13 Simple Steps to Improve Digestion


This week’s post is written by my friend Jenn Burton who is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and a graduate from The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition

Definition of Digestion

The process in the alimentary canal by which food is broken up physically, as by the action of the teeth, and chemically, as by the action of enzymes, and converted into a substance suitable for absorption and assimilation into the body.

“We are what we eat and how we digest it”!

Why is Digestion Important?

Most people actually digest very little of what they eat because their digestive systems have been compromised by years of eating poor quality foods and living with high levels of unmanaged stress. Foods that aren’t digested properly ferment in the intestine, introduces toxins into the blood stream, feeds bad bacteria and parasites, decreasing even less absorption

Think of your digestion system resembling a gas tank of a car. You put gas in the tank, are you putting good quality gas or diesel in a gas vehicle, etc.? Does the car run clean? Does it smoke or produce toxins?

When working with clients, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist will start ALWAYS with the digestive system as everything begins with simple digestion. Your digestion is so vital to the overall vitality of ones well-being.

How do you Feel After Eating?

Check List

  • Bloated
  • Burping
  • Toots
  • Tired
  • Sluggish
  • Need a nap after you eat
  • Brain fog
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipated
  • Heart burn
  • Reflux
  • Become full very easy
  • Difficulty losing weight

What is Involved in Digestion?

  1. Mouth – Start of the digestion process as it breaks down food into smaller particles. Digestive enzyme (amylase) is released and is mixed with the food
  1. Esophagus – Is a travel way for the food to travel into the stomach
  1. Stomach – Acts as a food reservoir, mixes and breaks down food with HCL and other enzymes to help move to the small intestine
  1. Small Intestine – very important part of the digestion process as it breaks down fats, carbs and proteins into tiny particles that can be absorbed into the blood stream. It is also over 20ft long!
  1. Large Intestine – also very important part of the digestion process even though it doesn’t actually breakdown food, it is responsible for absorption of water and elimination solid waste
  1. Pancreas – it is responsible for producing enzymes to breakdown food and also produces insulin
  1. Liver & Gallbladder
    1. the liver is the central cleaning house for all unabsorbed nutrients. It has over 500 daily functions and is the main organ for digestion
    2. the liver stores and absorbs vitamins and nutrients
    3. bile salts are formed in the liver, which the gallbladder is storage for those bile salts. The gallbladder will release the bile when digesting fat to help breakdown


13 Simple Steps to Improve Digestion:

1) Chew your food

  • many of us are in a rush, eat standing up, swallowing un chewed food. Try chewing your food 20 times before swallowing. Hard eh? Our throat is a muscle and we need to train that muscle again.
  • wait until you mouth is empty to take the next bite
  • we always say our mouth waters when we see food, it is actually true. An enzyme is produced in the saliva called amylase, this is the start of digestion

2) Make peace with your food

  • enjoy your food, you are not in a rush, breath between bites
  • only eat when hungry
  • eat until your 80% full it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten enough

3) Do not drink with meals

  • drinking fluids washes away HCL and fills the stomach up with fluid, the fluid starts to ferment the food and creates gas
  • take little sips and or drink before your meal

4)Start your day off with lemon water

  • upon waking, prepare warm lemon water (real lemon!), this helps to get your digestion working!

5) Add fermented foods to your diet

  • sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, kefir, baby coconut water, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar
  • take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals

6) Consider digestive enzymes

  • helps with absorption of nutrients
  • this should be temporary until digestive system is up and running
  • speak with a Registered Holistic Nutrition before taking to chose the right one
  • People who had their gallbladder removed most likely will need to take a digestive enzyme with ox bile on going

7) Add probiotics to your daily routine

  • Especially if history of taking antibiotics, Conditions such as IBS, etc.
  • Brands: DDS, Genuine Health, Genestra, Usana

8) Eat clean, unprocessed, nutrient dense food – Organic

  • lessen the chemical load on your body which makes digestion easier, the body isn’t fighting to remove the toxins

9) Remove food sensitive foods

  • many food sensitivities can lead to poor digestion. Intestines cannot digest food properly. This is a huge area of poor digestion
  • work with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist to find out food sensitivities and develop meal plans, recipes and introduce you to different foods that will improve digestion and overall being

10) Stay hydrated

  • drink at least 2 liters of GOOD QUALITY water daily, if possible 3 liters
  • get in the habit of filling a water bottle and bring it with you everywhere

11) Remove stress

  • when our bodies are stressed which can be from an assortment of things, our bodies go into fight or flight. Think about your body how it would react from running away from a bear. When our body is in fight or flight our food cannot digest.
  • Yoga, breathing, mediating, dealing with the stress can help alot

12) Food combining

  • some people really benefit from food combining, it may not be for everyone but it is good to know anyways
  • always each fruit alone – wait 30mins before eating anything else
  • starches (rice, bread, beans) combine great with veggies – takes 3hrs to digest
  • protein (fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat) combine great with veggies – takes 4 hrs. to digest and meat can take up to 8 plus hours
  • protein & starch do not combine well at all i.e. steak and potatoes, western sandwich, lasagna
  • protein and fruit do not combine well either

13) Finish eating 3hrs before bed

  • sleeping is for resting, not digesting


Lets talk about poo, undigested food in your poo?  How many times a day to you go? If you go LESS than once per day you are bunged up!  Food should be eliminated 18-24hrs after eaten.  The rule of thumb, foot long floater and colour – yellow – food digested too fast, dark – been in too long, dark patches – something was stuck, should be medium brown (like a cork board)

Are you consuming enough fiber?

  • what we eat needs to come out, if food stays in your intestines and can’t get out. Toxins or undigested food start to leak back into the body.
  • recommended intake is 30-40 grams daily

2 types of fiber:

Insoluble fiber (doesn’t dissolve in water)- acts like sweeping the intestines and removes bulk. This is key for constipation. Examples: whole wheat, green leafy vegetables, nuts.

Soluble fiber (dissolves in water)- acts like a gel and slows down digestion and helps to stabilize blood sugar. Examples: chia seeds, flax seeds, apples, oats, beans


This may look overwhelming, it’s a process, and you don’t need to make all these changes overnight. Biggest step is to be aware of your body and how it feels after you eat. Once you start your journey you realize how little changes can cause a huge change, physically, emotionally.

~ Jenn Burton, Registered Holistic Nutritionist.  Email me for more information jennburton78@yahoo.ca



4 Keys To High Intensity Training & Why It Gets Great Results!


To stay in shape we often think that we need to go to the gym and work out for an hour.  Do you know where this initial concept came from?  Who decided that exercise needed to be one hour long?  It is from the old school gym owners who were paying their trainers by the hour.  Teach a class for an hour.  Train your client for an hour.  But we don’t need to workout for an hour to get great results!!  And research has proved this to be true.  The key is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and HICT (High Intensity Circuit Training).

The initial pioneers in HIIT training were Irisawa Koichi and Izumi Tabata. They were coaches of the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team in the 1990s and were using an unusual training technique of short bursts with even shorter rest periods. It was reported that this method not only increased short term explosive strength but also long term endurance. They found a 4-minute high-intensity interval workout to be similarly effective as a 60-minute moderate-intensity workout.  And the HIIT revolution began…

Dr. Martin Gibala, a physiologist at Canada’s McMaster University is a leading researcher on HIIT training.  I watched an interview with Martin Gabala and he related HIIT training to being similar to the way children play.  Kids don’t jog around at a steady state.  They sprint and jump and skip and stop and then do it again.  Go to any playground and you can see it’s true.  He said that perhaps this is why it is so good for us and why we “enjoy” it — because it is natural.  It’s innate to being human.

In one of his many studies, Dr Martin Gibala and his team found that three-minute intervals on a stationary bike – 30 seconds of intense pedalling followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times – led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as a bike ride lasting much longer, an hour and a half to two hours. 

Just 3 minutes of exercise led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as a workout that lasted over an hour!!!  What??!!  That’s incredible!!

Dr. Gibala’s group also reported that HIIT worked better for fat-burning than conventional aerobics. Participants in this study were divided into two teams. One did 20 weeks of conventional aerobics while the other did 15 weeks of HIIT. The first group burned 48 percent more calories per session than the HIIT group, but

Those in the HIIT group burned 900 percent more fat over the 15 weeks than the first group burned in 20 weeks.  What!?!  900% more fat burned!!!  Did you read that?!  AMAZING!! 

This goes to show that the EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption) is huge AFTER your workout.  Your metabolism is on fire for hours after an intense HIIT workout.

In Dr. Gibala’s latest study, they looked at the benefits of adding a single minute (3 bouts of 20 seconds) of intense cycling within a 10-minute workout, three times a week.  They compared the results to a 45 minute steady state cycling workout.  By the end of the study, the endurance group had ridden 27 hours and the HIIT group had ridden for only 6 hours.  Remarkably the scientists found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains, whether they had completed the long endurance workouts or the short, grueling intervals. 

This shows that even just one minute of High Intense Training can sky-rocket your results!!

In an article in the American College of Sports’ Medicine Journal’s May 2013 issue, performance coach Brett Klika and exercise physiologist Chris Jordan described how you can cram a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training into seven minutes using your body weight instead of machines or free weights. The only piece of equipment you need for this High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) is a chair (to step up on).  The key is the intensity.  Chris Jones suggests maintaining level 8 on the Borg Scale of perceived intensity.  He describes the workout as feeling “unpleasant”.  But the bonus is you can workout in a short time – and boom!  You’re done!

The Borg Scale is the level of perceived exertion that you experience during your workouts.  For HIIT and HICT you need to keep it high and have little rest in order to see the maximum results.  I found a very cute Borg Scale on the internet for you that has relatable emojis 🙂

Emoji Borg Scale

Here are 4 elements that should be included in your HICT (High Intensity Circuit Training) workout to optimize your results:

  1. Aerobic AND Resistance exercises:  You need to include exercises that increase your heart rate (aerobic exercises) and exercises that increase muscular strength (resistance – through body weight or bands or dumbbells).
  2. High Intensity: You need to push yourself hard and use maximum effort in order to gain the results from this style of training.  Otherwise you are just doing moderate exercise and you will need to workout for a longer time in order to get the same kind of physical gains.
  3. Exercise Order: To help you workout as hard as you can you should alternate the muscle groups you are using in your workout.  So lower body then upper body and that will give your muscles a little time to recover.  This also increases the use of fast twitch muscle fibres instead of slow twitch…but that is a lesson for another time 🙂
  4. Minimize Rest:  Having a negative amount of rest (i.e. you are working out for a longer interval than you are resting) maintains the intensity of this style of exercise and this is what gives the results.



Enjoy! Natasha


Martin J. Gibala, “High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion” Canada Current Sports Medicine Reports 2007,
Andrew Weil, M.D. “A Workout in Four Minutes”, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03459/High-Intensity-Interval-Training-A-Workout-in-4-Minutes.html
Gretchen Reynolds, “The Scientific Seven-Minute Workout,” The New York Times, accessed September 9, 2013, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/
Gretchen Reynolds, “1 Minute Of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” April 27, 2016, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/1-minute-of-all-out-exercise-may-equal-45-minutes-of-moderate-exertion/
PubMed, “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” October 28, 1996, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392

Post-Workout Nutrition & The Power of Carbohydrates


It may surprise you that one of the most important things you can eat after a hard workout is carbohydrate.  The popular belief is that you need to re-fuel with protein but it’s carbohydrate that re-fuels your body not protein. 

Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook, explains how vital carbohydrates are to your post-workout recovery.  It is important to eat carbohydrates to maintain high energy if you train hard on a daily basis.  Habitually eating a low-carb diet will leave your muscles chronically fatigued.

We have become such raving fans of protein we have forgotten that carbohydrates are our body’s fuel.  Protein is NOT fuel.  We do not get energy from protein.  Carbohydrates fuel our muscles AND our brain.  Carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscle and replenish depleted glycogen stores.

Carbohydrate combined with protein (approximately 10-20g – which isn’t a lot of protein) creates the magic post-workout snack for the muscle re-fuelling and re-building response.  Protein does play an important role for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue after our workout.   Protein also reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle.

There is a post-exercise window of opportunity to optimally nourish and repair our muscle tissues.  Nancy suggests eating within 45 minutes of a workout.  And you don’t need a lot of food to initiate the rebuilding and repairing process.  She suggests that a snack as little as 100 calories (80% carbs and 20% protein) is enough.  An easy option would be a banana and almond butter.  A smoothie is also a great choice.  Focusing on whole foods is always a good idea for a post-workout snack.  Eating fruits and vegetables (great carbohydrate choices) is smart since they have antioxidants that fight the free-radicals that occur during a hard workout.

As the fanfare for protein continues, let’s not forget about the power of carbohydrates and the importance they have in fuelling our brains and bodies with energy!

For more information:

 Click here to receive the NC Fitness Checklist on How To Have An Effective Workout


5 Reasons (You’ve Probably Never Heard) Why Working Out At Home Is Better Than The Gym

fitness equipment 2

When you think about a traditional gym, what do you picture?  You probably envision a massive room with a sea of weight machines. In the 1970’s weight machines became prominent when a man named Nautilus invented equipment that allowed people to isolate muscles, allowing stricter form and often increased weight load.  Gyms continue to collect the most sophisticated machines with high-tech capabilities.  You can actually workout while sitting down – but wait.  Maybe that’s not so good after all…

These machines only offer isolation exercises to stimulate muscle growth.  Advances in science are proving that most of the gym equipment is based on an outdated understanding of anatomy.  Scientists are now turning away from isolation exercise and toward “Dynamic Movement Training”.

Modern biomechanists and functional anatomists are identifying how a body interacts in function (function meaning – “the special work performed by a structure in it’s normal state).  So, what is a “normal state” for a human doing physical work?  Is it sitting down on a bench or seat?  No!  When we do physical work, we are standing and moving our bodies in different planes, feeling the pull of gravity and relying on our bodies’ ability to support and balance us.  Traditional gym equipment takes away all aspects of normal function and strictly isolates the use of one particular muscle. 

Enter – our home gyms where we don’t have fancy equipment.  All we have are a few dumbbells and a mat.  It’s all you really need to become “functionally fit” for optimal physical strength.  Using dumbbells in your home is actually better at building functional strength than any fancy machine. Leading anatomical and biomechanics researcher, Ida Rolf, Andre Vleeming and Raymond Dart have identified the following as essential for functional movement and the development of strength and power.  (All 5 of these properties for functional movement can be done with exercises in your home gym).

  1. Movement should be Tri-planar. This means we should exercise in more than one plane of motion (the three planes of motion are frontal, transverse and sagittal).  For example, a forward lunge would move in the sagittal plane, a side rise would move in the frontal plane and a wood chop would move in the transverse plane.  Working out in our home gyms allow us to do multi-muscle movements, when we are using 2-3 planes with each exercise.  This is especially true when we are doing HIIT training and trying to maximize a short workout!
  2. Exercises should be INTEGRATED.  This is a key word.  It means that the entire body is functioning as one unit to do a movement.  If we workout on a machine and we do a shoulder press, are our legs functioning with us to complete that movement? NO!  It’s important to use our body as a whole when we exercise.
  3. Exercises should require proper gravity-orientation.  Most movements in our everyday life require us to be standing up under the force of gravity.  You will not feel the force of gravity if you are using Smith Machine to do a weighted squat.
  4. Exercises should be proprioceptively enriched.  This means we need to link our brain and body to complete a movement.  How often have you tried a new exercise and it has taken you a moment to figure it out in your head?  I love these kinds of exercises!!  When you use a machine, this work is done for you and your brain doesn’t have to figure out what to do.  When you learn a new movement the left side of your brain has to communicate with the right side of your brain to build new neural pathways.  This contributes to brain health and the reduction of dementia.  Just one more benefit to exercise – it truly is a magic pill!!
  5. Exercises should produce dynamic stabilization.  This means your body must balance you through a movement and not rely on a machine for stabilization.

“Dynamic Movement Training” is easily done at home as we utilize our own body weight or a set of dumbbells through a series of exercises.  Multi-muscle, INTEGRATED exercises allow our bodies to perform tri-planar movements with dynamic stabilization and gravity-orientation.  This style of training has a high energy expenditure thus burning a lot of calories and fat.  It increases lean muscle tissue, improves core strength and helps maintain our joint health through a full range of motion.

You really can get an AWESOME workout at home.  All you need are the right moves and some motivation!