10 Tips to Improve Digestion

Digestion affects all facets of our health since our body depends on the breakdown of food to get the nutrients it requires to maintain healthy cells. Digestive problems increase as we get older, busier and our digestive system becomes less efficient. Furthermore, increased stress is placed on the digestive process as our bodies are exposed to various toxins, antibiotics and highly processed ‘convenience’ foods. The common symptoms associated with digestive problems are gas, bloating, heartburn and stomach pain. Some simple natural strategies to improve digestion are:

1. Chewing your food well, at least thirty times before swallowing. Most people only chew seven to eight times before swallowing which places added stress on the stomach and intestines. The digestive process begins in your mouth where your teeth and saliva play a vital role in the digestive process. If possible eat your meals at the same time everyday, this allows digestion to be more automatic because your body adapts to the routine

2. Never eat more food than you can hold in both hands and leave at least 4 hours between meals. Over-eating results in partially undigested food reaching your colon, and disrupts the digestive process by blocking the intestinal tract. Tip: Putting your fork down between bites will help you slow down while eating.

3. Make each meal a relaxed and calm experience where you can focus on eating. Try and avoid multi-tasking or eating on the run. Relax for at least 30 minutes after you eat as your digestive organs need a large portion of your total blood volume to digest food. If you are active after a meal your blood rushes to your muscles rather than going to your stomach where it is needed.

4. Eat your largest meal at lunch when digestion and metabolism are most efficient.

5. Eat foods that make you feel good and avoid foods that your body doesn’t like, i.e. avoid the foods that give you indigestion, make you feel dragged down or give you lots of gas.

6. Choose fresh, whole foods which are more nutritionally dense and avoid processed foods which have added chemicals and preservatives. Processed foods include junk/fast food or anything that is canned, boxed, pickled, cured, has sugar or has been altered or preserved in any way.

7. Drink plenty of water, but not with food, especially if you suffer from constipation. Men should drink about 13 cups of water a day and women 9 cups. Constipation can cause an imbalance of healthy and harmful bacteria in the digestive tract, causing inflammation of the intestinal lining. Drink water at least 15-30 minutes before and an hour after eating.

8. Eat yogurt, cheese and other fermented foods daily. These foods contain healthy bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that aid in digestion, help relieve constipation, and help the body absorb vitamins and minerals as well as helping to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

9. Increasing your fibre intake will help to improve overall digestion, relieve constipation and reduce inflammation of the digestive tract. Some examples of good food sources of fibre are beans, apples, flaxseed, dates, dries figs and prunes.

10. Exercise daily to increase movement within your bowels and improve your digestive health. Daily activity improves the natural rhythm of your digestive system and assists in moving food through your digestive system.

Your digestive health is an essential element of your overall health and well being. These simple everyday changes can result in significant improvements to your digestion.