In the busy, hustle and bustle world we all in live in, taking the time to eat is often brushed to the way side. Instead, we feverishly cram down a snack in the car while driving, or munch down luke-warm leftovers at our desk while responding to emails. Immediately after, we might feel bloated, crampy, gassy or all of the above. Because digestive discomfort has become the norm for so many people, it's not uncommon for poor digestion to go unrecognized and untreated. So, how can we improve our digestion?

Good Food Hygiene

What does that even mean? As in don't eat finger food with dirty hands or put your elbows on the table? Well not exactly - although eating with clean hands is always a good start! It involves creating an environment conducive to mindful eating. This means sitting down for meals without distractions such as phones or television. Engaging with your food – smelling its aromas, appreciating its appearance – stimulates saliva production, which contains enzymes like amylases and lipases crucial for the initial stages of digestion. The act of salivating at the sight and smell of food is a natural and beneficial digestive response.

Chewing Completely and Eating Slowly

The importance of chewing thoroughly and eating at a leisurely pace cannot be overstated. Rapid eating and inadequate mastication can lead to indigestion and bloating. Chewing is the first and vital step in digestion, signaling the pancreas to secrete enzymes necessary for further digestion in the gastrointestinal tract. It also promotes a sense of fullness, which can help control overeating. A pro tip: even with liquid foods like smoothies or soups, 'chewing' them can enhance satiety.

Incorporating Bitter Foods

Drawing inspiration from the Mediterranean diet, starting a meal with a salad, especially one containing bitter, leafy greens, can significantly improve digestive quality. These greens stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes. Additionally, the inclusion of aromatic bitters in beverages can have similar beneficial effects on digestion.

Beyond the Basics

While these strategies are foundational, they are often the starting point in addressing digestive issues with my clients. Proper digestion is crucial for optimal nutrient absorption. Any compromise in this process can lead to various health problems, including nutrient deficiencies.

One practice I encourage is expressing gratitude before meals. This not only offers a moment of reflection but also prepares the body for digestion by creating an anticipatory environment. This practice also fosters a positive mood and encourages mindfulness.

Additional Considerations for Optimal Digestion

Hydration: Adequate water intake is essential for digestive health. It helps break down food, allowing for better nutrient absorption and preventing constipation.

Dietary Fiber: Incorporating a variety of fiber-rich foods aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and supports a healthy gut microbiome.

Probiotics and Prebiotics: These are vital for gut health. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut, while prebiotics serve as food for these bacteria. Together, they support a balanced gut microbiota, essential for digestion and overall health.

Mindful Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively impact digestive health. Practices like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and improve digestion.

Regular Physical Activity: Regular exercise stimulates the gut and increases intestinal activity, promoting regular bowel movements and overall digestive health.

Listen to Your Body: Paying attention to how different foods affect your digestive system is key. Personalizing your diet based on your body’s reactions can greatly improve digestive health.

By implementing these practices, we can take significant steps towards improving our digestive health, leading to better overall well-being. Remember, a healthy digestive system is not just about the absence of discomfort; it's about a holistic approach to consuming and processing food for optimal health and vitality.