Digestive function, nutrition, and nutrient absorption are the core foundation of health. The state of our gut health and microbiome (the diverse population of microbes that live in our digestive tract and help us assimilate nutrients) effect our metabolic processes, immunity, and brain function. Here are 10 easy ways to improve your digestion without changing your diet.
1. Get Cookin’
This mouth-watering technique is simple. While you’re cooking, the aroma of food activates the enzymes in your mouth that break down carbohydrates and fats. Cooking at home and filling the house with the delicious smell of the upcoming meal primes your system for optimal digestion.
2. Stoke Your Digestive Fire
Fifteen minutes before your meal, drink 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed in 1oz of water (about a shot glass). The vinegar will activate the hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach which breaks down food and protects you from pathogenic microbes. HCL also triggers the sphincter of the esophagus to close properly after you’re finished eating, which prevents acid reflux. Conversely, too much HCL can cause acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux after trying apple cider vinegar, decrease the amount or discontinue it.
3. Ditch Distractions
Turn off the TV, put away the computer, and even your favorite book. Multitasking creates stress and unconscious eating. You may have experienced taking the first bite and then all of a sudden you look down and your plate is empty. You may have even wondered if you really ate or not. Step away from the kitchen counter, sit down, and enjoy yourself.
4. Harness Your Digestive Zen
When stress is present, it literally shuts down our ability to digest. Your dining area needs to be your zen space. Schedule stressful conversations and meetings for another time and don’t eat with people you don’t like. Invite them to tea instead. Try chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, or hawthorne tea for stressful conversations.
5. Chew Your First Bite 27 Times
Chew your first bite thoroughly until it tastes sweet in your mouth. This ensures the activation of amylase in your mouth which breaks down carbohydrates and sends the signal to the rest of your digestive organs that it’s showtime.
6. Sip Water and Hold the Ice
Drink only water with meals and don’t have too much. If you’re gulping water to wash down your food, you’re not chewing enough. Drinking too much water or water with ice will dilute the HCL in your stomach and smother your digestive fire.
After dinner, relax. Schedule a little extra time to go for a walk or enjoy your dinner company. Try not to rush off to the next thing too fast, so you can prolong your digestive zen and optimize function.
8. Enjoy an Herbal Digestif
After dinner, try an herbal bitters formula or digestive tea to aid digestion and alleviate gas and bloating. Look for organic teas with chamomile, peppermint, or ginger in them. For a stronger effect, try an herbal bitters formula found in any natural food store that has a botanical section. Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs brands are great.
9. Go for a Walk
Get outside and go for a leisurely stroll. Walking promotes digestive activity, activates your immune system, and decreases stress.
10. Eat Three Meals a Day and Don’t Snack
A common myth is that in order to regulate your blood sugar you need to eat frequent, small meals. In fact, frequent meals and snacking disturb a function called the migrating motor complex (a digestive smooth muscle wave) that transports undigested food and bacteria through your small intestine.
The migrating motor complex can only be activated between meals and is essential for balanced digestive flora (bacteria). Frequent snacking may contribute to small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition that causes nutritional malabsorption and many digestive symptoms, including weight gain, gas, and bloating. Eat protein and healthy fats with every meal to balance blood sugar and leave you feeling satisfied.
Digestive health is a large topic that includes individualized nutrition approaches, food sensitivity testing, detoxification, and gut healing protocols. If you're experiencing digestive upset, unpleasant bathroom sessions, frequent colds, allergies, asthma, chronic sinusitis, brain fog, poor sleep, or low energy a Naturopathic Doctor or other holistic practitioner can help you resolve your symptoms and increase your energy, body composition, and mental acuity.