Hunger is a sign from our body that it is done digesting the last meal and is ready for the next. Our body is capable of telling us when it is ready for more food, which may seem like a simple thing, but it kind of blows my mind! That is the first tip – Listen to your body’s signs. Eat when you are hungry and until you are full. This will lessen the extra work your body must do to breakdown and utilize your food.
It is a normal thing to drink while eating, and you will see glasses of liquid at most meals. This next tip is going to sound a little crazy. Do not have liquids with meals. This sounded really extreme to me at first, but the logic makes sense. Our stomachs fill with digestive juices as we see and smell food, and we need these to break down the food we ingest. If we drink while eating, our stomach juices will be diluted and the breakdown will take more time and be harder on our body. Drink between meals and your body will thank you.
As I stated above, the sight and smell of food signals to the body that we are about to eat, and the stomach wall releases gastric juices to aid with digestion. There is another thing you can do to begin the digestive cascade, and it is pretty cool. The bitter taste actually gets our juices flowing too. They work so well that it is suggested to eat something bitter 15 minutes before eating to really get your gastrointestinal tract ready for the meal. This is a relatively simple thing to try.
Dandelion greens and/or arugula are both bitter greens and can easily be purchased. All you need to do is to chew on a few leaves prior to eating and really pay attention to the bitter flavour because that is the part that helps. There are products out there that will mask the bitter flavour or may even be in pill form, but these are not going to do the trick because you need to taste the bitter. It’s hard at first, bitter is the worst flavour, but you can get used to it, and I have noticed a big difference with this tip.
If you find the leaves aren’t working or you cannot find them, you can try digestive bitters. You can find these at any health food store. They are usually a concentrated liquid you add to water 15 minutes before eating and drink down. These are super bitter and it is easy to gulp down, but do not be tempted to do this. It is more useful if you swish it around in your mouth and really taste the bitter.
These last 2 tips are a little more time consuming, so I guess the quick in the title doesn’t apply. I do think they are worth trying if you have tried all of the above and you are feeling no relief.
There is a concept called food combining and it can be pretty hard to follow, but the results can be worth it. The idea behind this is that all of the different categories of food we eat digest at different times in our stomachs. If you were to eat something that breaks down slowly with something that is quicker, the food that is quicker will sit in the stomach and intestines with the food that is slower and it will then ferment and cause gas, bloating, belching, etc.
An example of this is a protein meal and a fruit as dessert, the fruit will have to sit in your system longer than it is meant to because of the protein. This is an extreme example because fruit is the fastest to breakdown and protein is the slowest, but it is a good one because it is a common combination. There are many different charts and ideas out there on what to eat together and what to always separate. The best way is to check in with your body and see how different combinations feel to you. I have listed good combinations below that you can start with:
- protein with vegetables
- grains with non-starchy vegetables
Fruits should be eaten alone and melons should be eaten only with other melons, not all fruits. This is a different way of eating and can be overwhelming and weird at first, but if you are constantly in pain after eating, this is a great thing to practice. You can see where this may need to be altered for your own body depending on how you feel after certain combinations. The above is just a good starting point.
Another way to help your GI tract is to try a basic elimination diet. If you find that a certain food makes you bloated, gassy, constipated, or any other kind of upset, take a break from it for a week or two and then reintroduce it. When adding it back in, you can eat it alone so that you can really see the results, and give it a few days to see if your symptoms have come back. That means only eat it once and then observe. This is the basic idea behind an elimination diet and is a great way to see if you are reacting to certain foods. In the end, we can be doing everything to aid our digestion, but if there is a food that is a problem, we will never have good digestion. This is a great area to seek help in because it can be as simple or complex as you want or need.
That ends the second part of the better digestion posts. I have highlighted the tips below so you have a quick reference. Some of these are bigger steps than others, but all of them will lead you to a happier GI tract!
- Listen to your body’s signs – eat when hungry and stop when full.
- Skip the liquids at meal time.
- Try a bitter 15 minutes before a meal.
- Proper food combining.
- Elimination diet.
Please let me know if you have tried any of these tips, and if they have worked or not. You can comment below. Thank you for reading these words!