October 2, 2018

Digestive Health Basics

Healthy digestive functioning is at the crux of total body wellness. It’s like the foundation to a house. You can’t build a solid structure (the rest of your body) without a solid foundation. That’s why prioritizing your gut health should be the first consideration when symptoms appear, or an illness is recognized. Below, you will find a number of diet and lifestyle changes that can be helpful. 

Your digestive system is responsible for both absorption of all the important nutrients your cells need to carry out their jobs, and elimination of toxins and excess hormones. Dysfunction in either or both of these departments, can manifest in a variety of ways. Often times, these dysfunctions present in ways that are not blatantly related to digestion.  The obvious symptoms of digestive distress include:


  • Heartburn
  • Pain
  • Bloating
  • Passing gas or excessive burping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

BUT it’s important to recognize that about 50% of the time, symptoms of GI dysfunction aren’t  so obvious as those listed above. Here are some other symptoms or illnesses that can be directly tied to poor gastrointestinal health:


  • Seasonal allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema
  • Depression and anxiety

A logical question to ask, once you recognize you have GI dysfunction, is can it be helped or fixed with diet and lifestyle changes. The short answer is yes. In some cases additional testing is necessary to really understand what the exact problem is, especially if it’s not resolving with the applied diet and lifestyle changes. If there are infections or bacterial overgrowths present, antimicrobials, specific probiotic strains, or anti viral or parasitics may be needed. I always start with basic lifestyle and dietary approaches and make tweaks and suggestions along the way.

There are a number of different reasons things could be going awry with digestive functioning. Luckily, most of the time we don’t need get really specific on what the problem is, because cleaning up the diet and making some lifestyle changes can be enough to get things back on track. There are many different types of diets, supplements and lifestyle changes that can be applied, if the basics don’t work.

Here are some common problems with GI functioning, that can lead to the symptoms I mentioned earlier:


  • Infections like H. Pylori
  • Low stomach acid production
  • Stress is too high, causing inadequate digestive functioning
  • Food intolerances
  • Lack of fiber or too much fiber
  • Medication or supplement side effects
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Dysbiosis (improper balance of the good and bad bacteria in GI tract)
  • Underactive thyroid

Here are some basic diet and lifestyle changes that can be applied, depending on the the source of the problem:


  • Relax while you’re eating (don’t eat on the run) and chew your food well
  • Take some supplemental stomach acid and digestive enzymes with meals
  • Supplement with magnesium
  • Supplement with probiotics
  • Eat probiotic rich foods, including lacto fermented vegetables
  • Eat more soluble fiber from starchy veggies
  • Find ways to manage your stress that you can do on a daily basis
  • Hydrate with water. Aim for 8 cups per day
  • Try an elimination diet
  • Lower your sugar and starch consumption
  • Try the low FODMAP diet

If you’re still struggling with digestive symptoms and need further information and guidance, feel free to give me a call at  

(413) 335-4381 or email me at marit@maritharney.com. I’d be happy to see you for a consult and sort these issues out and give you an actionable plan.


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