This is a gentle yet important reminder of how getting back to the basics can be so helpful, especially when it comes to digestion. We all live busy, fast-paced lives, and if we want to have optimal energy to sustain those lives, it’s important that we are digesting and absorbing the nutrients we are eating.
Incorporating all of these steps is pretty idealistic, so if you take one or two tips that feel doable for you, then you are off to a good start!
1. Kick start your metabolism with an easy-to-digest breakfast
Your digestive metabolism acts similar to a fire. When you start a fire, first you add kindling and things that burn easily, and only when the fire is burning hot are you able to add bigger logs to the fire. Have you ever tried to start a fire using logs? It’s nearly impossible to get a fire going using logs. Similarly, with digestion, it is important to start your day with an easy-to-digest meal such as oatmeal with flax and blueberries, a fruit salad with hemp seeds, a nutritious smoothie, or quinoa with steamed kale and an egg. And then, later in the day, you can add foods that require more energy to digest, such as meats, nuts, and beans.
2. Cook your meals at home
The smells and aromas released when food is chopped and while being cooked help ‘prime the system’ by initiating the release of stomach acid and digestive enzymes that are necessary for proper digestion.
3. Eat in a stress-free environment
Create a nice environment for your mealtimes by sitting in a comfortable seat, turning off all stimuli (computers, TV, cell phone… except maybe some relaxing music), lighting a candle or dimming the lighting, calm your mind, take your time, and enjoy your meal. Doing this can actually increase enzyme production by up to 70%! And you can get the whole family involved by creating a mealtime ritual that is relaxing, fun, and a time to connect.
4. “Prime the system” by starting your meal with bitter foods
To help increase enzymes so that your body is ‘primed’ to digest your meal, you can take 1tsp apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 oz water before meals or you can eat something bitter before your meal. Our favorite way to do this is to have a green salad before meals with bitter greens such as arugula, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, and endive. You could even enjoy these bitter greens with an Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing! You can find our favorite recipe here.
5. Do not over eat: “Hari hachi bu”
This wise Japanese saying translates into “Eat until you’re 80% full.” The Okinawans’ say this before every meal to remind themselves to eat only moderate amounts of food.
6. Chew each mouthful at least 32 times
The mouth is a very important part of the digestive process. Chewing breaks up the food into smaller particles and mixes it with salivary enzymes. These smaller food particles now have a larger surface area for the acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestine to work on. This allows for complete digestion of the food, which is important for preventing food sensitivity/allergies, bloating, heartburn, and IBS symptoms, and to ensure maximum absorption of the nutrients.
7. Put your fork down between each bite
Doing this helps you relax and slow down, which is just what the digestive system needs so that your stomach and brain can agree on when you are actually full. When you eat a meal, the distension of the stomach sends signals to the brain stating just how full it is. The brain then releases hormones telling you that you are full. However, this signal can have a 15-minute “lag time,” so if you’re eating too quickly, your stomach may be too full by the time the brain gets the signal and releases the hormones that tell you to stop eating, which translates into bloating and distention.
8. Avoid drinking a large glass of water with your meal
The water you drink during a meal can dilute stomach acid and digestive enzymes, reducing digestion and nutrient absorption. It’s best to avoid drinking large amounts of water for about 30 minutes before or after your meal.
9. Add fermented foods to your diet
Foods that have undergone the fermentation process, such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, and kombucha, have naturally high amounts of digestive enzymes and probiotics that are just waiting to get to work. Including these foods with larger meals, especially those with meat, helps reduce any discomfort or excessive fullness that often comes with eating harder to digest proteins.
10. Go for a gentle walk after your meal
This is one of my favorite rituals. I would do this at every meal if I could! The rhythmic movement of walking puts the body into parasympathetic mode (aka “rest & digest” mode), which is the best state for optimal digestion - 15 minutes is all it takes!
11. Address food sensitivities
If you feel that you’re doing everything right and are still experiencing symptoms of indigestion such as gas, bloating, cramping, lethargy, or intense food cravings, it would be worth your while to consider exploring whether you have a sensitivity to foods that you’re eating. Visit your Naturopathic Doctor for food sensitivity tests or stool testing that can help you identify what triggers need to be removed from the diet. This step helps get to the root cause of your symptoms and helps improve the overall digestion and absorption of food, which translates into more energy, better mood, clear skin, and more!
If you found this blog helpful, you can book in with Dr. Lyndsay Wareham at our Moncton Clinic by clicking here! It's always a good idea to take a look at your digestion and absorption; we very often see digestive concerns at the root or associated with other health concerns!
The EASTND Team
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