Surprising Symptoms of Poor Digestion

In this series of newsletters on stubborn weight loss I am addressing poor digestion, which is another cause of weight gain.

This article and video is geared to those of you who once digested well but started struggling with weight gain or digestive issues. Are you now eliminating foods, taking digestive enzymes or exercising like crazy to shave off extra pounds and digest your food well? If so, you may have a weak digestive furnace.

Part I

Part II

Do you have any of these symptoms which may be due to a weak digestive furnace?
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fullness
  • Nausea
  • Rectal itching
  • Weak, cracked finger nails
  • Acne
  • Iron deficiency
  • Parasites
  • Candida
  • Food allergies
  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Hives
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • B12 deficiency
  • Arthritis


How You Eat is More Important Than When or What You Eat

In my book, The 3-Season Diet I discuss the three major contributing factors of weight gain, in order of importance: how, when and what you eat. The state of one’s mind while eating (how you eat), even from the youngest age, may be one of the most important factors in our digestive strength. The how, when and what you eat will be a topic in a future newsletter.

poor digestion no wheat gluten image

Eliminating Foods Is Not the Solution to Poor Digestion

There is no doubt that there is a small percentage of folks who simply do not have the genetics to digest wheat or dairy. Some kids just start out with food allergies and need to eliminate certain foods. For many others, eliminating foods has become a popular – though not necessary – way to help lose weight and cover up symptoms of poor digestion. A life sentence of no wheat or dairy is a tough pill to swallow. What if there is a better way?

“When I Was Younger I Could Eat Anything”

When I ask patients, “How is your digestion?” I often here the same comments.
Do any of these sound like you?:

  • “Wow, when I was a teenager I could eat anything.”
  • “I used to have a cast iron stomach.”
  • “My digestion is nothing like it used to be.”
  • “I really struggled with my digestion my entire life until I gave up wheat and dairy.”
  • “I avoid heavy and fatty food because it either just sits there, I bloat, get heart burn or get nauseous.”

Many of Us Only Treat the Symptoms of Poor Digestion

I see that many people have slowly altered their diet over the years to help them digest and feel better. For many, those once easy to digest comfort foods just don’t digest like they used to. It is as if someone turned down the digestive furnace. When this starts, we begin to notice some extra pounds, a brewing belly and those irresistible love handles. Though we start exercising more, take yoga classes or join a health club, the pounds don’t budge.

Naturally we start changing our diet. We take out the fat and avoid fried food. We cut out the hard-to-digest foods like wheat, dairy, sugar, salt, soy, nuts, corn, breads, baked goods, fast foods and, yes, those delectable comfort foods as well. With lots of discipline, exercise and dieting, we attempt to fight the battle of the bulge.

Restrictive Diets Aren’t the Solution

Soon the weight starts creeping back in, the skin starts sagging and we make some more dramatic shifts to the diet. In addition to taking the bad foods out, we start eating more healthy foods like green salads, veggies, whole grains and lean meats. While we have always known that these are the healthy foods, many of us finally make the decision to eat healthy because we feel so lousy when we don’t. For some, they don’t really feel better until they become a vegetarian, vegan or raw foodist.

I am not suggesting that these diets are flawed in any way. I am suggesting that many of us have become attracted to more restrictive diets because they make us feel better. An underlying digestive imbalance may be hiding behind the new diet.

Avoiding Certain Foods Doesn’t Solve the Problem

For example, if you stop eating wheat and the tired heavy feeling you had for years goes away, it is natural to blame the wheat. My question is: if you take away the wheat and feel better, doespoor digestion vegerian diet image that mean we have solved the problem? Are you digesting everything else perfectly? Perhaps when you were a kid you seemed to digest wheat fine and now it just doesn’t agree with you. Perhaps somewhere along the way your digestive furnace was dialed down and you lost the ability to break down those hard-to-digest foods.

Why, when and how did that happen and – most importantly – how do we turn that furnace back on? Could we start eating all those rich and “allergenic” foods again? With a strong system we wouldn’t find ourselves becoming dependent on restrictive diets, enzymes or herbal laxatives. With a strong digestive system, you can be free of digestive pills and powders, food allergies and a host of other related imbalances. (See the Symptoms of a Weak Digestive Furnace list above.)

What is Optimal Digestion?

When the digestive fire is low, we may crave carbs, breads and heavy food or we don’t feel satisfied. When the digestive furnace is turned back up to 100%, you will find that you may not crave those heavy foods. While you can digest them, you may find yourself very satisfied with a more vegetable based, green, fresh and raw fruit diet.

While eating such a diet may make you feel better now – and I encourage that – one of the keys to staying healthy for years to come is to be able to digest anything if you need to, and not feel terrible after eating harder to digest food.

Compared to when you were young – at what percent is your digestive furnace set at today? 20, 30 or 50%? Lets fire it up to 100% and metabolize that food the way we were intended to. Oh, by the way, this works for all ages…..

According to Ayurveda, there are two common reasons why the digestive strength becomes weaker over time: thick bile and dehydration.

Is Your Bile Too Thick?

Thick bile is one of the most common reasons for the digestive furnace to be turned off:

  • The bile is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
  • When we digest a fatty meal, the gallbladder squirts bile into the small intestine where it breaks down fats and neutralizes stomach acids (like HCL) as they leave the stomach.
  • If the bile is thick because of a congested liver, there will not be enough bile to neutralize the HCL that is entering the small intestine.
  • The un-neutralized HCL acid may irritate the villi of the small intestine.
  • This may cause heart burn, bloating, indigestion, fullness, loose stools and nausea – to name a few.
  • The now scorched small intestine sends an angry memo to the stomach to stop producing so much acid.
  • The digestive furnace in the stomach is dialed down to match the low level of bile flow so the un-neutralized acid doesn’t irritate the intestinal lining.
  • For awhile, the digestive symptoms go away and we slowly adapt to a furnace that is firing at, say, 50% of maximum. We eat less, eliminate fats and hard to digest foods, exercise more and practice stress reduction. But soon the digestive symptoms and excess fat return.
  • At this point we can either eat an even more restricted diet or we can turn the furnace back on.

How to Turn Up the Digestive Furnace

STEP 1: Thin Bile = Thin You & Good Digestion
Before we can turn the furnace back on, we better be sure we fixed the reason why it was turned off in the first place. In this case we need to thin the bile because thick bile is a sign of a congested liver and slows down digestion.

>>>Please watch my video and read the previous newsletter called Detox Dangerous Fats where I discuss this process in detail. Once the bile is thinned we can turn the furnace back on.

poor digestion beet root imageEat Beets for Healthy Bile
The best food to thin the bile is beets. If you can eat one beet a day for 3 months, you will help cleanse your liver, thin your bile and allow your stomach to fire up that furnace.

Beets are best if eaten raw and grated with lemon juice and a little flax seed oil. Eat like a salad with lunch or dinner.

>>>Click here for more bile thinning recipes

Herbal formulas like Turmeric Plus and Liver Repair are also effective tools to support the liver and gallbladder.

STEP 2: Hydrate!
One of the biggest causes of poor digestion is dehydration! Yup, many of us don’t drink enough water to allow the stomach to produce the needed amount of digestive acid. Underneath the lining of the stomach is a water-dependent, alkaline, bicarbonate layer that neutralizes the stomachs acids. Simply put, if there is not enough water in the body, this bicarbonate layer becomes thin and the hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach could burn a hole in the stomach wall. As this is obviously unacceptable, the stomach lining inhibits the production of HCL during times of dehydration to avoid an ulcer.

When the HCL of the stomach is inhibited due to dehydration, the strength of the digestive furnace is dialed down to save the lining of the stomach, and hard to digest foods enter the small intestine undigested. This may lead to the symptoms listed above.

  • To pre-hydrate the stomach, drink 12oz of water 15 minutes before you eat food.
  • If you are dehydrated it is recommended that you drink one-half your body weight in ounces for 6 weeks. For example, if you weight 130 lbs, drink 65 ounces per day (about 8 cups).
  • An easy Ayurvedic technique for treating dehydration and flushing your lymphatic system is to sip plain hot water every 10-15 minutes throughout the day for two weeks.

>>> Read more in my last newsletter, Ten Proven Tips For Stubborn Weight Loss under the subheading, “Tip 8: Sip Hot Water”.

Parenting Tip: Dehydration is the most common reason why kids get tummy aches. Try giving them a big glass of water and often the tummy aches goes away in 5-10 minutes. >>>Learn more tips in my book Perfect Health for Kids.

STEP 3: Turn the Furnace Back ON!
An effective way to turn the furnace back on is with Trikatu, an herbal formula made with ginger, black pepper and long pepper. The goal is to increase the production of HCL in your stomach and thin your bile so you digest your food better. If you already have symptoms of heartburn, ulcers or reflux you may need to increase your HCL production as these are a sign of low acid levels.

SUMMARY: You will take increasing doses of Trikatu until you feel warmth around your belly before, during or after the meal. Then you will slowly decrease the Trikatu while maintaining the warmth around your belly. This protocol will take 1-2 weeks based on the current level of your digestive furnace.

Continue with the Step 3 Trikatu Protocol only after you have accomplished the following goals for at least 2-3 weeks and are able to tolerate foods that are typically hard for you to digest (such as fatty or fried foods, gluten or dairy). If you cannot tolerate these foods after 2-3 weeks of the below protocol, consider scheduling an Ayurvedic Consult for a customized plan to strengthen your digestion:

  • Take Liver Repair: 1-2 capsules, 2 times per day after food.
  • Eat one raw beet per day.
  • Hydrate!
  • Eat 3 meals per day without snacking. >>>Learn More.
  • You may do this Trikatu Protocol 2 – 3 times per year, as needed.

>>>Learn how to follow the Trikatu Protocol.

How to Maintain a Strong Digestive Furnace


  1. Dawn says

    This is SO informative! Thank you. This is exactly what we just found out my husband has – fat malabsorption. This video really explains it well.

  2. Scheleta Phillips says

    I have a question, after I eat something spicy, a few hours later my stomach area bloats, I have sharp stabbing gas pains, I feel nauseous, and the pain and burning feeling in my stomach/solar plex area is almost unbearable, bringing me to tears!! I feel like Im going to vomit and my mouth gets really dry. I take slippery elm or activated charcoal and it takes about an hour before it calms down. I have done a gallbladder cleanse but I still have problems if I eat spicy or greasy foods. Do you recommend the Warm Digest Trikatu? I am very desperate for any advice to help heal this, whatever it is exactly I have going on here! Thank you!

  3. Munir Ahmed says

    My stomach problem is 1 year take tests endoscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasound, cbc test,esr test,he pylori test,all the tests are normal. My stomach feels full all the time and don’t want to eat .After eating I can’t burp that’s why food stuck in throat.i feel food in throat even on empty stomach. Anyone can help me.

  4. jane says

    This was a great article! I’re read several of the posts on this site and I’m thrilled to be finding sound information on how to heal my digestive system naturally. I would like to do this protocol with hydration and a daily beet salad to improve bile consistency – however, my urine is now quite pink when I eat beets (which I believe is a sign of VERY low HCL.) Is it still safe to do this protocol?

  5. Faisal says

    After reading this article now I have a very good understanding whats going on with my digestive system. I don’t have gallstones but my gallbladder walls have become thick and Doctor has asked me to change my diet and then come back for another ultrasound after few months. I recently started mixing Apple Cider Vinegar in my food before eating it and I noticed improvement in digestion and overall response but I was still having discomfort around lower ribs on right side. Putting concentrated beet juice tablets in water and drinking it couple of times , my right side became fully relaxed. Although I was expecting this article will say something about Apple Cider Vinegar but I am very happy to discover beets.

  6. Marilyn says

    Does your turn up the digestive furnace recommendations apply if you have had your gallbladder removed? I am specifically asking about the beet bile thinning daily recommendation as I am dealing with post surgery diarrhea. Thanks for your time.

  7. dean says

    Will the trikatu also encourage bile production ? I’m currently taking it but in between meals as instructed on the bottle but I’ve noticed other brands suggest before or during . I deff feel a warm sensation. I’m using HCL before meals however may drop that and supplent only with the trikatu before ? Also would Ox bile help thin bile ?


    • John Douillard says

      Hi Dean,
      Ox bile will not thin bile – it just gives more bile.
      I like the combo of our Beet Cleanse to thin and increase bile productivity and Warm Digest (trikatu) to increase HCL production.
      Not sure what brand of trikatu you are using, but the instructions on LifeSpa’s is to take it before meals (about 15 minutes). That is how I recommend taking trikatu – with water before meals.
      Be well,

  8. natasha says

    Hello could you recomded supplements ect to help thin the bile and help my liver ??I have bile going into my stomach causing gastritis and low stomach acid but until I get the bile flowing better I cannot take hcl I tried ox bile but made it worse as I am producing enough bile I just think its sluggish and thick bile causing some pain in my upper right ribs in the ducts near the liver my gallbladder does not really hurt though

    • John Douillard says

      Hi Natasha,
      The supplements, Beet Cleanse thins the bile and Liver Repair also thins bile and supports the liver particularly during a detox.
      Also, following the instructions in the article above (eating beets and staying hydrated) will help to thin bile.

  9. natasha says

    Thanks john I tried probotics but they do seem to make it worse as the bile is going into my stomach causing biliary gastritis and they seem to make my stomach cause more gas will taking these herbs you recomeded help get the bile flowing and the gallbladder contract more?? its functioning 35 percent so I really do not want it out I also have low stomach acid but scared to take HCL as my stomach is inflamed at the moment

  10. natasha says

    Also I can only find cooked beets in my supermarket where the vegetables are are these ok??Where do I get liver repair from??

  11. natasha says

    I want to use herbs that will build up the liver and restore it again but because of the bile causing gastritis in my stomach which in turn causes gas and pressure and pain behind my right breast bone I do not think I would be able to do a cleanse with G because of my stomach I am using aloe vera juice to drink in the mornings but not really find that is helping my stomach anything you could suggest that will help liver gallbladder and inflamed stomach because of the bile causing biliary gastritis would be great

      • natasha says

        Hi john yes I would like to set up a consultation with you but I live in england so could you do like english time like 5 oclock here in the week day??is the consultation over skype to??

          • natasha says

            hi john I tried to book a appointment with you but its says you are not avialable till next month??I really wanted to speak to you before that and get the ball rolling do you have any appointments this month??please let me know.Natasha

          • John Douillard says

            Hi Natasha,
            You can be added to the wait list or you can schedule with Tauna is if you need something very soon.

  12. natasha says

    Hi john I left you message on here with you saying I could not find a space to book with you in next few weeks I would like to get a consulation with you As soon as possible.Natasha


Speak Your Mind