbonate layer of cells that surrounds the stomach. These buffering cells are 80% water. If you drink a large glass of water 15-30 minutes before your meal, the water will pre-hydrate the buffer layer, sending a message to the stomach that it is OK to make some hydrochloric acid. Studies show that this alone supports healthy weight loss! FYI: Drinking that much water right before or during the meal can actually dilute the stomach acid, and therefore isn’t recommended.

Tip #4: Eat In Season
The microbiome is designed to make dramatic changes from one season to the next. This can only happen if we eat the foods harvested in each season. Seasonal foods carry specific seasonal microbes that amp up immunity, increase or decrease digestive strength, and create the perfect seasonal microbiome to thrive in each season.

Tip #5: Fiber Rules
The average American gets about 20 grams of fiber per day. Fiber is the indigestible portion of a vegetable, so why do we need so much? First of all, the fiber escorts bile, which is loaded with toxins such as heavy metals, environmental pollutants, pesticides, and preservatives into the toilet – Hooray! If there is insufficient fiber in the diet, up to 94% of the toxic bile can be reabsorbed back into the liver and blood – Boooo!

Secondly, fiber feeds a healthy microbiome, and research suggests that a gut with numerous diverse strains of beneficial microbes is ideal.

Microbial diversity supports healthy immunity, stable moods, energy and blood sugar, strong bone density, increased vitality, and just about everything else! Your good microbes eat fiber, so try to get at least 50 grams a day.

Thank you, friends, for taking interest in your own digestive health. Truly, it is key to your vitality.