Our digestive system is literally at the center of our health. It is through the digestive process that food is broken down by hydrochloric acid and enzymes, so that the essential nutrients contained in the food can be absorbed by the blood vessels in our intestines and sent throughout our bodies. An astounding 80% of our immune health and 95% of serotonin are located in our gut. (1) With such important factors riding on the healthy state of our gut, it is imperative to have our digestive systems working properly. Here are five easy ways to improve your digestion without medication.
Drink water upon waking.
After waking up and before you do another thing, go grab a glass of water. If this sounds a bit off-putting, start slow with eights ounces working your way to about twenty-four ounces of filtered water. When you drink water after waking it gives your stomach and digestive tract a burst of beautiful hydration, which is essential for proper digestion. Do this every morning and you should feel a change within a week. It will become such a positive change that you will notice a big difference when you miss a morning. I implemented this routine myself many, many (geeze too many manys) years ago and it does work.
Chew your food.
Okay, so your stomach doesn't have teeth. Now that we have that out of the way, digestion starts in the mouth. It could also be said it starts with your eyes and nose since seeing or smelling tasty food can make you salivate, which is the first stage of digestion. Your salivary glands produce an enzyme called amylase. Amylase begins the breakdown process to aid the secondary enzymes in the stomach, but if you're not chewing your food until it's liquid, the amylase is not able to complete this first crucial stage in digestion. Just think about it like a cow chewing cud, that ole cow just lazily chews and chews and chews until that grass turns into to a green smoothie. Well, maybe the cow thing isn't great for morale, but you get what I mean.
Don't drink liquids while you eat.
When the properly chewed morsels make their way into the stomach, the hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and secondary enzymes begin their work of breaking the food even more and killing harmful organisms before they get to the rest of your body. Drinking liquids with your meal dilutes these enzymes and makes digestion much less effective. Always drink water 1/2 hour or more before or after a meal, but not during the meal. If you need a quick swish to clean the pipes, then that's fine, but no more than that while eating or you'll douse the digestive flames. And by digestive flames - I'm not referring to heartburn (who does that help?), I'm referring to the energy of the available enzymes to process the food.
Only eat when you are hungry.
How often do many people actually feel true hunger? In our modern world with any kind of food, drink or snack in arms reach any time of day, most people probably would view their stomach growling as some sort of strange seizure. This blessing of abundance can also be a curse. While it's not necessary to be in full growl mode to partake in a meal, waiting until at least you feel hungry will improve the action of the enzymes and stomach acid. If you're poor tummy is constantly full of food, it never has a chance to get ready for the next batch, it's always in overdrive and can't possibly keep up with the enzyme levels needed to process a consistently full stomach.
Don't eat until you burst.
Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs so we pile our plates high and deep ready to dive in, but quickly discover we can't eat it all. The compulsion to pack it in so as not to waste is very strong in many people, and while it is a very noble and sweet sentiment, this brand of thinking has been the downfall of many digestive tracts. Consider a doggy bag to take home if your in a restaurant or if left overs aren't appealing to you, then start a compost pile so the uneaten food can at least be incorporated back into the earth (instead of a trash bag.)
Similarly to eating when you're not hungry, stuffing yourself will render the same results: Not enough enzymes to take on that much food and no elbow room to get the job done properly. When this happens food doesn't get processed or broken down completely, bits get left behind and can lead to bacterial or yeast growths and cause unnecessary suffering. If it means you start with smaller portions so you're not tempted to fill your tank to it's fullest capacity then it's worth a try, or start slowing down your eating so your brain can catch up with your stomach in time.
Okay, so you're armed with some super easy tips to improve your digestion that don't cost a penny, don't involve chemicals, and you didn't have to make one dietary change in food. Wasn't that fun!
P.S. Don't think you're off the hook, we'll work on the food & supplement factor for digestion in another article.
Now get out there and chew your food!
(1) National Center for Biotechnology Information pmc/articles/PMC2694720/ Serotonin in the Gastrointestinal Tract