Is There a Connection Between Poor Digestion and Chronic Inflammation?

Introduction

You are not just what you eat — You are what you digest and absorb! Is there a connection between digestion and chronic inflammation? If you are frequently getting sick or infections, you should discuss this with your practitioner as it is a sign that your immune system isn’t working better.

Your digestive system is part of your immune system and impacts your immune health. Autoimmune disease is rooted in an impaired inflammatory response and may play out in the GI tract. IBD, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are just a few unfortunate examples.

Do you need a digestive tuneup? If you’ve been doing the healthy fats, proteins, no added sugar, consuming anti-inflammatory foods and you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for, the digestive piece of the puzzle would be the thing to focus on next.

You can’t have a healthy inflammatory response without better digestion, and you can’t have better digestion with an unhealthy inflammatory response. Let’s unpack this and find out what factors can impact your digestive health!

Can Medications And Supplements Affect Digestion and Chronic Inflammation

SUPPLEMENTS FOR CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Medications

Medications (even OTCs like NSAIDs) create “injury” to the GI tract leading to an inflammatory response — Yikes!

Medications that you are currently taking as well as ones you took years before can impact digestive function. Some may have removed the good bacteria, others may have injured the digestive tract lining (leaky), and others may have or be slowing down your system.

Supplements

Your multi could be providing nutrients to support better digestion or it could be part of the problem! Does it contain calcium and iron? – these can be constipating and compete with each other for absorption. 

Are you getting a quality source and amount of magnesium? Some forms are less well absorbed (oxide, tablets) especially if you are already dealing with digestive issues. Calcium and magnesium should be about the same amounts however you should evaluate your calcium and magnesium because it often turns out people are doing better on their calcium intake so they need less supplemental and, thus, need more magnesium.

Herbs like turmeric and ginger can help promote a healthy inflammatory response which will help heal your skin and support better immune health. 

Glutamine helps to repair the digestive tract so it can be a better tool if you’ve taken medications for your skin or others that impacted your digestion. However, just make sure the product is delivering you a better ingredient for your digestive system – and enough of it. 

The great news is that better nutrition can help. Your healthcare provider can work with you to develop a better nutrition and lifestyle plan to make sure you’re taking the right products at the right amounts to get better results!

Good And Bad Bugs That Impact Digestion And Chronic Inflammation

BACTERIA THAT IMPACT DIGESTION AND CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Critters come and go, and an imbalance or presence of some will affect your digestive health and your inflammatory response.

If you take probiotics, make sure you look for strains that are clinically shown to support immune health. Foods and beverages that contain probiotics can be helpful but dairy may be an issue for your immune system, and bubbly probiotic beverages are not advised if you already are dealing with bloating. This is where a better supplement or a better-quality dairy-free option are better choices. 

Is your probiotic better? There are different kinds of bacteria in our digestive tract and you want to make sure you are giving your body all of them, ideally from strains that have science-based evidence of being effective to support better digestive health i.e., Bifidobacterium infantis, lactis, animalis), there are others that can help with specific conditions i.e.,Sacchromyces Bourlardii for traveler’s diarrhea. Your food containing probiotics should be made of other ingredients that are better too. 

What About Fiber?

FIBER FOODS FIGHT CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Fiber is essential for better digestion and there are many forms you can get from food, but a better supplement can be helpful too. Is the fiber from a food source? Are the other ingredients in the product better for you too? Avoid products with artificial colors and sweeteners.

Also, assess if the fiber supplement is making you bloated or gassy. You may need less at first and you will for sure need more water.

Prebiotic fibers can be helpful (they help feed good bacteria) but they can also be part of the problem for a lot of people that deal with bloating and gas.

Assess products with inulin and chicory root to see if they are part of your digestive problems, and be careful when eating sunchokes which can do the same.

You may notice that you do great with dandelion greens, jicama, and artichokes but not so great with these others or with garlic and onions. 

Lifestyle Tips To Improve Digestion and Chronic Inflammation

LIFESTYLE TIPS TO IMPROVE CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Lifestyle choices, experiences, and your current health status all impact digestion. Here are a few tips to help your digestion do better.

  • Move your body! Our digestive process relies on the movement of the digestive tract (it contracts to move food along), so when our body sits for a long period of time it can interfere with better digestion. Set an alarm to make sure you get up and move every 3 hours, paying attention to moving your mid-section. If you can’t move far, at least stand and stretch, touch your toes, lift your bent knees up towards your chest, and do seated chair twists.
  •  Got stress? The body knows what to do. Stress is a natural response to good and bad things. The body tightens up and focuses all of its attention on what needs to get done. Why is stress bad for us? It’s not unless the stress doesn’t turn off. 
  • Breathing helps too. Do the 4-7-8 breath (10 rounds) to help your body move from stressed to relaxed.
  • Working out hard is awesome, but it actually stresses the body so make sure your workout recovery includes magnesium and possible adaptogens to turn off stress as well as herbs that help promote a healthy inflammatory response.
  • Lack of sleep is also stressful for the body. It needs its recovery to function better. Magnesium helps as does setting and keeping a bedtime schedule, shutting down from social media and TV an hour before bed, and journaling or some breathing if stress is keeping you from better sleep.
  • If you have a digestive disease or diagnosis you will want to work with your practitioner to build your better nutrition plan to include nutrients that can help the digestive tract run better. 
  • Hormones, directly and indirectly, impact digestive function. If you are pregnant, getting your period, entering menopause, low on testosterone, or experiencing any hormonal fluctuations it is good to look at your nutrition to do better on nutrients that can support hormonal health (magnesium, calcium, iron, omegas, herbs). You should discuss this with your practitioner if you notice digestive changes after a medication or as you advance in your pregnancy so you get personalized advice.   

Conclusion

So, do you want to dive in a little deeper and see how your digestion measures up? Your challenge is to complete my digestive evaluation so you can start making changes and feel your best.

When you do the digestive evaluation, it will reveal info about what could be better, and it’s possible that the things that could be better from a digestive standpoint, are probably the things that are preventing your inflammatory response from being better.

Click here to download your digestive evaluation and be on your way to better digestion and ultimately better immune health!

Your digestion is the most important part of your health because it is responsible for delivering the rest of the body what it needs to run better and to remove what the body will not use or what it finds irritating and harmful. Better digestion should be the first step in any Better Nutrition Plan, so get started on yours today! 

Leave a comment and let me know how your digestive eval went or if you have any questions about it.

***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***

About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.