A healthy digestion is at the core of a healthy and disease-free body. At the very least, when your digestion is functioning well you will avoid the uncomfortable and some times embarrassing feelings of gas and bloating. This is not one of my posts where I recommend eating perfectly during the holidays or making vegan versions of traditional foods. We can work on that later. Further more one can still have poor digestion when communing a plant based diet. These tips are for everyone.
At a time when we eat more than we typically do and are surrounded by rich high-calorie foods, I thought it would be helpful to share some simple tips for achieve a healthy digestion.
- Do not stuff yourself or eat like Cookie Monster. Obvious right? But it’s easier said that done. Slow down and chew your food. This simple practice provides a two-fold benefit. Digestion begins before you even take the first bite. When your mind knows you you are about to eat because you see or smell food, the digestive juices in your saliva are activated. When you thoroughly chew your food, the enzymes in your saliva break it down properly and make it easier on your gut. By eating more slowly you will know when you are full sooner instead of being ‘stuffed all of a sudden.’ You may think that temporarily fasting in anticipation of a large meal will result in consuming less overall calories. When you arrive at a feast in a famished state you are much more likely to over indulge. At this point your survival instincts kick in and that urge to eat hastily is very hard to control. The mind is a powerful thing.
- Do not eat too many different types of food at the same time. Certain food combinations cause bloating, poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients. For example, carbohydrates and protein do not digest well together. It’s best to eat starch with veggies or protein with veggies. You may think having fruit for dessert is healthy. DON’T DO IT. Fruits digest faster than any other foods (in about 15-30 minutes.) When they are eaten too soon after other foods their digestion is hindered and they ferment in the stomach. This will lead to gas, bloating and cramping. They are fine eaten with raw veggies such as in a salad or smoothie. Fruits are best eaten on an empty stomach or as a snack in the morning or in between larger meals.
- Do not drink large amounts of liquid with meals including water. When a lot of liquid is consumed with emails the body’s digestive juices become diluted. Even if your beverage of choice is water, drink it 20-30 minutes before a meal and 30 minutes of more after. Drinking water in between meals also lends to making you feel fuller which can lead to eating less. Consume no more than 4-6 ounces with food.
- Take a digestive enzyme. I take a chewable one when I eat cooked foods since naturally -occurring enzymes in food are denatured at high temperatures. If you do all the above tips perfectly and you eat a whole foods plant based diet you may not need an enzyme. Everyone’s different. Chances are you consume some amount of processed food that makes digestion more difficult. The enzymes will also help the body handle this better. Raw foods ( which also includes foods not heated above 118 degrees) still contain their natural enzymes.
- Continue to exercise.
We get very busy over the holidays and if you are entertaining family or traveling it’s even harder to maintain a steady routine. Exercise improves digestion and elimination. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the muscles of the abdomen and stimulates the intestinal muscles to move contents through the digestive system. There are quite a few yoga postures that aid in relieving, bloating, gas and intestinal discomfort. I have family visiting with me for the holidays and they know to bring workout clothes as doing spin and yoga with me will be on the itinerary.
With some mindfulness and simple planning, anyone can execute these tips for improving digestion and overall health. You can also carry them over into the New Year.