Why Do You Always Stress Digestion?

Digestive problems are probably the commonest problems I see in my practice. Many of the patients who present to me with other symptoms, from fatigue to allergies to arthritis, often the primary issue is faulty digestion. Most of these patients didn’t even realize that they had a faulty digestive system. They had become used to having mild indigestion or bloating or gas and thought it was a normal part of aging. I’m here to tell you — this is not normal!

Digestion is one of the most important functions for health. A well functioning digestive system will energize you, help your immune system and generally prevent all sorts of diseases. It will make you feel more vital.

So in almost all of my patients I always look to see if the digestive system is working well. It makes sense, because if you’re not digesting and or absorbing the food you eat, your nutritional needs will not be met. Incidentally, if you’re not absorbing nutrients, this could be a reason why you have food cravings — your body is on the hunt for nutrients.

I see many patients who are taking hundreds of dollars worth of supplements, which probably aren’t being absorbed properly because of a poorly functioning digestive system.

In Chinese medicine, the digestive function or the spleen function or earth element is at the center. When this is off balance, the whole system becomes imbalanced.

Here are 10 simple tips to help with digestion:

  1. Chew your food well. Digestion begins in the mouth with the manual breakdown of food, and salivary amylase starts to break down carbohydrates. We teach our kids to chew but sometimes we forget to chew our food — it’s important!

  2. Sit down and relax while you eat. Eating in a rush and under stress is not healthy and may lead to digestive problems. I recently saw a man walking down the street in New York City eating a salad as he walked – I would bet you that he has digestive problems!

  3. Make eating a mindful experience. Give thanks for your food, and remember to set down your fork, breathe and enjoy the company of others between bites.

  4. Eat natural, whole, unrefined, unprocessed, high quality foods. The closer to nature your food is, the easier it is for your body to digest. If it was made by a chemist in a lab (as most processed food is), it will be much more work for your body to break down.

  5. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are 80% full. Overeating creates a burden for your whole digestive system to manage.

  6. Eat organic and preferably local foods whenever possible.

  7. Try resting your digestive system for at least 10 hours at night. For example, if you eat breakfast at 7:00 am, try not to eat anything after 9:00 PM. This means your body won’t have to do the hard work of digestion, and will have time for rest and repair.

  8. Try doing an Elimination diet for 1-2 weeks from time to time, where you eliminate all refined sugar, processed foods, alcohol, gluten and dairy. Notice how your digestion improves.

  9. If possible have something bitter such as arugula or dandelion root before your meal, it stimulates your body’s own digestive juices and therefore helps digestion. Another good option is to have some sauerkraut or kimchi before a meal — about a ¼ of a cup will be plenty.

  10. Take a good probiotic formula. Probiotics are indispensable if you suffer from chronic indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating, lactose intolerance, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems.

Last but not least, our bonus tip to improve your digestion: do a Cleanse!  The Be Well Cleanse uses an elimination diet and supports your digestion with an herbal antimicrobial supplement to wipe out bad bacteria from the gut. This protocol has helped many of my patients resolve their digestive issues.


For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.