Digestive problems are a pain - literally. Gas, bloating, constipation, nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea have become common issues in our busy world, issues we’re often too embarrassed to discuss or ask help for. Whatever issue you may be having, however, there are steps you can take to alleviate them. Here are the top 5 ways to improve your digestion & clear up the pain.
1. Chew your food. Too often we scarf down our food as fast as we can (usually due to too little time to eat) and in doing so don’t chew our food well enough. This is unfortunate as chewing your food is one of the most important steps of digestion. The more you chew, the more you’re breaking your food down into smaller particles - an act which is actually considered the first phase of digestion. The better broken down your food, the easier it is for it to travel through your esophagus. Plus, the more you chew the more saliva you produce. Why is this important? Saliva begins the chemical digestion of food before it even reaches your stomach & triggers your stomach to produce acid & enzymes to prepare for the food it’s getting. Tldr: chewing is important, so be sure to do it. We’re not saying you have to chew 100 times, just be sure you’re chewing well.
2. Eat mindfully. The way you eat in general has a huge impact upon your digestion. Eating mindfully can reduce binges, help with weight loss, and aid in digestion; plus, it requires very little effort on your part! The most important thing to do with this is to just focus on eating. That means turning off Netflix, putting down your phone, and concentrating on your plate. Notice how your food looks, how it smells, how it tastes - savor your meal. When you have the time spruce up your eating area - use the good china or light a candle - whatever works best for you. And try not to eat when you’re in a bad mood. Your brain and digestive tract are connected so this can actually cause digestion issues.
3. Hydration is key. Did you know not drinking enough water is a common cause of constipation? That’s because water is needed to digest food & absorb nutrients properly. So, aim to drink approximately 80 ounces of water (or non-carbonated beverages) a day. BUT drink your water between meals not with them. Drinking water with your meals dilutes stomach acid and that’s a pretty important component to digestion.
4. Increase bacteria. Wait, what? There’s both bad AND good bacteria that live in your gut and increasing that good bacteria can do wonders for your digestion. You probably know these guys as “probiotics”. Probiotics aid in digestion, reduce chronic inflammation, and enhance nutrient absorption (amongst other things). You can find them in several types of yogurts, kefit, and sauerkraut; OR you can take a supplement that contains acidophilus or bifidobacteria.
5. Eat more fiber. Consuming a diet high in fiber helps good better move along the digestive tract. It’s important to eat both soluble AND insoluble fiber, however, as they each help in different ways. Incorporate dried fruits such as dates or prunes, eat plenty of beans & legumes, and as it turns out that old adage about “an apple a day” really isn’t a bad idea.
Bad digestive issues aren’t very fun but you don’t have to suffer in silence. These tips will help you improve your digestion and take back your life. Try them out & get back on the road to a happy gut!