With so much information out there about nutrition it’s nearly impossible to sift out the genuine truth. Find something you think you can trust that even has citations and studies to boot, and guaranteed there’s some website out there that fundamentally disagrees with what you just read and somehow, magically, has the same amount of evidence backing it up. Either that or the advice it gives you is to sacrifice all of your beloved foods and basically rearrange your entire life around digestion.
So we have decided to give you 5 easy to do tips based on the simple fact that digestion has two main purposes: to provide you with fuel and nutrients. These have personally helped my digestion and I believe they have the potential to work for anyone.
Tip #1 Experiment
Like in yoga you’re given a lot of different advice from different teachers. Sometimes they compliment and sometimes they contradict each other. What is the reason for this you may ask? Well, quite simply, everybody’s body is different. That goes for digestion as well. I suggest listening to the advice and trying different things. Try eating meat, try going vegetarian, try some grains, cut out milk for a while. Try, and then pay attention to how you feel afterwards. Maybe eating meat works for you. Maybe a cup of coffee in the morning is the way to go. It’s your body so take the time. By following this advice you will eventually find what works and you will gain control over your digestion.
Tip #2 – Hold the ice
This little tidbit was first introduced to me while studying Chinese dietetics. From an Eastern perspective iced foods and beverages cool the digestive fire. From an occidental view ice does two things. First it slows digestion: inhibiting peristalsis (the contraction of the gastro intestinal muscles propelling food down the intestinal track) and the contractions of the stomach. Second it causes the body to have to use more energy in order to heat the water up.
Why is slowing digestion a bad thing? Well generally slower digestion results in less energy since your body is exuding more effort than necessary, less absorption of nutrients, and that heavy lethargic feeling we often get after big meals.
Tip #3 – Eat simply
By eat simply I mean have less complicated meals. Different foods need different enzymes in order to be broken down. When we eat very complicated meals, with many different proteins, grains and veggies at one sitting, our bodies end up using the energy needed for nutrient absorption on producing various chemicals. This extra energy results in slower digestion, a feeling of being bloated, heavy and tired and even affects your sleep. Remember the purpose of digestion is to give your body fuel for energy and nutrients; it should not be a strain on the system. Simplify your meal and save the energy for other activities.
Eating simply doesn’t have to mean less variety it just means thinking about which foods you serve together. Check out this website to find some simple groupings to help you eat more simply.
Tip #4 – Slow it down and chew
I know, I know, you’ve heard this before, but honestly it changes things. Digestion is basically a process of mixing food with digestive juices and breaking it down into incrementally smaller pieces as it moves from one step to the next. By chewing our food well we allow the digestive process to start in our mouths, mixing it with saliva and breaking the food down before it even enters the tract.
Chewing a little more slowly gives your body a chance to feel full and helps prevent over-eating.
P.S Try not watching T.V. while you eat. I’ll explain this point with a question: have you ever eaten a meal while watching T.V. then looked down surprised by your empty plate? Watching T.V. simply encourages faster eating. Give it a try.
Tip #5 – Smaller portions
I know, I’m preaching to the choir, but it really works. Eat a little less, have more energy, and absorb more nutrients. I’d like to invoke the image of a blender here. Let’s say you’re making a delicious smoothie. You throw in some banana, a little papaya, maybe pineapple, ok and some orange juice and whatever other delicious thing you can find. You look at the precariously full blender and wonder if you can even close the top. With a little effort and some elbow grease you force the lid on and press blend. To your dismay the blades seem to be having trouble getting everything mixed up. Same deal when we over eat. Your stomach can only hold so much and so filling it to the top allows no room for it to do it’s job and churn everything up. Again you get tired, you absorb less nutrients, and well, you just don’t feel that great.