Gentle Nutrition and Digestion

My job is to help you become more attuned to your own body and become your OWN nutrition expert. But as a dietitian, naturally my clients have nutrition questions. And a lot of them revolve around gentle nutrition and digestion.

Honestly, we all know TOO much about nutrition and it doesn’t generally help us with our eating habits anyway.

When we can connect and trust our own expertise, we often find that we don’t need college degrees in nutrition to know how to keep ourselves well.  

Imagine that?! 

But I did want to address some questions and concerns I get about gentle nutrition and digestion because enough people now have asked. And there’s a lot of misinformation around.

However please note that when I am not working with someone individually or in a group and I don’t know your history, all of this information is for educational purposes only. It’s not meant to form individual nutrition advice for you.

Use this information to check in with yourself and your health care people about what is best for you.

Exploring gentle nutrition and digestion

“Do I need vitamins?”

Theoretically, if we were never stressed (which impacts digestion) and the majority of the time (as in weeks and months, not day to day) we have a nutrient replete diet and are at our natural weight, with no chronic illness or major things like super heavy periods, and we are eating enough energy, we are not pregnant or in menopause, we probably don’t need vitamins.

But because we do age, we do experience stress, we make choices about our eating patterns like not eating animal-based foods, we have food preferences like not enjoying seafood, we become pregnant and birth babies etc., there are instances where a vitamin supplement may be appropriate. 

For example, a completely vegan diet will need B12 supplementation. But that may also be the case if you don’t like or eat a lot of animal-based foods.

Folic acid supplementation is recommended prior to conception and pregnancy vitamins are helpful when dietary intake is inadequate due to ‘morning sickness’.

People with fair complexions, autoimmune issues, or who do not have much access to the sun may need vitamin D. 

In high stress, a B complex vitamin can help our bodies with the creation of cortisol and adrenaline.

Certain medications like metformin or antidepressants can deplete B vitamins, so a B complex would be good here too.

If you don’t take in much fatty fish, you could benefit from Omega 3’s of some kind.

Of course, I have just listed a few situations where a vitamin supplement might be needed. If I’ve left out a concern of yours, you’re welcome to get in touch so that me or my team can support you to make well-informed choices.

“How can I heal my gut?” and “Help, I am constipated/bloated/etc!?”

Check out the picture in this post below. You can see that the nervous system helps control digestive function.  

To make it as simple as possible, when you are running from deadlines, have too many things to do, fear weight gain, feel guilt about not exercising, or spend your life in fear of being judged, you will not digest your food as well as if you were relaxed and eating consistently. 

A graphic of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves.

Don’t panic. We all have stressors and go in and out of feeling relaxed and activated.  

The problem is that we do get stomachaches and digestive issues because we are in flight or fight too long and often.  And then we blame the food and this is where many people think they have food allergies and intolerances. 

What I see as we start to bring safety to our bodies, is the tightness in our gut and the unpleasant symptoms quickly get better.

“But I really can’t tolerate XYZ food right now!”

I believe you.

I think this is a both / and when it comes to the idea that more and more people have gut issues now than in the past. 

I think we are more aware of the gut connection to health, whereas in the past many people have just lived with discomfort. But healing gut health is more than just eliminating foods and popping enzymes, herbal antibiotics, glutamine, probiotics, etc. (even though these things may help). It’s about slowing down to “body time” to allow for healing.

For example, if you have been diagnosed with IBS, a FODMAP diet helps people who don’t respond to just cutting out gluten and dairy (FYI, those foods aren’t always a problem for people, it could be something simple like apples). But it is not a cure and not supposed to be a ‘diet’ that you stay on forever. 

A healthy gut can digest just about anything (there are exceptions). But an inflamed gut finds that most things probably don’t feel good. So what people experience is real, but there isn’t a simple formula to ‘fix’. 

It’s food/supplements/and working on internal conflicts that keep us so “bound up”, “can’t keep things in” and “tied in knots”.

Further resources

Bottom line, when people are having GI discomfort, I look at both the nervous system health and help with food and supplements to ease the symptoms and make eating easier and more pleasurable.  

If you want to know a little more about gentle nutrition and health, check out these videos: