5 ways to support healthy digestion when TTC

When you are trying to conceive (TTC), health takes on a whole new lens as you try to do all you can to prepare your body for conception and a healthy pregnancy. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to know where to start and what information to listen to.  

A really great place to start, not just for those TTC but for anyone who is trying to take their health seriously, is your digestion. The digestive system is a beautiful, complicated symphony of interactions that is the foundation of all health — we are what we digest. Unfortunately, our food system and way of life are hard on our digestion.  When digestion works at suboptimal levels, it means you aren’t absorbing your nutrients, your hormones could be off, your serotonin could be low (as much as 90% is produced in the gut!), plus bloating and stinky gas could be a daily plague. Correcting digestive function helps the whole system function optimally.

For those TTC, maximum absorption of nutrients is vital for egg quality, for the support of your menstrual cycle, and for hormone balance. Your bowel movements are included when we talk about digestion, and are a key piece to detoxing extra estrogen and therefore supporting hormonal balance.  

I often ask clients about their digestion, and it’s common not to know. Many people are accustomed to feeling bloated, or being constipated, and over the years, felt that it was normal.

Here are some possible signs you need to work on your digestion: 

  • Not having daily bowel movements
  • Sometimes you have stinky gas (can be embarrassing even!)
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach aches 
  • Bloating after meals or at the end of the day 
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Feel like food “sits” in your stomach

So you experience some of the symptoms above, maybe one, maybe ALL of them. It’s possible, and really common to feel like this. So what can you do? Below are 5 things you can start doing today to enhance your digestion.


1. Develop a sense of Interoception: Interoception is “the perception of sensations from inside the body...”  Things like hearing your heart beat, feeling full, noticing tension in certain parts of your body, even noticing your emotions. Pretty cool, huh? The digestive system, when running well, is barely noticeable. You will probably have a general sense of well-being and energy when things are working right. The opposite is true when something is wonky. Start logging how you feel after meals and see if you can find a pattern from eating certain things. 


2. Be in a calm state when eating: When you eat while you are driving, or even when you are answering work emails, your body is on alert. (I cannot tell you how many client pictures I receive of their lunch in front of their keyboard!)  In this state, your body is primed to do something active, and nowadays it doesn’t distinguish between physical or mental activity. Your digestion works best when the body is in a restful state, as the muscles that control the passage of food down through the digestive system are only activated when you are at rest. A simple thing to keep in mind is that when you are eating, make eye contact with your food.  


3. Chew your food: The digestive system works north to south. When something isn’t right at the north end, it affects function further down the line. Your mouth is at the north end, and it’s the last conscious control you have over the breakdown of your food. If food is swallowed without being chewed, it is much harder for the rest of the digestive system to break it down. Certain bad bacteria LOVE to eat undigested food. Sometimes, this alone can lead to bloating and gas, and also eventually inflammation if this is something that happens frequently. Make sure you cannot distinguish any chunks of food with your tongue before you swallow. This is a habit that you can work on every single time you eat! 


4. Start looking at your bowel movements: Are you regular? Some people don’t know exactly what this means, and that’s actually common. You should be going number 2 at least once a day and it should be easy to pass. My clients and I often refer to number 4 on the bristol stool chart as an ideal type of stool. Using your bowel movements as a data point is helpful to know if you are adequately hydrated and that you are eating enough fiber. Think about adding more beans, lentils, and vegetables to help bulk up your stool (and feed your beneficial bacteria!).  


5. Cook your food: If you find that you are having digestive issues, sometimes that big beautiful raw salad could be causing some issues. Cooking food helps to make food more digestible, as the heat from cooking will help to break down cell walls. As you work to strengthen your digestion, you may be able to add raw foods back in, but if you are having a lot of symptoms, think about cooking your foods before eating. During the summer time when you are craving salads, you can cook ingredients beforehand and keep them in the fridge to make a salad of cooked vegetables.  

Remember, when your digestive system is working well, you don’t notice a thing. If something is wrong, (the digestive system has more neurons that your spinal cord or peripheral nervous system), it will absolutely tell you. The absence of the above symptoms, feeling energetic, having clear skin; these are all possible ways you can tell your digestion is working for you.  

With everything around TTC, it’s a journey, and it’s not meant to be perfect. One takeaway is that whatever you are doing for your fertility is good for your longevity as well. Keep the habits you are creating and surrender to the journey.  (As a nutritionist TTC, I’m talking to myself here too!) 




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