6 tips to improve your digestion
While choosing the right foods can lead to big improvements in digestion, it’s also important to consider your eating habits. Here are some tips to help
Prepare and eat your meals at home
Food preparation should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. Get the whole family involved and try new recipes. Thinking about the meal, seeing the food and smelling the aromas during preparation all prepare your body for digestion, getting your digestive juices and enzymes flowing in advance of eating. Just think about how your saliva starts to flow when you smell a pot of stew cooking.
Chew your food well
The digestive process starts in the mouth, so chewing your food well is important. It breaks foods into smaller pieces and mixes them with salivary enzymes.
Eat smaller meals
Don’t overeat. Eating smaller meals, perhaps more frequently, will help you avoid overburdening your digestive system. Don’t eat a very large meal late at night, so you can properly digest your food before you go to bed.
Give thanks for your food, savour the meal and be mindful
Give thanks, say a prayer or do a blessing. Slow down and savour the flavours, the textures, the aromas and the experience of eating. Be mindful and think about the food you’re eating. I once did a mindfulness exercise where we were guided through the experience of eating a single raisin over the course of five minutes. It is something that will stay will me always. First we looked at the raisin, then we touched it and smelled it. Then we put it in our mouths and very, very slowly chewed it, attending to its texture, juices and sweetness. This is such a contrast to the way we usually gulp our food down.
Sit down to eat, and make it a family gathering
Definitely sit down to eat, and eat at the table with family and friends, not in front of the TV. Keep the conversation positive and light. I love this idea offered by fellow nutritionist and good friend Robin Nielson: she suggests that just lighting a candle can be calming and put you in a digestive mode. In The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood offers this suggestion for feeling less alone when you eat by yourself: remove extra chairs from the table and put photos of loved ones nearby where you can see them.
Don’t eat when you’re highly stressed or anxious
Chronic stress, anxiety and depression reduce your production of hydrochloric acid and lower levels of secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity in the gastrointestinal tract. This will impair your digestion. And because poor digestion leads to nutrient depletions that make it more difficult to handle stress, it creates a vicious cycle. If you need to eat and do feel stressed or anxious, take a few minutes to breathe deeply or practice other relaxation techniques before your meal. Also consider listening to relaxing music while you eat.
Excerpted and/or used with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. The Anti-anxiety Food Solution, Trudy Scott.