I am sure that most of you have heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” This is true to some extent, but a more accurate saying may be that you are what you absorb. Turning the food you eat into the nutrients our cells can use for energy is a long and arduous process for our bodies, and yet we do it every day, most often without ever giving it a thought. When things go awry however, people tend to take notice. More than 2 million Canadians suffer from some form of digestive issue, as is stated by the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. Whether it is gas and bloating after a meal, all the way to Crohns disease, digestive issues are not fun for anyone. If you are suffering, know that there are many things that you can do to heal your gut and improve your digestion.
1. Drink a large glass of warm water with a fresh squeezed lemon first thing in the morning. This is one of my most favorite tips, because it is so simple, yet so effective. The lemon juice in the morning will cause a contraction of the gall bladder. This will push bile in and through the liver, waking it up for the day. The liver plays many important roles in digestion, so getting it running smooth and clear first thing in the morning will make for better digestion for the rest of your day.
2. Chew, chew and chew some more. Contrary to popular belief, our stomachs do not have teeth! In order for our bodies enzymes and stomach acids to work effectively, the food we put into our stomachs must be in near liquid form. Otherwise the pieces are just to large for our systems to work on. Taking your time to chew each bite of food at least 30 times can go a long way in helping your body to break your food down properly.
3. Sit, relax, enjoy. Digestion falls under the reign of your parasympathetic nervous system. This is also known as your “rest and digest” state. If you eat while you are busy, stressed, distracted or otherwise not relaxed, it is likely that your body is being governed by your sympathetic nervous system, or your “fight or flight” mode. This causes the body to draw blood away from the digestive organs and to your outer extremities. You will neither break down or assimilate your food well in this state. So, setting a place at the table, lighting a candle and really savoring your food is an amazing way to dine!
4. Eat smaller meals, more often. We tend to forget that our stomachs are only about the size of our fists. In fact, the average stomach has a capacity of about 4 liters at its maximum. When we eat beyond the limits of our stomach, food can stay in it for too long, which will make you feel uncomfortable and bloated. It will also limit the effectiveness of your digestive juices in your gut. Eating smaller more frequent meals is a great step to take to improve your digestion, as well as how you feel after eating.
5. Eat simply. It is common practice now a days for people to eat meals that are full of many different ingredients. We love to stimulate our pallets! But eating meals that are rich, heavy and full of many different components can go a long way to slowing our digestive systems down. Limiting yourself to only a handful, or even better one, food at a time will ease the load on your digestion immensely. Remember, if we were out in the wild, we would not have access to hundreds of ingredients, at once! Eat simple to digest better.
Digestion should be easy and pain free. Your body is designed to do it! One last tip I want to share, make yourself a cut off time for eating at night. When you sleep, your body is using all of its energy and blood supply to heal and repair. If you have food in your stomach still digesting, your body has to use some of that energy that should be going to re-building your body and use it for digestion instead. Which is not what we want! Stopping eating 2-3 hours before bed will give you optimal healing whilst you sleep. I hope that you reap the benefits of all these little tips.
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