There’s a smoothie craze happening, and it’s creating stomachaches worldwide. We’re told that green smoothies are all you need to detox your way to a nourished mind, body, and spirit, but what if you get all those high-vibe ingredients and blend them all together, only to have your stomach tighten three minutes in? I get it. There is a reason why, and it’s not you!
Smoothies are not one-size-fits-all. In this post, I will explain the three reasons why smoothies may not be working for you (and other breakfast options to try instead). Eating right in the morning is really important to set you up for a successful day, which is why I want you to be empowered around your morning meals! I hope these tips help you decipher why you get stomach aches from smoothies and what you can do about it (hint: you don’t have to give up smoothies!).
So many people think or are advised to load as many ingredients into the blender at once and voila – instant nutrition that is immediately bio-available! Well-intended? Yes. True? Not always. Let’s go with the motto “less is more” on this one.
The more ingredients in a smoothie recipe, the harder it is to digest. This is because each food requires slightly different resources from our body to digest it, from the type of enzyme to the level of acidity, even different muscular contractions. So if you have a smoothie with healthy fats (avocado, coconut, etc.), protein (powder), and carbs (fruits), that requires different resources for each macro food type. And on top of that, if your digestion is compromised, whether from an autoimmune condition, acid reflux, or anything else, it may not be able to effectively break down your food and make it available for energy use. This can then lead to gas, bloating, pain, urgency to “go” and much more.
Furthermore, if you add greens (such as raw kale), that can make it even harder to digest. According to the ancient sister science and complete nutritional system, Ayurveda (meaning the science of life), certain raw vegetables can be particularly hard to digest, especially when we have compromised digestion. If you want to get your greens in, think easy to digest leafy greens (spinach, arugula, butter lettuce) and leave your other greens for steaming (chard, kale).
First, try simplifying your smoothies. Consider JUST having a blueberries smoothie (blueberries + water). If tolerated well, consider adding just one more ingredient to it, such as protein powder, coconut milk, or avocado. If you’re worried about it not filling you up enough, bring a handful of nuts or hard-boiled egg to eat mid-morning.
Just like you might get a stomach ache from eating dinner too fast, you can also get one from drinking a smoothie too fast. As we discussed above, if your smoothie is loaded with ingredients, you’re likely overwhelming your system with many food types too quickly, which can overwhelm your digestive system.
Even though the smoothie may look easier to digest because it’s blended up and in a cup doesn’t mean it requires less energy from your body to digest. And if you typically drink smoothies from a straw, that can make it go down even faster. How often have you caught yourself mindlessly sipping on a smoothie in the car on the way to work or in between meetings? Straws make it all too easy to do that — but it can make it tough for digestion to keep up.
Give this a go…put your smoothie in a bowl or eat it with a spoon instead of a straw. This will slow you down significantly. Even when you’re drinking a smoothie, it’s still important that we chew! Our oral mastication sends signals to our digestive system to release important enzymes that help us break down our food. The moment I switched to eating my smoothies this way (because I was very guilty of doing it the other way!) I felt much better. Now, I take up to 30 minutes to eat my smoothie, which also gives me time to enjoy it more!
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, each body requires either more warmth from food or cold from food. If your body prefers warmth and you’re infusing it with cold from a smoothie, it may not align well with your digestion constitution. In Ayurveda, it’s also recommended not to put too much ice in your beverages. Room temperature water as well as not adding ice to your smoothies will support better nutrient absorption and digestion. Ice can be too cold for the system and may send a freeze through the body, when we are often trying to “thaw” any old toxins to release instead, rather than reinforce them.
In Ayurveda, the primary way in which a person’s constitution is determined is through their ‘dosha’. There are three doshas (prakriti), that together comprise of the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, space and air. We each have a unique constitution with one dosha often being more prominent than the other and therefore, requiring a different approach to our lifestyle routines. Different phases of our lives are also classified by one dosha more than the other, hence contributing to what our ideal prescription for well-being is at different times in our lives.
For example: Have a fiery workaholic friend who loves spicy food, bikram yoga, or intense workouts? Well, that makes sense as like attracts like. Sure, they may be on their business A-game, but they may also be prone to ulcers, irritation, and burn out. That “fire” needs to be cooled and therefore foods like watermelon and cucumber (and activities like restorative yoga and swimming) may be more supportive for their temperament and digestion than spicy foods and beer (even though they love it!).
To find out your dosha, take this quiz:
Try switching to less frigid smoothies and try warmer ones instead. Don’t add ice, and rather than having frozen fruits and veggies, try blending them fresh, such as fresh blueberries.
Smoothies can work really well if we learn first what our bodies need and then follow these simple tips to ensure optimal absorption!
If you know for sure smoothies aren’t for you and you’re ready to try something else, here are three of my favorite breakfast alternate recipes:
I hope this post has helped you determine why smoothies have been giving you trouble and provided you with a few options to try. Smoothies are incredibly healthy and nutritious, you just need to figure out how to consume them in a way that will work for your digestion.
Tips like this are all part of the awesomeness that is my brand new Rise to Thrive Master Group, a high-level supportive circle for women looking to make the mind-body connection a reality by busting past stress and addressing what else is holding their health back. Only 10 spots are available so that each person can get intimate support, so enroll ASAP if you feel called to a deep level of support on your health journey. The changes we’re going to make over the six months in this program are going to be powerful, fun, and deeply healing. Learn more and enroll here.
Kristin Thomas is a health coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner specialized in helping women with hormone, digestion, and autoimmune health concerns. Having gone through these health challenges herself, she now helps clients find their own path to complete wellness through practical and natural diet and lifestyle changes.
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