Good Health Starts With Great Digestion: 10 Tips To Improve Digestion, Absorption and Elimination
Although good health is dependent on a wholesome diet, many people overlook the importance of healthy eating habits. Poor digestive health affects every system in the body. Even if you are eating the healthiest diet possible, if your body isn’t able to absorb the vitamins and minerals from your food you could still face nutritional deficiencies, paving the way to a weakened immune system – leading to a wide variety of health conditions.There are many factors that contribute to a poorly functioning digestive system. In order to achieve and maintain health, we must eat in such a way that optimizes the way we digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate the waste products of metabolism.
Anyone with the following symptoms would greatly benefit by being faithful to the guidelines below.
Do you suffer from any of the following symptoms?
• Food intolerances • gas and bloating after meals • excessive belching • indigestion • constipation or diarrhea • chronic fatigue • body odour • white coating on the tongue • bad breath • skin disorders • sugar cravings • brain fog • itchy skin • undigested food in the stool • streaks or ridges on the fingernails • hormone imbalance • mood swings • easy weight gain • autoimmune disease
It’s not just about WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat!
1. Eat Slowly and Always relax and Take Your Time to Eat Meals
Stress and rushing through a meal greatly impairs digestion by allowing too much air to mix with food and not allowing saliva, which contains digestive enzymes to thoroughly coat the food as we eat. This contributes to delayed gastric emptying which leaves undigested food prone to fermentation in the gut, promoting an overgrowth of unhealthy intestinal bacteria and contributing to gas, bloating and intestinal dysbiosis.
2. Chew Your Food Thoroughly Until it is a Paste in Your Mouth
Digestion begins in the mouth and the act of chewing stimulates the release of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). We can’t efficiently digest and assimilate the nutrients from what we’re eating if we don’t have enough digestive enzymes and stomach acid to chemically break down our food. Improper chewing also makes the stomach work harder to physically break down food, which creates irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract.
3. Never Drink Water With a Meal
To maximize digestion, it is advised to never drink water (or any other liquid) with a meal, or within 30 minutes before and after meals.
Drinking with meals prevents absorption of nutrients by diluting digestive enzymes. To make sure you are properly hydrated, sip water throughout the day but avoid drinking large amounts with meals.
4. Limit Stimulants, Sugar and Caffeine
Caffeine acts as a laxative and increases peristalsis, the muscle contractions that propel food through the digestive system in an unnatural manner. Caffeine also has a diuretic effect. With increased urination, water soluble vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, C) can be depleted as a result of extra fluid loss. Stimulants also increase the production of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. Cortisol prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response, increasing blood-glucose levels to provide immediate energy to the muscles. As a result, blood supply to the intestines is decreased, suppressing digestive function.
5. Consume Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods
Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha promote healthy intestinal flora.
* Note: If you are using yogurt as a probiotic, it must be plain and unsweetened.
Yogurt which contains fruit or added sugar has NO probiotic benefit, no matter what the label tells you.
6. Stop eating when you are 80% full.
Overeating causes stress on the body which impairs the integrity of the intestinal walls, leading to widespread inflammation and a cascade of poor health effects.
7. Engage in Low Intensity Exercise on a Daily Basis
Low intensity exercise can aid digestion and can help improve elimination.
Walking, bike riding, rebounding, yoga and deep breathing exercises are excellent ways to reduce stress and relieve tension, which will have a positive effect on the digestive system. Strenuous exercise before and after meals however, should be avoided since the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) is activated during exercise and in times of intense emotional stress, inhibiting digestion.
8. Be Mindful of Food Combining Principles
To optimize digestion, avoid combining animal protein and starch in the same meal.
Starchy carbohydrates digest faster than protein and combining the two slows digestion and delays gastric emptying, which means a longer time spent putrefying in the intestine – causing gas, bloating and feeding candida microorganisms.
For optimal digestion, avoid these combinations:
X meat with potatoes
X meat with rice
X meat with bread
X meat with pasta
For optimal digestion, it’s best to use combinations such as these:
√ meat with non starchy vegetables only
√ grains with vegetables
√ leafy greens with starchy vegetables
9. Avoid Combining Fruit, Sugar and Starchy Carbohydrates With Animal Protein
Since animal protein is the slowest to digest, fruit or pastry desserts with, near or after a heavy protein meal does NOT benefit digestion and can lead to digestive upset. To avoid fatigue, heaviness and gas and bloating after meals, try waiting a few hours after a large meal to have dessert.
10. Avoid Substances and Factors That Reduce or Cause Excess Stomach Acid
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of excess stomach acid. When your body has sufficient amounts of water, it can naturally regulate the acidity of the stomach content.
• Avoid drinking carbonated beverages, alcohol and chewing gum.
• Avoid taking antacids, rather treat the root cause of acid indigestion and heart burn.
• Consume meals on a regular basis, avoid skipping meals.