A healthy digestion is a crucial part of maintaining our overall health. More than being what we eat, we are what we digest and absorb. Digestion not only is responsible for breaking down the food we eat but also for turning it into fuel for our body’s cells. If we are not absorbing and assimilating the nutrients from the food we eat we experience fatigue, bloating, congestion, flatulence, nutritional deficiencies, cravings and many other health issues.
Also, 80% of our immune system spends most of its time around our gut, so the health of our gut bacteria and the health of our immune system are vitally linked. Therefore, when our gut is out of balance, so is our immune system. Since we produce serotonin (the feel good hormone) in our gut, we may also experience low moods and depression if we suffer from digestion issues.
During my healing journey I really had to focus in giving some extra love to my gut and this is something that I still do every single day and work on with all my clients. Digestive problems are definitely one of the main issues everyone suffers, not only due to improper food choices but also due to the levels of stress we experience. So here are my top 10 tips for a healthy digestion that will help you feel your best:
Keep a food diary
It´s really important to understand the connection between the foods we eat and how they make us feel. The easiest way is to keep a food diary where you write down what you eat, your symptoms and possible connection between what you eat and how you feel. Some foods or food combinations don´t work for us, we just need to learn so we can respect and honour our bodies even more.
Our digestion starts in our mouth. Eating rapidly can lead to swallowing air which worsens gas and bloating. Make sure you seat comfortable and take a few seconds to breathe and be grateful for your meal before you start eating. As soon as you start eating take the time to chew your food well to aid digestion by allowing enzymes in your saliva to mix with the food before it gets into your stomach. Even when you drink a smoothie take time to appreciate each sip.
Eat natural and fresh foods
Try to eat a plant-based diet, which is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains will improve digestion while giving you more energy. Include probiotics and digestive enzymes in supplement form or naturally present in food. Some examples of probiotic rich foods are fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and some of the richest foods in digestive enzymes are sprouts, papaya and pineapple. Also try to start your meals with something raw like a salad or cucumber sticks to get your digestive enzymes ready to break down your food.
Add fire to your food
According to Ayurvedic medicine the digestive system runs on the fire element (Pitta). So, it is important to include foods and spices like lemon, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, black pepper and others that warmth our body and promote our digestive fire (Agni). This is why I love starting my day with lemon water and sometimes I add extra ginger and cayenne pepper. I also try to add these foods throughout the day to season my meals.
Keep your meals simple and try food combining rules
Different foods need different acids to be digested and when we mix lots of different things in one meal it can really compromise our digestion. So try to keep your meals as simple as possible without mixing too many different foods. You can also try food combining rules, like avoiding to mix proteins with starches. If you want to have a protein rich food like meat, fish, eggs, beans or tempeh have it with salad or veggies. If you want to have carbs like rice or quinoa have it with salad or veggies too. Mixing fruits in your meals may difficult your digestion too, so have them on an empty stomach instead.
Avoid difficult to digest foods
Foods like dairy and gluten are some of the hardest foods which most people can´t digest properly. Also processed foods, excess sugar and salt, unhealthy oils are some examples that can slow down our digestion and make us feel bloated. So try to avoid them and any food that gives you digestive discomfort. Finally be mindful of any possible food intolerance.
Choose your drinks wisely
What you drink can also have a big impact on your digestive health. Avoid sodas, fizzy drinks like beer, champagne and even sparking water. The gas in these drinks, namely carbonic acid, fills the stomach with air, creating an uncomfortable bloating sensation. And if you already suffer from bloating, the extra gas will make it even worse. Also avoid drinking too much during meals, this will impede the digestive process by diluting digestive enzymes and gastric juices that are vital to break down our food. If you really need to drink in between meals, sip on tea or room temperature water. Cold drinks can be problematic during meals since they cool your digestion when it needs fire to work. Prioritize hydration with filtered water, aromatic waters, herbal teas, cold pressed juices and have them in between meals.
Eat until you feel 80% full
Eating until you feel completely full also compromises your digestion and makes you fell bloated since digestive juices don´t have room to do their job properly. Also, it takes time for your brain to signal you are full, which means that when you feel completely full, you probably already overate. So try to eat slowly, pay attention to what your body is telling you, try to stop when you feel around 80% full and get used to feeling light after your meals. This is a practice common among the Okinawan people, one of the longest lived and healthiest people on the planet.
Stress can also have a very strong impact on your digestion. The functioning of digestion depends on the action of the autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic nervous system associated with relaxation and restoration. Stress activates the sympathetic side, the fight-or-flight system, which can interfere with the bowels. Make sure you take time every day to relax and do something that makes you happy.
Practice yoga twists
Try doing a few yoga twists in the morning on an empty stomach before you go to the toilet. Twisting poses help remove toxins, strengthens the intestines and it will help with elimination. Some of the twisting poses you can do still in bed as soon as you wake up are Supta Ardha Matsyendrasana (reclined spinal twist) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (half spinal twist).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If you are experience any digestion discomfort, make sure you try some of these recommendations and let me know how you feel! Also if you know about someone that would benefit from this information, please share it with them!
Lots of love,