There’s an increasing number of people that are experiencing digestive distress and chronic digestive disorders. Even if this isn’t a frequent thing for you, it’s likely you have experienced uncomfortable digestive symptoms like acid reflux, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc. More and more research is finding the importances of the role gastrointestinal integrity plays in the rest of your health. Links have been made between GI health and blood sugar regulation, hormones, skin integrity, the immune system, cognitive processing, etc.
Through navigating my own digestive issues, along with many other things, I’ve incorporated these simple things to help improved my digestion.
Chew your food. Chewing is the start of the digestive process. Start counting how many times you actually chew your food. It should be close to around 20x, I know it seems like a lot. We are scarfing our food. Go figure we’re in a rush. Your stomach is made to digest food that is pureed. This doesn’t mean we should only be eating smoothies, but this does mean that we need to chew our food until it is a pureed consistency before swallowing. Chewing signals your stomach to start releasing digestive enzymes that absorb the nutrients from the food you are eating.
Chew gum, but don’t chew gum. What I mean by this is chewing gum after meals can help with digesting your food, but chewing gum for long periods of time, or throughout the day may impair your digestion. This relates to the first tip. Chewing signals your body to start releasing digestive enzymes. This is why after eating a meal chewing gum for a few minutes, just a few minutes, can help digest the food. I take a lot of supplements so I chew a little xylitol gum after. Now if you think about it, if you are chewing gum for long periods or throughout the day you’re going to stress your digestive system out. It will always be at work trying to digest food that isn’t there.
Drinking hot water. Some warm water after meals can help your body digest your food. I typically try drinking a small amount of warm water after eating or taking supplements. To keep things flowing I like to have a glass of warm water with lemon or apple cider vinegar in the morning.
Digestive Bitters: There are various types of foods, that usually have a bitter or sour taste, that stimulate the digestive system in various ways to promote optimal digestion. Some bitters stimulate peristalsis (movement of your digestive tract to push things along), release digestive enzymes, HCL, and bile secretion. Some examples are dandelion, lemon, ginger, coffee, peppermint, etc. You can also find digestive bitter tinctures (see below) to take before or after meals.
Digestive Enzymes: You can take a supplement that contains the digestives enzymes required to break down certain food. Example, the digestive enzyme Amylase converts carbohydrates into simple sugars while Lactase helps breakdown lactose. This may be more appropriate for those with specific digestion disorders. If this is the case you should consult with your Doctor or Nutritionist prior to taking.
Don’t over eat and spread out meals: I think this one is pretty obvious. We can definitely feel when we have stressed our digestive system from over eating. That heavy bloating feeling, better known as a food baby, is hard for the digestive system to manage. Constantly grazing throughout the day doesn’t give our stomachs time to rest.
Don’t eat stressed: Stress impacts our bodies in more ways than we can imagine. But one way is it impairs our digestion. Think about times that you have been very stressed you have likely felt a reaction in you stomach. When we are stressed we are often in a “fight or flight” mode. If you are in “danger” your body is in survival mode that does not include focusing on digesting your food. You may be thinking well I’m stressed but I know I’m not in danger. That’s the problem, our mind is associating modern day stressors as life threatening creating the same stress response. So along with managing overall stress, I try to slow down and take some deep breaths prior to eating.
There are many other techniques to improve gastrointestinal health, but these are some simple strategies that can be easily incorporated to start improving digestion. How you prepare your food, where it’s sourced from, what you eat, and your environment all impact digestion and the ability to have a healthy gut. I’ll be doing a follow up post with other things that I have learned and have started incorporating myself.
I would love to hear from you and what techniques you have tried that has helped improve your digestion?
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