1. Move your body. Movement and exercise actually help to move the muscles of the digestive system. This will be especially useful if you have sluggish digestion or tend towards constipation. Even though we may not feel it most of the time the stomach and intestines use a lot of muscle power to break down our food and move it along through the system in a timely manner. So get out there and go for a walk, do some gardening or go for a swim. Every little bit of movement will help your tummy.
2. Do not overeat. Did you know that digesting and processing your food uses huge amount of energy, vitamins and minerals from your body to make it happen. So over eating can put a real burden on the body, it can also contribute to reflux and heartburn and to feeling tired and fatigued after your meal. Just think how you feel after Christmas lunch. Did you know it can take at least 12 minutes for your brain to process how much you have eaten and then let you know you are full. So if you eat quicker than everyone else at the table, you could easily be overeating. If you take your time and enjoy the meal, your body has the time to let you know you are getting full.
3. Practice gratitude before your meal. Taking the time to slow down, take a few deep breaths, look at your food and smell it can do a few things. It helps to take us out of the “flight or fight” mode and into “rest and digest”. When we have been running around, getting dinner on the table, getting the kids to stop playing and come and eat, we can be in a slightly stressed phase which does not make us ready for digestion. We want to give our brain signals that we are about to eat, that way our body can bring more blood to the digestive organs and begin to release digestive enzymes. More digestive power and enzymes means our food is broken down more effectively and this means less chance of heartburn, reflux, bloating and pain.
4. Reduce your processed food intake. As mentioned in tip 2, digesting and absorbing our food takes a great amount of the body’s resources. If we are eating more processed foods, we are expending large amounts of energy and not getting many, if any nutrients in return. So this can actually begin to create a mineral and vitamin deficit. Also an average burger, chips and soft drink meal contains about 60g of fat. We are able to digest about 10g of fat per hour. This means those types of meals take about 6 hours to full digest, which is much longer than we want our body to be spending on digesting a single meal.
5. Chew, chew, chew. Chewing is the beginning of physical digestion. It does a couple of things, it breaks down the food mechanically into smaller and smaller pieces and mix it with the saliva. This helps us to comfortably swallow the food. It also allows for more surface area to come into contact with saliva. Saliva can then start its job in the mouth and begin to break down the carbohydrates we have eaten. Chewing enough also helps more saliva to be released.
If we can get digestion started off really well, then it is more likely that our food will be processed efficiently and correctly and allow for smooth travel the whole way through. This can all help to reduce symptoms like reflux, pain, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.
Yours for great health,
If any of these symptoms are new, worrying you or persistent then please see a healthcare professional.