When asked a few years ago whether my digestion was a problem or not, I easily replied that I show no signs of digestive upset. I didn’t think twice. Soon I realized that I had overlooked this area of my body. Once I started to learn about the signs of troubled digestion, I realized that I definitely fit into this category. This post is all about simple ways to aid your digestion. I want to pass on some tips to help you digest and metabolize your food more efficiently to help you and your body.
Some common signs of digestive issues are: bloating, gas, acid indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, and the list goes on. These all tell us that there is something amiss along our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Without knowing it, I felt all of these things throughout my life and never connected them to my GI tract not working optimally.
This brings me to my first tip: pay attention to your body and how it feel before, during, and after eating. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just notice. You may not have the words to describe your observations, and that is okay. The more you are aware of what is going on in your body, the more you can help yourself when you are not at your best.
Our bodies have adapted a really cool defense mechanism called the flight or fight response. This enables our bodies to power up and be physically stronger or faster than we normally are. This mechanism is triggered by a stimulus like the classic example of a bear chasing us. To do this, the body must shut down certain areas to amp up others because we only have so much energy. The central nervous system chooses to shut down all unnecessary systems in favour of those that will help us run faster or fight longer.
I have just described the stress response, and while I have never personally been chased by a bear, I do feel stress regularly through typical life stressors – work, driving, exercise, etc. These are common and most people will feel stress. The problem with this response is that our body doesn’t distinguish between an actual physical stressor and an emotional or mental stressor. When we have work stress, for example, our bodies will shut down the digestive system, because our body reacts the same way to this type of stress as it would to the bear. Our body knows that digestion takes a lot of energy, and it doesn’t want to waste it if our survival is threatened. If you need to eat while you are in this state, you will inevitably have issues.
The second tip is to eat in a calm state. This can be achieved in a few ways. You can make it a rule to eat when seated at a table (not driving). If you feel particularly stressed, take a few deep breaths in and out and really feel each breath. Bring your awareness to each inhale and exhale. Take in the smells of your food. The body will start the digestive process with smell and taste. I have started to say a few things I am grateful for before eating as well. Eating calmly and slowly is so important for our GI tract.
The third tip is related to the second and that is to chew your food a lot. This one sounds so easy, but as a gulper, I find this one of the most challenging. I tell myself to chew each mouthful 20 times and then swallow. You can start at the number that works for you and work your way up. I have heard of people chewing 100+ times. This is an important tip because the more you can breakdown the food in your mouth, the less work and struggle the rest of your digestive tract will have to endure. It’s all about taking it easy on ourselves.
The last tip for this post is to eat with no distractions. Turn off the TV or Netflix or phone, close the book, and turn off the music. This is a great exercise in mindful eating. If we are truly involved in every bite of food we take in, we will indulge all of our senses and we will not miss the moment we feel full. Our bodies are constantly communicating with us. We may be out of touch right now, but that is okay because this practice will open the path to that communication.
There you have it, some quick tips to aid digestion. There are more, but it can be overwhelming to read so many at once. I would suggest practicing one of these at a time, and when you have the hang of that one, move on to the next. It would also be helpful to keep a record of what you feel like before you start this process so that as you move forward, you can see how far you have come. These are simple yet powerful tips to aid your digestion. Here is a review of the above:
- Pay attention to your body. How do you feel before, during, and after eating? Record any observations.
- Eat in a calm state. Breath deep and relax.
- Chew your food thoroughly.
- Eat with no distractions.
Thank you for your interest and your time. My wish is that something here will stick with you and make your life better in some way. Please feel free to share your experiences, questions, and comments with me.