10 Top Tips for Better Digestion
10 Top Tips for Better Digestion
Bad digestion can cause you all kinds of problems, from feeling tired and sluggish to having bad skin and discomfort. There really is no need to suffer. Follow Olivia Kennedy’s 10 top Tips for Optimal Digestion and put yourself on the road to feeling and looking great ~ Olivia is her final year Naturopath, Nutrition & Herbal Medicine student at Wellpark College and is a regular Food and Nutrition Blogger.
- Elimination diet. These days it is so common for people to be allergic/intolerant to allergenic foods e.g. gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and nightshades. Try at least one week without each of these suspect foods individually. When you reintroduce them note any signs and symptoms anywhere in the body e.g. digestive and bowel changes, nasal congestion, joint pain, brain fog, pimples, rapid heart rate, skin rash or mood swings. These are just a few of the many side effects someone can suffer from with a food allergy/intolerance.
- Food combining. Carbohydrate, protein and fruit require different enzymes and pH, and take different amounts of time to digest. Some people find that eating fruit on an empty stomach (usually for breakfast), and carbohydrates and protein separately (one for lunch and one for dinner), improves their digestion and reduces their bloating. Eating only one concentrated food for each meal may enhance digestion. Concentrated foods include quinoa, millet, brown rice, eggs, meat and seafood. Add unlimited un-concentrated foods to these, including leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, capsicums, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, snow peas, celery, fennel, cabbage, onion…
- Water between meals. For optimal digestion, don’t drink water for at least 30 minutes before and after eating because it dilutes your stomach acid which is required to activate your body’s enzymes and breakdown your food. Don’t have a glass on the dining table so you are not tempted to sip during your meal. Continue to drink plenty of water between meals because it is required for every cell in the body.
- Chew, chew and chew. There are no more teeth beyond your mouth, so if you inhale your food it is very difficult for your body to break it down. “Drink your food and eat your drink” means chew your food until it has liquefied and even chew your drinks to prepare your stomach for them.
- Enzymes – Some of the richest foods in enzymes are pineapple, kiwifruit, papaya/pawpaw and sprouts, however, all raw foods contain some enzymes. Enzymes enable us to digest foods, but they are destroyed during cooking. If cooked and processed foods feel heavy in your stomach and difficult to digest, incorporate more raw and living foods into every meal and snack. Your skin, energy and bowel motions will also thank you for it!
- Probiotics – some of the richest foods in probiotics are kefir, coconut kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt and fermented soy products. Probiotics may reduce digestive symptoms, which often occur due to a lack of beneficial gut bacteria in the large intestine.
- Relax -You must be relaxed to digest your food properly. This is because the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest, digest and repair, and relaxation is required to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. The most effective way to switch your nervous system from sympathetic (fight, flight and freeze) to parasympathetic, is to breathe diaphragmatically. Complete 10 diaphragmatic breaths as slowly and deeply as you can every time before you eat, and notice the difference.
- Establish a routine. When you eat your meals and snacks at the same time each day, the body prepares by producing digestive juices (e.g. stomach acid, enzymes and bile) at a regular time each day. Regular eating and regular exercise also regulates bowel motions.
- Asian squat. Also called full squat or malasana in yoga. This is a primary human movement, as this is the way our ancestors defecated before western toilets. It promotes bowel motions and optimal digestion because the hips are below the knees. Position yourself in an Asian squat every morning before using your bowels. Start with 1 minute and build up to 5 minutes. If you are inflexible you will feel a nice inner thigh stretch. Place your feet shoulder width apart slowly angling outwards. Bend your knees and lower your buttocks towards the floor, while keeping your feet flat on the floor – do not rise onto your toes, that is cheating. Try to keep your back as straight as possible and don’t hunch it towards the floor. If you cannot perform the Asian squat with your feet flat on the floor without falling backwards onto your back, perform it by holding a pole or strong piece of furniture to prevent yourself from falling backwards.
- Herbal tea. Chamomile, Cinnamon, Fennel, Ginger, Lemon balm, Peppermint and Turmeric teas may improve your digestion. Steep the tea as long as possible and put a saucer or lid over the cup to prevent the therapeutic volatile oils evaporating into the air and escaping. There are different benefits of all of these medicinal herbs, so drink a variety of herbal teas every day. They count towards your daily water intake and if you mix them up you can’t overdose. Learn about the benefits of all of these herbs while studying for a Bachelor of Naturopathic & Herbal Medicine at Wellpark College.
- Consult (or become) a Naturopath! Digestive issues may be complex and have a multitude of causes. If you can’t figure out what your cause is or if you have been suffering for a long time, I suggest that you visit (or study to become) a Naturopath. These top tips may fix your simple problems, but if multiple problems are at play it is always best to consult a healthcare professional
Olivia Kennedy ~ final year Naturopath, Nutrition & Herbal Medicine student at Wellpark College, 2015