We often hear the saying, ‘you are what you eat’, but more importantly, ‘you are what you absorb’. You could be eating the healthiest diet, but if you aren’t absorbing it then you aren’t optimising the food you’re consuming.
It is quite common for patients to list indigestion, reflux, bloating, abdominal cramping and alternate bowel movements as part of their symptoms when they come in, so ensuring your digestion is optimal, is crucial!
Here are 5 ways to help improve your digestion naturally;
- Mindful eating
When you are eating in a hurry or unconsciously (watching tv, working etc) you’ll be in ‘flight or fight’ mode – sympathetic nervous system dominance, and we tend to throw our food down. When you eat in this state your body is stressed and not focused on digestion & absorption, you have higher cortisol and your body is prepared to ‘run away’. We want to be relaxed and in parasympathetic nervous system dominance – ‘rest & digest’. So find the time to sit down and enjoy your meal, put your cutlery down between mouthfuls and eat consciously. Which brings us to the 2nd point…
2. Chew more
Sounds simple right, but did you know that you should be chewing each mouthful about 20 times so that your food is in a more liquid form. Chewing (mastication) starts to break your food down and salivary amylase (primary enzyme in saliva) is produced, which assists in that process by breaking down the carbohydrates (starches and sugars) into smaller molecules, which in turn helps digestion. Start focusing on how much you’re chewing & really try to increase how many times you chew each mouthful before swallowing.
3. Add bitters to stimulate digestion
Bitter foods stimulate receptors on your tongue & facilitate stomach acid and act as a digestive aid. Foods like rocket, dandelion greens, radicchio or horseradish should be added to salads to help stimulate this process. You can also consider teas like ginger and fennel.
4. Reduce water around meal times
We need stomach acid (pH of about 2-3) to break food down, so limiting water about 30min before, during & 30min after meals is recommended so we aren’t diluting the acid. You may need a small cup of water whilst eating to assist it going down, however drinking more than 250ml during that period can leave you feeling more bloated and can create reflux.
5. Smaller meals
It’s not unusual to be eating a lot more in one sitting than we really need. When we are eating consciously and chewing more, you may find that you will feel fuller more quickly and your portion sizes might reduce. Eating large portions in one sitting can make you feel tired, bloated and put more pressure on your digestive system. Try eating smaller meals more frequently, or being more aware of when you are feeling about 80% full and wait 20min before going back for more.
If you have anymore questions about gut health or would like to see how a practitioner may be able to help you, contact us on 07 5531 6461 or you can book online here.
Written by Amanda Flower, BHSc Naturopathy © 2020