Digestion is the process of breaking down food into basic units (i.e. vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats and proteins) to be used by the body. Good digestion is a pillar of good health. Poor digestion can cause a wide array of health issues including abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea or constipation, reflux, fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, and cravings.
Here are some easy steps you can take to improve your digestion:
- Eat in a relaxing environment. Stress hormones such as cortisol stunt digestion by increasing sympathetic nervous system activity. If the body feels threatened, it uses energy to run and hide rather than rest and digest.
- Chew food thoroughly. Digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing not only physical breaks down food, it also activates important digestive enzymes. Most of us only chew 3-4 times before swallowing and we need to do better than that! Chew food till it is liquid before taking another bite.
- Eat, don’t drink, at mealtimes. Water or other beverages dilute hydrochloric acid in the stomach, weakening your ability to digest food. Drink water 15-20 minutes before and after meals to stay hydrated and ensure full-strength hydrochloric acid.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. Carbonation damages the parietal cells, which make hydrochloric acid.
- Consider taking digestive enzymes. If you have poor digestion, high quality digestive enzymes can help you absorb more nutrients from your food and repair damage to your digestive tract. New Leaf, Way of Life, and The Herb Room carry quality digestive enzymes.
If you have difficulty integrating all five of these steps, pick one to start with and add in the others over time. Before you know it, you’ll be digesting food more thoroughly and getting more nutrition out of your meals.