Something that I’ve been meaning to talk about in depth for quite a long time now is digestion. What always held me back was the fact that unpleasant circumstances caused by indigestion are pretty TMI, and the last thing I want to do is to make people feel uncomfortable when reading my content. And I figured that because there are already so many articles and videos by professionals and experts out there, I might as well stray from the subject.
What motivated me to jump back to the subject was finding out that solutions are pretty easy to find because indigestion is such a common problem. Not to say that it should be, of course, and I want to further endorse that holding a giant block in your stomach that makes you feel sluggish and uncomfortable is not at all healthy and shouldn’t be normal.
For a while, I suffered a LOT of digestive problems. I’d be bloated for a week or more without any prevalent cause, which would lead me to over-exercise, under-eat and adapt other habits that only worsened my conditions. After endless amounts of research and examination, I discovered a few common and not-so-common solutions that have made a world of a difference for me. I’m definitely not perfect and I have my fair share of bad days, but overall, I feel a million times better now than I did several years ago. So voila, here are my tips on healing your digestion!
- Stay hydrated. I find that no matter the quantities of fibrous foods or how healthy I eat, my stomach gives me such a hard time if I don’t drink enough water. It totally makes sense, because our body is mainly composed of water–without an adequate supply of the good ol’ H2O, basic bodily functions will slow down dramatically, or even stop all together. Drinking plenty of water enables gastric emptying and prevents any acid reflux by refilling any fluid losses. Note one extremely important factor: never, ever, chug water–especially ice cold water–while eating, as the water will interfere with the stomach acid and bile that digest the food. Whether or not you prefer to drink something alongside a meal is up to you, but it is best to sip consistently without slurping anything too quickly. I prefer to drink water before my meals, but drinking after a meal also has its own benefits.
- Cut out all negativity. By negativity, I’m talking about anything and everything that currently gives you unnecessary stress and anxiety. Nobody wants that, plus the physical or mental stress we inflict on ourselves can hinder our digestive systems in so many ways. In some cases, stress activates the sympathetic nervous system in the “fight or flight” response, but deactivates other cycles of the body such as digestion to prepare for the threat we see in front of us, thereby contributing to constipation. In other situations, people under a great deal of stress may reduce their sleep and physical activity and increase their intake of unhealthy foods, which also cause indigestion.
- Repeat with intolerances. The first thing that nutritionists and dietitians recommend for their clients who suffer any bloating, gas or digestion troubles is an elimination diet. That’s not to say that you should immediately cut out everything, but do look at what you’re eating right now and evaluate everything to see what could be a possible irritant. Some common digestive pests are dairy, gluten, soy, legumes, simple sugars and artificial sweeteners.
- Incorporate more physical activity into your lifestyle. According to a study conducted in Hong Kong, adolescent students who performed at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activities had a lower risk of constipation than those who did not. By moving your body, you However, any physical activity, whether walking, jogging, biking or going for a midday swim, will do more than suffice.
- Look into anti-inflammation. While most foods that promote inflammation are those that we’d easily figure are unhealthy for us (fast food, vegetable oils, fried foods, etc.), certain individuals are very sensitive towards other kinds of foods that are found in almost anything–even healthy foods! For instance, gluten, dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts, alcohol, sugar, red meat and caffeine are many common culprits of inflammation that play a major role in many standard diets. Even for me, I found myself experiencing many symptoms of indigestion and inflammation because of my overconsumption of peanut butter. There is no set standard on how much of a certain food anyone can eat, but simply experimenting with the elimination-and-reintroduction procedure can help alleviate your symptoms by a milestone.
- Find home remedies. Ever heard of mixing a spoonful of baking soda and water, or drinking a glass of prune juice to remedy any digestive issues? Depending on the specific problem–constipation, heartburn, etc.–there are many solutions to solving any discomfort within several days or even a few hours. In my opinion, it is better to make long-term and more long-lasting life changes to improve your digestion, but if, say, you overate a bit at a holiday party or all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and are experiencing indigestion, then you can easily relieve yourself of the unpleasantness with any homemade solutions.
- Drink your food and eat your water. The ancient Chinese Taoist religion that abides by this mantra. I know that drinking food and chewing water may sound really out of place at first, but just take the time to think about it. It’s common knowledge that chewing our food is extremely important, but the question is, do we actually chew enough? Unfortunately, many of us follow extremely packed and hectic schedules that prevent us from savoring our food, hence scarfing down a sandwich or an energy bar has become second nature. This isn’t to say that we should be chewing a single bite of food hundreds of times, but it’s important to make sure that whatever you consume is liquified enough to pass through your gut easily. As for eating your water, this simply means that the food should ideally be mixed with as much of your saliva as possible. Keeping your mouth hydrated before your meals initiates enzymes of saliva production to reinforce happy chewing.
- Re-divide your portions. Indian buffets are my digestion’s worst enemy. Every time I visit any buffet or event where I know a ton of food will be provided, I purposely choose to save this opportunity to eat one ginormous meal like a boa constrictor. However, the aftermath is absolutely awful: my stomach is bloated, my digestion is blocked, and my energy is down the drain. I know that my digestion is sensitive because my stomach takes even the longest time to digest two cups of broccoli, a large sweet potato or a serving of beans. From experience, I feel the best if I eat four or five meals a day with at least three hours in between each. The stomach can only take up to a liter of food, with four liters if expanded to its full extent, and two liters being the average. Overeating puts a lot of pressure on your digestive system, thereby causing physical discomfort. It’s normal to have a food baby, so as long as you don’t experience a great deal of pain that interferes with your basic tasks, such as walking or standing up.
- Make sure you’re getting in the correct amount of fiber. Being a sweet potato lover, incorporating plenty of fiber into my diet is a piece of cake. For most Americans? Not so much. While the average intake for American adults is 16 grams, the USDA’s recommended fiber amount for women is 25 grams and the intake for men is 38 grams. Eating disorders, low carb diets, juice cleanses and extreme fasting are usually very low in fiber, but most health professionals blame the nation’s excess consumption of meat and inadequate consumption of vegetables. Protein is the building block of the body, but without fiber, the protein gets blocked in your system and thereby cannot function properly. Because humans cannot digest fiber, it acts as a cleansing tool for your digestion. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of fiber: soluble, which absorbs water in the intestines to slow the rate of glucose absorption, and insoluble, which pushes waste out of the colon. For an easy estimation, try to rotate eating 3-5 cups of vegetables with 1-2 cups of fruit and/or with 3-4 servings of whole grains a day–depending on your mood, you can switch out the portions and different kinds of produce.
- Rest adequately. Mentioned before when I talked about cutting out negativity, relaxation enables the parasympathetic nervous system to activate the digestive tract, otherwise known as “rest and digest”. Being in a constant state of stress and fear halts basic bodily functions to focus on the external problems at hand. Sleep deprivation and overexercise also weaken the parasympathetic nervous system since the body doesn’t receive sufficient recovery time. Plus, getting enough sleep and rest from physical activity both have heaps of their own benefits.
- If all else fails, seek a professional’s help. Occasionally, indigestion cannot be explained beyond the diet and the exercise. It is one symptom of many conditions that might require medical attention, which means that if none of the tips have worked for you, then seeing a medical professional for help is the best bet for solving any tummy troubles. Most likely, they might give you suggestions regarding food combining, FODMAPs, an elimination diet, or anything that you can experiment for yourself.
There you have it, all of my tips for the best digestion possible. Note that these are all tips that personally work and have always worked for me, and the guidelines for my body type might not necessarily parallel yours. Seriously, I see people eating nothing but fast food and never sleep, yet their health seems perfectly fine. It is important to experiment what works best for you and your well-being. Please let me know if I left out any ways to improve digestion, as well as other subjects that you want me to cover! ❤
What are your best tips for a healthy digestion? Know anyone who has the perfect digestion, yet follows NONE of these recommendations?