5 Tips to Improve Digestion Naturally
In the natural health field, we put a hell of a lot of significance on the gut.
Think about it - if the gut isn't working properly, your food isn't being digested as it should, which can create a bunch of consequent problems throughout the gastrointestinal system like fermentation, reflux, bloating, and unfavourable bacterial overgrowth which can affect our bowel function, hormone balance and energy. If digestion is compromised, so is nutrient absorption - which opens up a whole new realm of possible problems too long to list!
Gut problems are one of the most common things we see in the clinic, usually tied in with other issues... and usually have been there fora long time. So, we thought we'd cover our top 5 tips to improve your digestion naturally.
1. Avoid water up to 30 minutes before meals.
It's a household habit to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner up with a big glass of water. Water is amazing - but not so close to food. Water will dilute your stomach acid, so make sure you're not having big gulps of it before or during meals.
2. Don't drink tea either side of food.
That's right, folks! Tea has a chemical constituent in it called tannins. These tannins are what provide a lot of the therapeutic benefit in tea. They create a drying sensation on the tongue (also occurs with good red wine). These chemicals have a great antioxidant effect, but they bind to iron, rendering this essential mineral useless. So, if you're having tea either side of a meal, you're massively reducing the iron content of your food. (Though, this proves a useful tip for people with a genetic condition called haemochromatosis who need to reduce their iron intake).
3. Eat when you're hungry!
Seems too simple, but eating when you're hungry means that your digestive system is ready to rumble. This is part of the intuitive eating process, which we teach in our weight management programs.
4. Pay attention to your food and when you're eating.
It's pretty common to see busy people eating their food while rushing to get somewhere, sitting in traffic or even at their desks. Eating in a nice upright position creates a beautiful postural alignment for your food to pass undisturbed through the digestive system. While sitting upright in the car might not seem like the worst place to eat, I don't know many people that aren't experiencing some sort of stress response, even if very mild, while driving or attending to other matters. Your nervous system has two sides, and toggles between each depending on triggers. I'm sure you have heard of the fight and flight response, which is one side of the nervous system… but, have you heard of rest and digest? This is the opposing side of the nervous system, otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system. We need this side of the nervous system to be dominant so that our energy and blood goes into our internal organs. If you are stressed, your fight and flight response is activated, which takes blood and energy away from digestion, resulting in decreased capacity to digest food! So, take a deep breathe into your stomach and let it expand outwards. Then exhale deeply, for twice the amount of time that you inhaled. Repeat five times and you'll be consciously activating your sympathetic nervous system, and ready to eat!
5. Focus on plant-based proteins if you have sluggish digestion.
Plant-based proteins don't require as much acidity as meat to be broken down and digested. Plant-based proteins require a pH level of about 4 to be digested, as opposed to a pH level of 2 for meats. If you're feeling a bit sluggish, and if you're experiencing heartburn or reflux at night after a hearty meaty meal, consider swapping out the meat for plants and see what difference this might have. Sleeping on your left side will also assist any night-time reflux or heartburn sufferers.
Our biggest tip for absolutely everyone is...
Don't get used to your problems for too long!
If you're experiencing digestive issues, you are probably already aware of how hard it is to get help in orthodox medicine. I became a Naturopath because of the profound effect a Naturopath had in my life helping me with my gut problems when no one else could... and it wasn't for lack of trying - but I had simply exhausted the options of the medical system.