If you or someone you know suffers from gas, bloating, distention, overly full after a meal, belching, mild reflux, then this post is for you!
Many of my clients do indeed have major GI dysfunction which requires an in depth intervention. However, all of my clients find some relief by simply adding a few principles to their Eating Routine. Today I am sharing with you some of my most helpful tips, and hope that one or two of them can be applied to your life or a loved one to help get rid of GI frustrations.
Chew Your Food. Believe it or not, on average we chew a bit of food only about 6 times before we swallow. And, although much of the process of digestion is involuntary, chewing is the one part we control - voluntary.
The less we chew our food, the harder our digestive system has to work. This can cause post meal fatigue. Ideally we want to chew our food until it becomes liquid before swallowing.
When we do a poor job of chewing our food, we make our digestive enzymes work harder to help break our food. And, when carbohydrates hang around undigested for too long in our gut, the bacteria in our gut can use this as fuel, which then creates gas build up as a metabolic byproduct. The result is gas, bloating, distention, etc.
One of the best things you can do to adopt this new habit is to literally count your chews. And try to chew 20-30 times per bite of food (an exception would be a soup or smoothie).
Slow down. This is not always easy to do, and we are a culture that thrives on getting things done quickly, no matter what it is. But when it comes to digestion…it takes time. And, in order to help the digestive process, digestive secretions need to be released, stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes are all part of this process.
When we eat it takes about 20 minutes for your gut to signal to your brain that you are full and reduce your sense of hunger. This gets triggered by a hormone called CCK (cholecystokinin). So slowing down to eat your food will not only help produce the correct gastric juices you need from your involuntary system, it will also help you from overeating by eating too quickly.
Need help getting started? Get in the habit of taking 10-15 breaths before you start your meal. The body needs oxygen to properly digest. Help calm your body and support the digestive process by taking some deep breaths, you will feel your body relax as you do this.
Relax and Savor. Setting the fork and knife down in between bites can be very helpful and learning to be in the moment of food can also be very helpful. Notice the color, texture, flavors, aroma, etc. Many of us are so busy we don’t take time to even notice these things.
Prioritize meals. I often find many people are very good about prioritizing their dinner, sitting down to a well balanced meal, but breakfast, snacks and lunch are often done while multitasking. Many of us are in the habit of eating in the car, standing in the kitchen, working at our computers, even our kids have “work snack breaks.” This could not be worse for digestion!
When we eat in a way that does not allow the nervous system to fully relax and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), we will not secrete the digestive juices I mentioned earlier. We can’t do two things at once very well; either we are in our go-go-go state (fight or flight), or we are in our rest and digest state. The latter is what we use to build strength and energy for the future of a better self.
Need help getting started? The best thing to do here is to plan your meals, and make time to sit down and eat them. This ensures you truly set time aside for eating.
Don’t drink too much during meals. Staying hydrated is key to overall health, but drinking too much water around meal time can dilute your digestive secretions.
When you drink large amounts of water during a meal, you dilute the acidity of your stomach acid and this will slow down digestion. This can also cause you to feel overfull without enough nutrition and can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as magnesium and B12 deficiency, because both need a highly acidic environment to be absorbed.
You are better off getting in the habit of drinking water throughout the day so when you are ready to sit down and eat a meal, you are not terribly thirsty and therefore your digestive system can do its job!
I hope these tips sound simple and doable. Many of them make common sense, but given our crazy busy lifestyle and go-go-go mentality we can let things slip easily and the result can be indigestion. Like anything else, you just need to make them a priority, and implement as many of these key concepts consistently to your daily routine. I have seen many clients dramatically improve their digestion, energy and overall nutritional status with these tips, you can too!