By Lauren Cox, Closer To Your Food

Many of us do not take the time to consider that the small symptoms we may be experiencing in day-to-day life are actually our body’s way of flashing a big old warning light. With modern medicine, it is very easy to find a medication that soothes the symptoms, but what about the actual cause? Do you ever wonder why you might be frequently constipated, or perhaps have chronic heartburn? It seems easier to keep treating the symptom until everything comes to a crashing halt when a more serious condition arises and a vicious cycle begins by treating the symptoms of that condition as well as your original ones. What if we took a look at the real root of some of these minor symptoms? I think that with small diet and lifestyle changes, we can prevent many illnesses and diseases before they spiral out of control.

Your stomach and digestive system might be one of the most important indicators of your overall health. It is not a secret that the modern American diet typically does not support digestive health, and what we are eating may cause internal turmoil. Many people have become used to chronic digestive issues, even so much so that they just assume it’s part of daily life.  Consider that these symptoms may actually be your body’s way of trying to tell you something. If you tune in and pay attention to some of these signs, you may find yourself one step closer to finding real relief by treating the cause and on your way to better long-term digestive health.

Your Gut Says: Constipation

With chronic constipation, it typically means you are not getting enough fiber in your diet and you are most likely dehydrated. Think of it this way – passing stool is one of your body’s ways of eliminating toxins. When this process is backed-up, there is a surplus of toxins that essentially leak back into your body causing a number of other issues. The average American is eating only about 8 grams of fiber per day. The Dietary Fiber Requirements (RDA) for adults range from about 20-30 grams a day, but our ancestors with diets very high in fiber consumed up to 100 grams per day.1 The bottom line is that we need more dietary fiber.

Hidden Symptoms:

  • Frequent Hunger Pangs
  • Dehydration
  • Congested Skin

What to do about it:

  • Eat more fiber. It sounds simple, and it is simple. Consider substituting refined grains in your diet for whole grains. Swap white breads for whole grain, seeded breads. Try using whole grain pastas or spiral veggie pastas instead of enriched white flour pasta. Eat more nuts and seeds by adding them into smoothies. Try eating steel-cut oatmeal with a little added chia or flax instead of instant oatmeal or breakfast cereal. An easy way to find fiber? EAT MORE PLANTS. Fruits and veggies are an excellent source of dietary fiber, and your body needs them. Try focusing your meals around plant-based foods instead of meat and carbs. If that is too hard to do, try making your meat portion only 30% of the plate and the other 70% a couple different types of veggies.
  • Drink more water. Hydration is essential to regular bowel movements. When you are craving something “naughty” you’re probably just thirsty. Try making a bottle of water your best friend –  name it, carry it around with you everywhere you go, keep drinking it, keep refilling it. You’ll find you stay fuller longer and more satiated.
  • When all else fails, supplement. Let’s face it, eating and living healthier may be a monumental task for some of us. Of course it is the best option, but sometimes people just don’t want to play ball. Enter: supplements. There are many great flavorless fiber powders that easily mix into any liquid, pills and gummies that pack a high amount of fiber in a little punch. These are great products to incorporate into your daily routine to keep constipation at bay.


Your Gut Says: Sugar Craving

Sugar has been proven to be a highly addictive substance and in some studies more addictive than cocaine.2 For most people, the addiction becomes a vicious cycle and very hard to get under control. Many doctors theorize that people can be addicted to sugar for a variety of reasons, but for the most part it is because of a hormonal or yeast imbalance. Hormonally, adrenaline overload due to stress and imbalance from menopause or other progesterone-related issues are common culprits. A yeast imbalance is also very typical. People who frequently experience yeast infections and are often on antibiotics tend to experience yeast overgrowth. This yeast is fed by none other than sugar.

Hidden Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain Fog
  • Overeating

What to do about it:

  • Sugar cleanse. It’s probably equivalent to checking into rehab, but a cleanse is a necessary step in helping your body adjust to lower levels of sugar, slowly over time. I’m not going to lie, the first two weeks are terrible, but you will find that your cravings will subside and the foods that you used to crave will be too sweet.
  • Take an appropriate probiotic. Ask your physician what types are appropriate for you and find a way to incorporate a professional-grade probiotic into your daily routine. If you cannot immediately get one, eat high-quality, organic cultured foods. Try a no-sugar added yogurt or non-heat-treated sauerkraut or kimchee.


Your Gut Says: Crave and Chew Ice

Many of us find ourselves craving ice or craving the actual action of chewing it. This is a typical red flag for anemia or iron deficiency. Usually, the main cause of iron deficiency is simply an inadequate intake in your diet. General fatigue, pale skin and shortness of breath are all very typical symptoms. Contact your physician to do a blood draw to check your iron levels.

Hidden Symptoms:

  • Brittle Nails
  • Cold Hands and Feet
  • Strange Cravings

What to do about it:

  • Eat more iron-rich foods. Again, it sounds simple, but not getting enough in your diet is the main reason people are iron deficient. Shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels are very high in iron. Lentils, beans, spinach, leafy greens, nuts and seeds are also great sources.3 These plant-based foods are fabulous for a number of other reasons as well, so what do you have to lose by adding them to your shopping list?
  • Supplement. Based on your blood work, work with your physician to find a supplement that will provide an appropriate amount of iron to take on a daily basis.

Listening to your body really is a vital talent we should strive to become more and more proficient at. The human body is amazingly well-equipped to solve problems and heal itself; we just have to get out of its way. One way to start is to listen to it and help it. When you pay close attention, you’ll find many pesky symptoms are caused by some sort of digestive distress, so do your best to help address them before they become a long-term issue. So really, listen to your gut, it’s offering you life-saving advice.


Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.