Solid digestion is essential for good health. Many of us don't realize the importance of proper digestion until we actually start to experience problems. Gas, bloating, heartburn, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea can become a regular occurrence if you don’t take care of your digestive health. These symptoms can be caused by many things, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, a food sensitivity or even an infection. But don’t worry, as there are many causes, there are many ways to enhance your digestion so it can work without discomfort.
Sip, Don’t Gulp
A lot of people don’t know this, but when you drink during meals you’re diluting your digestive enzymes and the stomach’s hydrochloric acid. This will cause your digestion to slow down. Aim to drink liquids 15 minutes before you eat and 15 to 30 minutes after you eat. By not flooding your system with excess liquids, you can avoid or reduce gas and bloating.
Water is super important for digestion because it allows the body to properly digest our food and absorb nutrients. Aim for 2L of water per day. When we’re not consuming enough water, we can experience headaches, constipation and low blood pressure.
Do you ever experience gas or bloating after a meal? Making yourself a ginger, fennel or peppermint tea is a great alternative for relieving digestive discomfort.
Saliva contains enzymes that help break down food particles before it continues down the digestive tract. The longer food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it moves through your intestines. A good rule of thumb is to chew each bite 20 times before you swallow. Proper chewing will kick start the digestive process and allow absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Dandelion greens and root, artichoke and arugula are just a few of the foods used to improve digestion. The bitter principles stimulate the initial phase of digestion and release salivary gastric juices. Bitters also help soothe the intestinal tract and increase bile production and flow.
Complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes all contribute to digestive health by slowing digestion and increasing stool bulk and softness. Avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body, such as gluten, dairy and conventionally raised meats. These foods often contribute to intestinal inflammation and will disrupt your healthy gut flora and digestion.
Feed Your Gut Flora
Often called “good bacteria” probiotics work hard to keep a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. With everything that goes on between the walls of your colon, taking good care of your gut is highly beneficial to your health. Take a high-quality probiotic of at least 20 billion strands. These good bacteria help maintain digestive balance and keeps your immune system (70% of it is your gut) working efficiently.
Take an Enzyme
Digestive enzymes help break down the nutrients in food, by making them easier to digest and absorb. Since many of us consume liquids with our meals, taking an enzyme before you eat is a great way to boost your digestive health and reduce or eliminate bloat and discomfort.
Take a Squat
Improving bathroom posture has a huge impact on our digestive health. There is increasing research that squatting to use the bathroom is not only efficient and more natural, but also helps avoid common digestive disturbances. You can easily use a couple of small upside-down buckets or a regular stool to do the deed. Trust me, once you start you’ll never want to go back to regular sitting.
Keep your body moving by exercising at least 30 minutes a day to support proper digestion. Partake in activities you enjoy, such as walking or aerobic and strength-building activities. If you can’t fit in 30 minutes a day, do whatever you can when you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or bike to work, or take a walk during your lunch break. Movement will substantially improve your digestion.
Michelle Garland, the founder of Plentyfullme Nutrition and Lifestyle Consulting, is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Raw Food Chef. Michelle has dedicated her practice to creating optimal lifestyles through a whole food, plant-based approach that educates and empowers her clients to make lasting change. She began to develop her own approach to health by exploring plant-based cooking and alternative medicine. What started as a passion has transformed into an ever-evolving life journey and professional career in Vancouver, BC.
Follow Michelle on social media for more resources and inspiration.