How to Prepare Your Digestive System for Raw Foods
The raw food diet doesn’t seem to work for you? The challenge, I suggest, is not with raw foods, but with the digestive system. It must be properly prepared to welcome raw foods, especially if you are striving for 100% raw.
Bloating, intestinal pain and gas rank high on the list of problems for people aspiring to go raw. Here’s why. Each of us has in our intestinal system our own unique set of microflora, which have grown up there in response to what we’ve been eating. A sharp change in diet means the old microflora (it’s actually microfauna) won’t be happy.
There’s no one-size-fits-all plan. While many are able to go raw after several months of transition following my 100 Days to 100% Raw Plan, in that ebook I emphasize that these 100 Days don’t have to be consecutive. Some folks need to take very gradual steps to successfully transition to an all-raw diet and lifestyle—and all the more gradual the older you are. Folks who experience gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) must proceed slowly and cautiously.
If you are having any trouble sticking to raw, here’s the upshot of my own experience, thousands of my readers and a lengthy review of English and Russian-language sites I reviewed to see what advice I could add to my own. Consider these steps to make your transition to raw go smoothly and, most importantly, to help you stay raw for the long haul:
- Before you go raw, first try some cleansing methods. Don’t think you can go from burgers and pizza to raw overnight. Any kind of detox or cleanse you can do in preparation will help. People transitioning to raw have used enemas, colonics, parasite cleanses, and juice fasts with good results.
- If even these cleanses hit you too hard, start with the simple step of switching to drinking distilled water, which will help eliminate inorganic mineral deposits from your body. At the beginning of my raw food journey, I followed Paul Bragg’s advice and drank several glasses of distilled water per day. I discuss my take on distilled water in this article: Distilled Water is the Best Water to Drink: True or False?
- If drinking straight vegetable juice gives you diarrhea, then try diluting it 50-50 with distilled water.
- Try eating more fermented foods such as fermented veggies, sauerkraut or kimchee. The fermentation process pre-digests the vegetables, supplies good microflora, and counters indigestion. If you experience low stomach acidity, fermented foods can help raise it (green smoothies, hemp seeds, dandelion greens and fresh cabbage juice also help with this issue). Fermented foods can also help those who have a hard time with rough plant fiber.
- Go “mono” whenever possible. This means eating just one fruit or veggie at a time. This will get your digestive system gradually used to its new diet. As your body adjusts, you can start to add a few more items and make simple raw food dishes. Tip…Stick, for a while, with fruits and veggies you already count among your favorites. Make one change at a time. Watch and feel what your body does in response. Adjust. Repeat.
- Give up dairy and gluten early. Don’t wait until you’ve entirely given up cooked food. While you’re at it, early on get rid of anything with yeast. It contributes to dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and fights off the very microflora you need, the kind that thrives on raw plant fiber.
- You might try plant-based digestive enzymes with your early raw meals. These will help to break down cellulose. After a few weeks or months, you’ll be good to go without.
- Chew well—advice I’m very big on. See my article: Chewing Guide to Raw Food Success. This is especially important with high fiber foods. If you don’t chew these well, you’re in for gas, intestinal pain and bloating. Chewing breaks down fiber, helping stomach acid do its job better. You can get a similar effect by running your veggies through your blender. Juicing is likewise important—whatever GI issues you face will surely be helped.
- Consider fasting. A day. Two. Even a week. Many have found fasting a great bridge to going raw.
- Try yoga-style deep breathing. It will - because it moves the stomach - directly aid in digestion.
- You might experience some awkward stomach symptoms as your body adjusts. Rumbles in your tummy. Diarrhea. Constipation. Adding unfamiliar foods may bring its own difficulties. For instance, kale causes trouble for some. Many find they have a smoother transition when they emphasize veggies and greens over fruits and nuts. Drink copious amounts of distilled water. Chew all your food at least thirty times before swallowing and your regular bowel movements will return.
- Then there’s the matter of taste. Some folks know they should go raw, but just plain don’t like raw vegetables. Start by steaming your veggies. Get one of those “bamboo steamer” gadgets you've seen on TV or in Chinese groceries. Over time, taper off the time you steam. In a couple of months, your veggies will be scarcely hot, let alone cooked. Your jump from “nearly uncooked” to raw will then just require a short hop.
- For more advanced methods for healing your digestive system, check out my books Quantum Eating and Raw Foods and Hot Yoga.
The most important advice I can give is to eat when you are relaxed and at peace. Listen to your body. Conduct your own experiments. Take notes. Make modifications. It’s your body. Transition your way and you will succeed.