Creating good digestion involves not only proper chemistry (acid/alkaline environments, enzymes and balanced intestinal flora), but it also is influenced by lifestyle, emotions, attitude, timing, habits and environment. If proper digestion does not occur, then the absorption and assimilation of nutrients for the building and repair of cells, and the nourishment of all the body systems is adversely affected. In general, we need to eat less food, in a relaxed state, and our meals need to be less complex. The following is a list of things you can do to improve your digestion.
- Eat smaller meals – Do not eat until you feel full. There is about a ten minute lag time for the signal to reach the brain when the stomach is full. Over-consumption is the number one cause of indigestion. Practice self control, and try to resist eating until you actually feel full.
- Chew you food thoroughly – This creates a larger surface area for enzymes and stomach acids to act on, and less enzymes will be required to digest the food. Incomplete chewing results in premature swallowing which initiates a chain reaction of problems.
- Do not drink large amounts of fluids with or after your meals – Sipping on water when eating fruits, vegetables and starches works well, but combining oil and proteins with water or any fluids sabotages digestion by diluting juices, valuable stomach enzymes and acids. Avoid ice cold drinks with meals as they can slow down digestion by decreasing stomach temperature causing a halt to stomach secretions.
- Eat when your body is relaxed – In order to digest food properly the body and mind must be relaxed state and not in a “fight or flight” type of rushed state. Try to eat in a relaxing environment and get in the habit of taking a few deep breathes, meditating and/or saying grace before you eat, especially if you have been rushing around. The goal is to take a small moment to focus on the act of eating, quiet the mind and relax the body to maximize digestion, and assimilation of the nutrients being consumed.
- Avoid eating late at night – The food does not get digested properly because the organs of digestion are in their resting and rejuvenating phases. In addition, the release of digestive enzymes is lower in the horizontal position. Therefore don’t take a nap after you eat, go for a gentle walk.
- Allow 14 hours before last and first meal – Try to allow a 14 hour window of time between your last meal at night and your first meal in the morning. This allows the body to finish off digesting foods and focus on the process of waste elimination.
- Eat at regular intervals – Eat at regular intervals on a daily basis when possible. For example, if you wake at 7 am, have breakfast at 8:30am, lunch at 1:30pm, and dinner at 6:30pm. The body operates on rhythms and eating at the same time each day enhances digestive system function. Eating heavy meals too close together can cause overloading of the digestive system. If food stays in the intestines to long it causes fermentation and purification which leads to health issues.
- Eat when you start to feel hungry. You will have more digestive energy available when food is eaten at a time of genuine hunger.
- Layer/sequence you meals. Eat foods that are easier to digest first, followed by more complex foods that take longer to digest. A sensible order of digestion would be water and juices; fruits, smoothies (with no dairy) , vegetable soups; vegetables; grains; beans; seeds, nuts; followed by fish, poultry, and meat last. A well ordered meal promotes more efficient digestion and better assimilation of nutrients.
10. Practice proper food combining.
a. Eat fruit on it’s own or ten minutes prior to the rest of your meal.
b. Never consume starchy foods with protein foods. For example, potatoes, rice or pasta with meats, poultry or fish. Starches require alkaline enzymes to be digested. These enzymes are neutralized by the acidic stomach acid required to break down proteins. This leads to incomplete digestion of starches, slow emptying of the stomach, and can lead to fermentation of sugars (breakdown of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide causing gas and bloating, plus alcohol robs the body of B vitamins).
c. If you choose to eat meat/poultry/fish, eat it by itself, or after a raw green salad to assist the body in balancing it’s pH.
d. Oil/fats are hard to digest. Lemon juice and greens are the best foods to combine with oils.
- Avoid highly processed foods– Highly processed foods, for example, white bread, rice, pasta, crackers, instance cereals and potatoes etc. have had their fibre, vitamins, mineral, and enzymes removed. These foods are harder to digest because our bodies must supply the missing nutrients and enzymes to facilitate digestion. Also, cooked foods are void of enzymes, lose various amounts of vitamins and minerals, and may contain toxins produced in the heating process. Focus on foods that are whole, organic & raw. Raw vegetables which have their vitamins/minerals and enzymes in tact contain fibre which helps increase transit time through the digestive tract and add bulk to the stool.
- Avoid hydrogenated, trans fatty acids, and refined oils – These chemical treated and heated fats are hard to digest denatured foods with carcinogenic by-products that irritate the intestinal walls and interfere with digesting. These fats will also displace the essential healthy fats required to build vibrant optimal functioning cell membranes.
- Take digestive enzymes – Use digestive enzymes with your meals especially if you have digestive symptoms (gas, bloating, belching, constipation/diarrhea, food allergies, indigestion etc.) eat cooked or processed foods, eat too much at one meal, or you eat after dinner time. As people age the parietal cells in the stomach produce less hydrochloric acid (HCl). Low HCl levels open us up to the possibility of food poisoning, dysbiosis, and bacteria overgrowth of the small intestine. Adequate HCl is also critical for the absorption of minerals and vitamin B12, as well as, protein.
- Maintain good flora – Balance the intestinal flora using fermented foods, prebiotic foods, probiotics and minimizing the intake of sugars. A bad diet, drinking or bathing in chlorinated water, use of antibiotics, corticosteroids, birth control pills, antacids, NSAIDS, aspirin etc. all disrupt the balance of the intestinal terrain. If the candida yeast population gets out of control, it can lead to the development of fungi that root themselves into the intestinal walls. This can create pores in the wall, a condition none as leaky gut (a syndrome in which toxins from the yeast and undigested/purified food enter the bloodstream and weaken the immune system). This can lead to a host of health problems. Parasitic infection, or illness may also disrupt the delicate balance of the intestinal flora, causing unfriendly bacteria to increase in dominance. This leads to gas, foul odours, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
- Identify food sensitivities – Stop eating any foods that you may be sensitive to. Food allergies are rampant because the intestinal tract is irritated and inflamed. Inflammation increases the permeability of the intestinal tract which compromises our immune system and makes us increasingly sensitive to various foods and environmental substances.
- Get adequate movement/exercise – Aerobic exercise increase the intake of oxygen and increases the power of the stomach. It also assist in keeping the food moving through the digestive tract. One of the best exercise for digestion is rebounding or tramp lining. This exercise gently messages the organs, freeing them of tension and allows them to release fluids. Walking after meals keeps the blood circulating and the organs active. Deep breathing before a meal, yoga, and massage can all assist with circulation and bring oxygen to the cells.
- Utilize herbs – Herbs can be used to assist with the digestive process. For example ginger root stimulates the salivary glands when chewed, and reduces gas and fermentation when used as a tea. Cardamon, anise, fennel, celery, and caraway are all good seeds to chew on after a meal to stimulate the flow of digestive juices, prevent fermentation and cramps, and reduce gas. Diluted apple cider vinegar helps cleanse the stomach and prepare it for a protein meal.
- Eat while sitting in a relaxed environment – Avoid eating while walking, watching TV, driving, talking, reading, riding in an elevator, or lying down. Never eat when you are angry. Anger tightens the ducts and glands and reduces the secretion of hormones, enzymes and digestive juices. Try to have a positive attitude, surround yourself with good company, and good cheer. Being happy and positive while eating enhances digestion.
“If you have a happy mind, your face and body will reflect that happiness. Everyone will know something beautiful is happening within you.”
Brian Gangel – Holistic Lifestyle and Natural Health Professional
New Millennium Living Ltd 647 286 1439 or BGangel.com
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