Do you suffer from bloating, reflux, inconsistent bowels, excess gurgling or some other type of digestive complaint?
Before searching for a digestive supplement or google-diagnosing yourself with a digestive condition, make sure you’ve covered the basics. They might seem boring, but few people have them down pat and they’re ESSENTIAL for optimal digestion. Here’s my top 5:
1. Remember Phase 1. The 1st phase of digestion (aka the cephalic phase) occurs at the sight, thought & smell of food. This sends a message to the brain that food is incoming. Gastric secretions then rise so our digestive system is able to break down the food we consume.
Are you taking the time to look at, smell and appreciate your food before you eat. Or are you inhaling it before your body even registers it’s incoming?
Next time you sit down to a meal, take the time to prepare your food so it looks appealing & be sure to savour its smell and sight before digging in.
2. Eliminate Distractions. Do you watch TV, scroll through social media, drive, read, check emails or do any other work/activity while eating? The answer should be NO. All these activities either put you in a state of sympathetic dominance (aka fight or flight mode) which essentially shuts down digestive processes, and/or distract your body from registering that you’re eating, thereby also hindering digestion.
No one’s SO busy that they can’t take the time to stop everything for just 10-15 minutes while eating. Especially considering that by doing this, you’ll avoid the digestive upset that’ll only take away from your productivity for the rest of the day.
3. Get Parasympathetic. We live in a world full of stressors. Whether it be a work deadline, staring at a screen, financial worries, an intense workout or anything else of the like. All these stressors put us in a state of sympathetic dominance whereby our body believes we’re facing a challenge. In this scenario, all non-essential processes are downregulated, and digestion is one of those.
This is why it’s essential to get yourself into a state of parasympathetic dominance (aka rest & digest mode) prior to eating. How do you do this?
SIMPLE: before starting your meal, take 5 deep breaths with a long exhale to signal to your body that it’s safe to relax. Now go ahead & enjoy your meal.
4. Slow Down and Chew. Do you scoop up your next mouthful of food before even finishing the one in your mouth? Do you chew your food thoroughly before swallowing?
So many of us eat our food way too fast and this wreaks havoc on our digestion. When you are eating, put your cutlery down in between bites and ensure you finish what’s in your mouth before going for the next mouthful. Ensure also that you chew your food until it has a fine, pulp-like texture. You should aim for approximately 30-50 chews depending on the texture of the food you are eating.
5. Give Your Digestion a Break. As a result of the MYTH that we need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep our metabolism firing, many of us are eating way too regularly.
In between meals, a mechanism known as the migrating motor complex kicks into action. The migrating motor complex essentially clears out any debris and food particles that remain after food has passed through the digestive tract. This clearing out process is ESSENTIAL for ensuring optimal digestive functioning and it can take up to 4 hours from start to finish.
If any food is eaten before the migrating motor complex finishes its job, our digestive tract doesn’t get the clear out it needs for optimal function and this can create ongoing digestive issues.
Digestion is also a very complex process that requires a lot of energy. Just like your body needs rest on a regular basis, so too does your digestive system after it digests each meal.
Our bodies are not designed to be receiving food all day long. Eating 2-3 substantial and nutrient dense meals is all most people need for optimal health. Any snacks consumed on top of that may worsen your digestive function as well as many other markers of health.
Have a go at implementing these 5 practices and I have no doubt that your digestion will improve. Let me know how you go.