Digestion is an area of health that is somewhat neglected, in spite of the fact that many people suffer from bloating, indigestion, and nutrient mal-absorbtion issues. These problems are conventionally solved using drugs or quick fixes rather than addressing the root cause which can come from a few different areas.
- Emotional and Relaxation issues – If we are not relaxed and in a “rest and digest” mode our bodies will not breakdown food properly, leaving us with the regular digestion issues.
- Rushing our food – Eating too quickly, not chewing well and generally not enjoying our food is another key culprit.
- Eating Processed Food – It is not only eating processed food that can cause problems but avoiding or neglecting the foods that nature has given us in order to help digestion.
So in this post I am going to propose a few quick fixes, or lifestyle changes you can make that will significantly help your digestion.
1. Mix Big and Small Meals – Sometimes we just feel like eating something light, we are not too hungry and this is fine. In fact it is important for our digestion to either eat nothing for a few hours or stick with light meals, it gives the digestive system a some much needed rest.
Sometimes though a big meal can be exactly what we need to give our digestion a boost. For some people after eating years of “diet” style meals or ’6 small meals a day’ have poor digestion whenever they stray out of their comfort zone. Eating a large meal every once in a while is probably the best thing you can do to prime your digestion. Check out this post on a peculiar but effective way of curing Heartburn….
I would recommend eating a couple large meals a week not only will this sort out digestive issues but also help boost the metabolism and fat burning hormones. This meal can be anything but the key seems to be something pretty calorie dense that doesn’t revolve around fried foods (as these are hell to digest even for those with the most robust GI system). This could be a homemade meal or a treat while out, the choice is yours. Have these meals when you feel like them, obeying hunger is key….
2. Use Nature’s Digestives – Naturally we are given a host of digestive aids by mother nature. Some of my favourite and things that I use most often are:
- Bitters – Things like chicory, bitter salad, olives, cider vinegar and herbal bitters tinctures. These can all be used just before eating to help release digestive juices, basically they cause the release of bile and enzymes from the gall bladder and liver which help breakdown fats, and protein. For me the introduction of regular bitters (especially before large meals) has had a huge impact when it comes to improving digestion.
- Digestive Herbs – Again nature has given us a host of herbs that help soothe and facilitate digestion. The obvious ones include Peppermint and Fennel which are great as teas after meals and work to soothe the GI tract. We also forget to use herbs when cooking, adding rosemary and thyme to meat/vegetable dishes helps digestion. Ginger is another digestive herb it is also warming so great in winter. All herbs will help digestion in some way and this is why herbs and spices have always been used in cooking throughout the years, they also make food taste much better…..
3. Relaxing Around Meals – Eating on the go and eating too quickly are two of the things which are most damaging to digestion. It is important we not only chew our food well but try to slow down around eating in general.
- Chew food throughly. This is not always easy to remember but if you can make a conscious effort for a few meals a week it will slowly become a habit to chew slowly and more thoroughly. This gives your digestive system a far easier ride and will help nutrient absorption and breakdown of food.
- Relax After Meals – Even if you can only manage 5-10 minutes try and sit or lie down after eating and breath deeply (into the belly) this helps us activate the parasympathetic nervous system “rest and digest” and therefore initiate the digestive process which often never starts for those running around all day and eating on the go.
- Don’t Cramp – The digestive system, if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting it is important to improve posture. This gives the digestive system space to function, poor posture leads to a cramped stomach and poor digestion.
For me addressing these 3 issues has been key in improving my digestion. Not only do I feel good with almost any combination of food now but I rarely feel bloated or like I have overeaten. Although digestion is also to do with metabolism there are a bunch of more external factors like the one’s above that anyone can integrate into their lives to solve digestive troubles.
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And also checkout my e-book ‘A Simple Guide to Eating Well‘. Thanks for reading.