Digestive issues are far too common these days. That’s little comfort if you suffer from gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflux, IBS, ulcerative colitis… It may seem as if we need to put little effort into the process of digestion- that it just miraculously and automatically occurs. This is true to a certain degree; however, you can enhance your digestive function through better choices and behaviors.
Appropriate nutrition and lifestyle choices can greatly support your body’s own healing. If you’re feeling less than optimal, try these simple tips for the next three weeks. You just may be surprised with how much better you feel!
1. CHEW YOUR FOOD WELL. Digestion starts in the mouth. Breaking food into smaller pieces makes the following processes easier on your digestive system. Also, enzymatic activity begins in your mouth to start breaking down food. Chew your food until it becomes soft and fine.
2. RELAX. You have probably heard of the phrase “fight or flight” when referring to the nervous system. Did you know “rest and digest” represents the counterpart? Your body is designed to digest in a relaxed state. Being relaxed initiates the release of digestive juices; if you are anxious or rushed when eating you are at a severe digestive disadvantage. Make a habit to take a deep breath or two before you eat.
3. EAT SMALL PORTIONS. Did you know that the size of your stomach is roughly the same size as your hand? The stomach has folds, known as rugae, designed to churn food so all surfaces can be in contact with digestive juices. When you overeat, the rugae are expanded to hold excess food and they cannot work as designed, compromising digestion.
4. ENJOY AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET. Emphasize a diet that includes non-glutenous grains, an abundance of fresh produce, and omega 3 rich foods, while limiting refined foods and common allergens. This way of eating will provide your body with valuable nutrients, fiber, and reduce the potential for digestive issues caused by inflammation.
5. TRY PRE AND PROBIOTICS. Soluble fiber (prebiotics), like that found in apple pectin, bananas and pears, feed the good bacteria in your gut; and probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt and other fermented foods, help replenish the hard-working flora in your intestines. These beneficial bacteria play an important role in digestion and immune strength.
6. KNOW YOURSELF. Do you suspect you have food sensitivities? Many of us have them without knowing, and food sensitivities can be the underlying cause of digestive distress. Continued exposure to allergens can exacerbate problems. Explore your individuality by trying an elimination diet. This can bring increased awareness of how specific foods affect your health. Empower yourself with knowledge.
7. DRINK WATER. ADEQUATE hydration is necessary for the absorption of nutrients and the removal of waste. Make sure to drink about 8 glasses a day. Fluids consumed with foods can dilute digestive juices so drink these at least 30 minutes before and one hour after meal time.
8. JUST SAY NO. NSAIDS, like ibuprofen and aspirin, cause damage to the delicate epithelial tissue that lines the digestive tract. Explore other means of pain relief such as visualization, massage or acupuncture. Antibiotics may be helpful if you have a bacterial infection, but they also cause an imbalance of the beneficial bacteria and create a pathway for opportunistic/harmful bacteria, such as H. pylori, to take hold. Talk with your doctor about your digestive concerns before taking any medications.
Here’s to YOUR happy (and beautiful) belly!