We all know what digestion is, but to give you a refresher: digestion is the process of breaking down food through mechanical and chemical processes so that its substances can be used in the body. The purpose is to break down protein into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and glycerol, and carbohydrates into glucose. At the same time vitamins and minerals are also liberated in the process.
Good digestion can depend on various things. For example the taste, sight and smell of the food helps initiate the release of our digestive juices and the availability of enzymes. The main objective is to break down the food and have it readily available for our body to use.
Beyond controlling the taste, sight and smell of our food there are other ways we can actively control to help increase our digestive ability. We want our digestion to be strong so that it can successfully secrete enough enzymes that we can digest a wide range of foods without it leading it to fermentation or putrefaction within our system, which can cause and result in many unwanted issues.
1. ENGAGE IN MINDFUL EATING
Our digestive system gets most of its energy primarily from being in a parasympathetic state. Additionally our state of mind during meal time can also affect our digestion. Therefore, it is super important to eat in a relaxed, stress free atmosphere and environment. We should avoid eating in a rush, when we are upset, or have unexpressed worries and fears. We want to minimize any distractions and focus on the task at hand, which is to eat and fuel your body.
To encourage mindful eating:
- Take a few deep breaths prior to your first bite.
- Perhaps take a moment to feast the meal with sight and smell before taste.
- Spend a few seconds to acknowledge and express gratitude for the food in front of you.
- Keep the rest of the meal time peaceful, calm, and happy.
- Try switching up the location in which you eat your meals. For example if you eat lunch at your desk, try eating outside at a picnic table and away from a place that may encourage and increase the amount of stress.
2. USE PROPER CHEWING TECHNIQUES
Why is chewing so important?
- Chewing breaks down food into smaller pieces while mixing it with our saliva and lubricating the food allowing us to be able to swallow easily.
- Chewing increases the mucus production in our mouth, stomach and other gastrointestinal tract linings.
- Chewing increases the secretion of enzyme salivary amylase which aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- Chewing stimulates the muscle contraction helping us move food along, this is referred to as peristalsis.
- Chewing increases the production of hydrochloric acid which helps in the absorption of proteins.
- Chewing also increases satiety (the feeling of fullness), which in turn helps with managing your body weight.
What does proper chewing techniques mean?
- Chew until your food becomes pulp-like and thoroughly broken down.
- Cutting up the food and taking smaller bites can be helpful.
- Placing cutlery or the food down between each mouthful can encourage you to properly finish each bite before picking up another.
3. INCREASE THE DURATION OF YOUR MEALS
It takes around 20 minutes before our brains register that we are full. As a result it is beneficial to take our time to eat our meals. It is also beneficial to not wait until we are starving, otherwise it may encourage us to overeat and thus negatively impacting our digestion and digestive ability.
- Not only will combining the tips from 1 & 2 greatly help with this third tip, but this third tip in turn can encourage the first two tips to be achieved as well.
- Be present when you are eating your meal. Taste every bite and be conscious with your senses, particularly your taste buds. How does the food you are eating make you feel, what about it do you enjoy or don’t enjoy?
- Set yourself time for your meals as much as you can. This can be difficult when you only have a certain amount of time for your break for example. So, just do the best you can and make sure you are eating in a relaxed state. Additionally if you are limited in time, choose foods that are easier to digest such as smoothies or soups.
4. MAKE MORE DIGESTIVE JUICES
We can actually encourage our body to make more digestive juices throughout the day to help us properly digest the foods we will be consuming.
One way we can do so is to consume fresh lemon juice in a glass of warm water. Drinking this in the morning, and around 20-30 minutes before and after each meal can be very helpful. Feel free to add a small pinch or dash of cayenne and ginger. All of these ingredients are mild gastric stimulants that can encourage your stomach to produce digestive juices.
Another option is to drink apple cider vinegar 20-30 minutes before your meals as well. First start with 1 teaspoon and work your way up to 1 tablespoon in a quarter to a cup of water.
One additional option is to take digestive enzymes. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can definitely help as well, but as the word says, it should be a supplement and not be taken consistently long term. Nevertheless there are times in which this may be more convenient. For example, I make sure to take enzymes when I am travelling abroad or when I know I may be going out to eat foods that may be a little heavier and more processed.
5. AVOID DRINKING BEVERAGES WITH MEALS
Drinking too much liquid during your meals, particularly ice cold drinks will shut down the digestion process. Allot at least 20-30 minutes before and after your meals before consuming larger amounts of liquids.
Taking small sips of room temperature or warm water during your meals is the most ideal.
There are many more ways you can improve your digestion but here are my favourite ones as they are very simply yet we tend to overlook them. Digestion is something I still struggle with. However, using these tips have definitely helped improve my digestive ability for sure. I hope these tips were helpful to you and if you have any additional tips you use that have helped your digestion, please feel free to share them!