Improving my digestion has been something that has taken precedence in my life for the last year more than ever before. As a fitness professional and nutrition coach who has dedicated her life to help others get healthy, you’d think that I’d have it all figured out. Nope, in fact, quite the contrary. My overall metabolism and gut health has been on a rollercoaster ever since I could remember. Back in the day, I would eat less than 1,200 calories a day, resort to weight loss shakes and pills, and binge eat on sweets after a stint of eating rice cakes and tuna for a week. I’d get super skinny, then gain it all back, and the cycle would never end. Because of my “addiction” to always wanting to lose weight, I ended up destroying my gut health in the process. My issues included gas, bloating, upset stomach, irregular bowel movements, blood sugar crashes, achy joints, insomnia, chronic stress, and anxiety to name a few. At the start of 2019, I realized that although I’m considered “fit” and “healthy” on the outside, I felt very unhealthy on the inside - both physically and mentally. I began to change my focus from looking good on the outside to looking good on the inside, which meant changing my lifestyle habits to improve my digestion, restore gut health, and reduce overall inflammation and stress. When you focus on your health first and not your looks, naturally what ends up happening is that you accomplish both! The tips that I’m going to share with you are 10 daily rituals that I practice on a daily basis that have helped me naturally heal my digestion, reduce overall inflammation and body fat, and get healthy from the inside out. I have structured these tips in order of how I live every day, but feel free to swap things around to make it work for your schedule. I hope these tips help you too! Tip #1: Practice yoga on an empty stomach Yoga, especially heated yoga, is such a great way to stay fit, get flexible, detoxify your body, and reduce stress levels. Twists such as eagle pose, twisted chair pose, and twisted half moon to name a few ring out your internal organs and stimulate your digestion. The yoga community encourages practicing on an empty stomach so that you can perform poses without food in your stomach getting in the way of all of yoga’s detoxifying benefits. Plus, doing yoga with a full stomach can be quite uncomfortable! Furthermore, chronic stress can be a factor that’s impeding your weight loss goals. Yoga can help you destress, get connected to yourself, and set yourself up for a peaceful day. Tip #2: Drink a green smoothie in the morning A green fiber rich smoothie is an amazing way to start your morning. It’s a great way to sneak in more veggies into your diet, too! I start every morning with a smoothie comprised of vegan protein powder, 1 inch peeled ginger root, a heaping handful of greens like spinach, kale, or dandelion greens, fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro, chia seeds, flaxseeds, a superfood green powder, half a cup of frozen fruit like mango, and water. I blend it in my Nutribullet then top it off with slivered almonds and pumpkin seeds for a balanced superfood-rich smoothie. It keeps me full until lunchtime and gives me a boost of energy for a busy day. Tip #3: Drink tons of warm or room temperature water throughout the day, and none during mealtime In Ayurvedic tradition, they say that drinking cold water disturbs the body’s “agni,” or digestive fire. Furthermore, drinking lots of water during mealtime can take the focus away from absorbing the nutrients from food. From firsthand experience, I’ve learned this to be true. I have completely switched my regular ice cold water drinking to room temperature, warm, or hot teas throughout the day, and I’ve noticed that I crave food less, I have consistent energy throughout the day, and my internal organs just feel amazing. It’s such a subtle lifestyle shift, but something worth trying! On a side note, if you ever need to chug water during a meal to “get the food down,” it means you’re eating too fast because your salivary glands can’t produce enough saliva to help break down the food. So make sure to eat slow enough to allow your body to do its thing! If you must drink water during your meal, have small sips . Tip #4: Take probiotics (daily) and digestive enzymes (at each meal) They key to improving your digestion is making sure you eliminate bad bacteria in your gut and keep good bacteria. A great way to do this is by taking a probiotic supplement daily. I also consume a digestive enzyme before each meal to ensure proper absorption of all the nutrients I’m about to eat. Digestive enzymes help to break down the food and assimilate into the body. Tip #5: Eat one plant based meal a day The majority of people in America today have three main components to their meal: carbs, fat, and sugar! It saddens me to see restaurants serve huge plates of food with barely any sign of vegetables! I recommend to make sure that you have at least one plant based meal a day where at least 80% of your plate contains vegetables and 20% of your plate contains protein and healthy fats. Try to make sure that your vegetables are local, seasonal, and organic. My favorite plant-based meal is my homemade Buddha Bowl that contains sauteed veggies like collard greens, quinoa, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, roasted veggies like onions and broccoli, pickled cabbage, and microgreens, topped with pumpkin seeds, lemon tahini sauce, and a splash of lemon. It’s truly like eating a rainbow - delish! Side note: the best part of eating plant-based meals is that you can eat a huge volume of food yet still consume a relatively small amount of calories! Tip #6: Eat meals 4-6 hours apart Contrary to the modern weight loss approach of eating 4-6 small meals per day, I recommend eating 3 meals at least 4-6 hours apart. I’ve done both, and they both will work when it comes to weight loss as long as you’re creating a calorie deficit,. But, as far as improving digestion goes, allowing time for your body to fully digest its food allows the food to fully complete its digestion process, starting from the mouth, moving through your intestines, absorbing into the body, and eventually becoming waste in your colon. You should be eating a big enough balanced meal of carbs, protein, and fats so that you can comfortably go without eating for 4-6 hours. If you start to feel hungry within 2-3 hours, that’s a sign you under ate. What I learned from being a “grazer” to a 3-meal-a-day girl, I realized how much excess food I ate simply because I was bored and wanted to pass the time. Tip #7: Stop eating at least 3 hours before bedtime Similar to Tip #6, your body needs enough time to fully digest its food before sleep. If you sleep on a full stomach, your body doesn’t have enough time to fully complete its digestion process and use the food as energy. What ends up happening is the excess energy gets turned to fat and poorly digested food in the body. Have a sweet tooth and like to end your night with dessert? Try sipping on herbal tea or try my delicious golden milk tea in Tip #10. Tip #8: Rub peppermint oil on your tummy I’m currently obsessed with finding natural alternatives to everyday products using essential oils. To aid in digestion, use essential oils as a topical way to help with digestion and relieve any upset stomach. I use a combination of half “Digize” and peppermint oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil or argan oil. I put a few drops on my hand and rub it on my stomach in a counter clockwise direction (the direction in which food moves through your stomach). I do this every night after dinner or for those times when I feel like a stuffed turkey and ate too much! Tip #9: Reduce overall stress Stress is a huge “hidden” reason why people are overweight and can’t get weight off their bodies. Chronic stress, especially, manifests in many different forms, such as insomnia, poor digestion, hormonal issues, brain fog, anxiety, and irregular menstrual cycles to name a few. There are a lot of things that cause stress to build up overtime, from your constant notifications on your phone to annoying traffic on the freeway. Some of my favorite ways to reduce overall stress is not having any notifications on my phone, not looking at social media or being on my phone at all past 7pm, meditating every morning, journaling, dancing, exercising, and nightly walks around my neighborhood. Every weekend, I try to get out of the city and go on a nature hike or see good friends. One of my favorite hobbies is doing improv comedy - it is amazing how laughter can cure a bad mood. Tip #10: Drink golden milk tea nightly Last but not least, I like to end every night with golden milk tea. It consists of hot milk (like almond or coconut), ½ tsp. Turmeric, ½ tsp ground ginger, a pinch of black pepper, MCT oil (optional), a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a little sweetener like raw honey (optional). I whip it up in my Nutribullet to give it a frothy texture like a rich smooth latte. Turmeric is a powerful root that heals digestion and inflammation in the body. It is important to not skip the black pepper, it helps boost the effects of turmeric by more than double!