I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but I’d like to take the sentiment one step further to claim you are what you absorb.
Digestion is the complex process by which your body reduces the food you eat into individual nutrients in order to build tissue, supply energy, and destroy pathogens (among other things). Your ability to process food and eliminate wastes is the single most important determinant of good health.
Luckily, our bodies provide us with physical cues when systems are out of balance. Obvious signs of digestive distress include gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. However, freedom from these symptoms doesn’t necessarily signify good digestion. It’s quite possible that while you don’t suffer from acute digestive distress, you still may not be absorbing available nutrition from the food you eat.
The checklist below outlines what you experience when your digestive system is working smoothly.
You have regular, easy bowel movements – one to three well-formed, light brown, not overly foul smelling stools daily.
You pass gas less than 20 times per day and it is not painful or overly foul smelling.
You have pleasant breath and body odor.
You have sufficient stores of nutrients like iron and B12. There are many causes for anemia and other nutrient deficiencies, but if you eat a nourishing diet and don’t experience blood loss and still suffer from anemia, chances are you’re not properly absorbing certain nutrients from the food you eat.
You have a moderate and regular appetite. You’re hungry upon rising and at regularly scheduled mealtimes without insatiable hunger in between. You feel satisfied after eating a meal and can tolerate mildly spiced foods.
You don’t experience digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, indigestion, burning, acid reflux, or lethargy and heaviness after eating.
You experience overall good health with a strong immune system, clear complexion, good circulation, adequate energy and good mental clarity.
Even with good digestion you will most likely experience some of these things occasionally, but it’s the regular or chronic occurrence of these symptoms that may indicate an imbalance. One of the most important things we can do for our health is to learn to listen to these sometimes subtle cues and use them to determine which foods make us feel nourished and which foods make us feel drained. A particular diet may not be suitable for all people, and it may not even be suitable for an individual for his or her entire life.