If you wake up in the morning with a flat belly but bloat so much your pants don’t fit by the end of the day, then it’s time to tune-up your digestion.
In my 4 decades of nutrition practice, I’ve found 4 main keys to a flat belly and happy digestion:
- proper pH balance
- enough intestinal flora
- keeping digestion moving smoothly
- a healthy diet rich in detoxifying foods
This simple, successful, natural approach can have your stomach slim again in no time!
The Importance of Being Acidic
Millions of people find temporary relief from stomach acid-reducing medications available over-the-counter and by prescription. And with the myriad of health books out there talking about the importance of an alkaline body to stave off disease, on the surface it sounds like a good idea to reduce stomach acid – but I assure you it’s quite the opposite. If you are bloating after meals, then it’s likely that your stomach acid is too low.
When stomach acid goes low for the long term, we can’t absorb minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and selenium, or the B vitamins. We also can’t break proteins down into energy and amino acids. This not only means that we miss out on essential nutrients, but also leaves undigested food just sitting there, building up gases and causing us to bloat. Low stomach acid is more common as we age, but is also a known side effect of taking acid-blocking medications for longer than 6 weeks.
Your stomach acid is the first line of defense against harmful bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens that are ingested along with food. Your ideal stomach pH is 2, which is very acidic. This acid level activates pepsin, an important enzyme needed for protein digestion and the release of energy from foods.
Your digestion happens in a cascade. Chewing food thoroughly causes you to produce more saliva, which in turn signals the production of enough stomach acid. The amount of stomach acid you make is a guide for the amount of bile and digestive enzymes that are released into the small intestine to finish the process of breaking down your food.
When you don’t produce enough stomach acid, the food just sits there, putrefying and causing you to bloat. Fungi and yeasts move in to break down the food by fermentation, which not only causes more bloating but affects the balance of probiotics in the microbiome and isn’t an efficient way to extract nutrients from the food. This disordered digestion creates deficiencies even with what seems to be a healthy diet.
Start simple to supplement acid to your digestion. Your stomach is very responsive to even small changes, so set the tone for acid production for your day with a teaspoon of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar every morning before breakfast. This wakes up your digestion and lowers the pH of the stomach.
The Importance of Intestinal Flora
If you’ve ever taken a probiotic, then you have some idea that healthy bacteria are essential for a healthy body. That collection of trillions of healthy bacteria in your body is known as the microbiome, and the majority of it is housed in your intestines. When your microbiome is in balance, everything from your digestion and weight loss to your immune health thrives. But even one strain of bad bacteria is enough to upset the delicate balance and bring on the belly bloat.
The big issue within the microbiome is the presence of opportunistic microbes. These are the yeasts and bacteria that are beneficial when everything is in balance, but will overgrow and wreak havoc when the opportunity arises. For instance, those yeasts and fungi that are called in when stomach acid is low, to help ferment food that isn’t being digested, then travel downstream into the intestines with the food they’ve been breaking down. Their numbers have multiplied to the point that they overwhelm the probiotic population and start causing inflammation in the intestinal lining.
When yeast is your issue, sugar cravings come with the belly bloat, and giving in may make you feel better but your ever-expanding waistline is a sign that you’re feeding the problem. It may be the result of the stomach acid issue, or it may be caused by antibiotics, stress, or too many carbs in the diet.
Another opportunistic issue happens when bacteria that thrive in the colon back up into the small intestine, known as Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). These bacteria help us break down bile salts and waste products and are essential for colon health, but when they move up into the small intestine or are taken in a poorly formulated probiotic, they can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, weight gain, nutrient deficiencies, and fat malabsorption issues. Healthy stomach acid levels and proper probiotic balance are the keys to stopping SIBO before it starts.
Constipation Is No Laughing Matter
Completing the digestive cascade is the elimination of waste products. If you aren’t moving your bowels after every large meal, then you may be constipated. This may sound like a lot to someone who thought that regular bowel movements meant going the same time every week, but I assure you, it’s exactly what your body needs.
When your stomach produces acid after you start eating, it also starts a wave-like motion throughout the colon, known as the gastrocolic reflex. What you eat, how much you eat, and the temperature of your food and drinks all affect the strength of this reflex. The foods that fermented from lack of stomach acid move very slowly through the colon, causing bloating, fatigue, and weight gain – hallmarks of constipation.
The average adult with even mild constipation is holding onto 20 pounds of waste in their colon, with a capacity for up to 50 pounds. This toxic weight gain can contribute to SIBO, yeast overgrowth, and other digestive issues. Your body recycles many of those toxins and circulates them back through the liver while its waiting to release all that toxic waste, so it also contributes to your overall toxic load and stalls even your best weight loss efforts.
Combine Detox with Diet for a Flat Belly
You’ve stimulated your stomach acid, repopulated your probiotics, and got your sluggish colon moving again. Congratulations! Now only one step remains to keep your digestion bloat-free – reduce your toxic load.
Toxins from the colon that recirculate can congest your liver, stress your kidneys, swell your fat cells, and cause not just bloating but also fat gain. This is because toxins that can’t be eliminated need to be sequestered into fat cells to protect you from their effects. This is how my New York Times bestselling Fat Flush plan got its name – when you detox and flush the fat, you lose the bloat and the excess weight.
If bloating has been your constant companion for quite some time, I highly recommend at least a few months on my Fat Flush plan to detoxify and keep your digestion on track. Join my Fat Flush Nation group on Facebook and see how thousands of people like you are flushing their fat, feeling great, and losing unwanted weight.