Gut health is key when it comes to overall health – which makes caring for your digestive system the perfect place to start your journey of healing from the inside out.
While it’s true that we are what we eat, we are also how we eat. Many of us often rush through our meals and skip chewing our food properly, or simply wash down what we put in our mouth with a variety of liquids. Eating this way can cause poor digestion and some uncomfortable physical symptoms.
Some of the symptoms of a poorly functioning digestive system are bloating, constipation, loose bowel movements, brain fog, excess gas, acne, skin rashes, headaches, migraines, irritability, stomach pain, lower back pain and low energy, as well as nutrient deficiencies due to the poor assimilation of nutrients from the inadequately digested food you’ve consumed.
Having said that, no matter how bad your digestion is now, have hope – there are always ways to improve your digestion and help it to function more efficiently.
The Benefits of Chewing Your Food
Did you know that digestion begins with chewing? When you chew your food properly, you begin to mechanically break the food down into smaller and smaller particles. As you chew, you produce more saliva, and saliva coats your food with ‘amylase’ and ‘lipase’, enzymes that begin to digest fats and starches right in your mouth. The following video explains more about all the stages of digestion:
Why is Good Digestion Important?
So, we know that digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair. But digestion is also important when it comes to:
- Better nutrient absorption
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exposing your food to your saliva
- Better digestion
- Less digestive problems/symptoms
- Less excess bacteria lingering in your intestines
- Enjoying and tasting your food.
If you are starting to realise that perhaps you don’t chew your food as well as you could, or that you have poor digestion, you can change it – you can change it in an ‘active’ way, as chewing is an ingrained habit. Like any bad habit, it simply takes time to reshape and reform.
What Can You Do to Improve Your Digestion?
Here are some things you can try to aid better digestion:
- Chew slowly and steadily
- Chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied
- Finish chewing and swallowing completely before taking another bite of food. I find putting the fork down after each mouthful helps to slow down the eating process, which improves mindfulness around eating
- Sitting down can help relax you and aid good digestion
- Do not eat in a stressed state
- Take 5 deep breaths before your meal to help calm your body down
- Eat in a non-distracted environment; don’t eat on the run or while you’re working or watching TV or on your iPhone
- Take smaller bites of food to begin with (it’s easier to chew smaller morsels).
Other things you could try to improve your digestion include:
- Drink Apple Cider Vinegar 15 Minutes Before Your Meal
Apple cider vinegar improves digestive health by increasing stomach acid production, which can help our body properly break down and digest our food. You can simply mix 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in ½ cup of water and drink 15-20 minutes before a meal.
- Consume Fermented Foods with Your Meals
Eating fermented foods with your meal can actually help your body digest your meal better. This is because foods like kefir and sauerkraut have the first part of digestion covered; they already contain a number of enzymes that will aid digestion as well as a number of beneficial bacteria that can help your body absorb essential nutrients.
- Consume Digestive Supporting Herbs/Foods
The following herbs and foods have been used for centuries to improve digestion and overall health:
- Peppermint and ginger are wonderful herbs to support digestion. Add fresh mint and fresh ginger slices to a big pot of hot water and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before drinking. You can drink it hot or cold throughout the day.
- Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, which can aid the digestive system and even protect against ulcers.
- Cayenne pepper also has several digestive benefits, including suppressing hunger hormones and increasing natural digestive ability, as well as reducing symptoms of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
- Cranberries are a long-used natural remedy for digestive problems. They can also be beneficial for supporting healthy kidneys, bladder and intestines thanks to their rich source of vitamin C.
- Cinnamon is another digestive aid that can help the body better use carbohydrates and can help to keep blood sugar stable.
It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest of actions can produce the most significant results over time and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to actions you can take to help your body’s digestive processes.
However, if you, like so many others, are still suffering when you eat with bloating, cramping, reflux, brain fog or stomach pain, etc. you may benefit from booking in for a consultation with a nutritionist to get personalised dietary advice.