If you are looking for a way to solve constipation, you are not alone. While some medical professionals may just throw up their hands at the problem, deep down, you know that there are things that you can do with your diet to get your digestive system back in working order. Part of the way to do that is to avoid any foods that are triggering your constipation or taking a toll on your digestive system, making the problem worse. In our last blog post, we covered three categories of foods that you should avoid; in this blog, we will focus on habits to avoid while attempting to heal your Constipation.
4. Avoid eating foods in large volumes
Eat instead: Smaller portions at more frequent intervals
It’s very easy to fall into the habit of eating too much food at one sitting, but your digestive system will let you know that it’s unhappy in one way or another. Eating a large volume of food puts a big load on your digestive system all at once, and it simply won’t be able to operate as efficiently as it could.
Make a fist and look at your hand. That’s about the size of your stomach. Compare that to the size of the pile of food on your plate (allowing for some of the food to pack together more tightly after it’s chewed up). If it’s close, congratulations! If your fist is dwarfed by the size of the meal you’re about to eat, consider changing your habits to eating smaller portions at regular intervals. Your digestion will thank you for it.
5. Avoid eating food that you eat too fast or don’t chew thoroughly
Eat instead: Food that you chew slowly and completely, sitting down at a table
There are people who pride themselves on being able to scarf down food fast. There are other people who don’t even notice how fast they eat, but others are constantly observing their empty plate and remarking, “Wow, how’d you eat that so fast?” There are others who are always on the go, so they eat on the go—they graze on a few bites of this and that all day, eat lunch at their desk, and eat dinner in the car. Stress and hurry tie their stomach in knots as they go on at a frantic pace.
Does it matter if you chew thoroughly and eat slowly? To your digestion, it does. The act of chewing is considered to be “mechanical digestion.” In other words, you are mechanically breaking down food into smaller pieces until it becomes a liquid called chyme, at which point, you swallow, and your stomach takes it from there. Many people never get to the stage where all the food in their mouth could be considered liquid. It’s more like the texture of chunky cottage cheese when they swallow, and this makes the stomach’s job impossible.
There is also another extremely important process going on while you chew, and that’s called “chemical digestion.” Chewing triggers your mouth to release saliva, which contains enzymes that begin chemically breaking down the particles of food into their respective micronutrients. Your teeth could never break down food at the molecular level, but your saliva does. After you swallow, the hydrochloric acid in your stomach continues this chemical digestion process. But if you wolf down your food, you’re skipping the chemical digestion step that your saliva would have accomplished. So does that matter? Can’t your stomach just do the complete job on its own without the help of saliva? Well, your saliva is there for a reason. It’s like going into the carwash. You can pay more for the carwash to dispense a sudsy presoak product – or you can skip it and risk that your car will come out not completely clean at the end. Which do you want?
In other words, if you don’t chew thoroughly, you could be missing out on vital nutrients and putting an extra toll on your digestive system at the same time.
Chewing breaks down food. The more we chew, the more saliva we produce. Saliva contains salivary amylase, which breaks down complex carbohydrates. If complex carbohydrates don’t get broken down in the mouth, they don’t get broken down anywhere else. This leads to all forms of indigestion, including acid reflux, gas, bloating, cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
Chewing thoroughly helps you to slow down, but it’s also important to be intentional about mentally taking a breather during meals. Yes, you have to survive. Yes, you have a million things to do. And yes, you know you’re killing yourself with all this stress. So just stop it. Give yourself the permission to let mealtimes be a lull, a sweet retreat of calm and peace in your day.
6. Avoid eating foods that you haven’t given thanks for
Do instead: Practice gratitude
You don’t have to be religious to cultivate gratitude. Try taking a brief, quiet moment to reflect on where the food came from that you’re about to eat and be thankful for it. You can feel thankful for the existence of such a food on earth, thankful for all the people who worked in agriculture and the rest of the supply chain to get it to you, thankful for the good that this food will do your body, and thankful for the conversation and relationships with the people you’re about to share the meal with.
Will it help? How does your digestive system even know whether thankful thoughts went through your mind before eating? Don’t take my word for it. Simply experiment with yourself. Try setting aside 7 days to pause with thankfulness for everything you eat. See if anything in your digestion changes. I’m confident you’ll see a difference. Share what you find out about yourself in the comments below!
Whether you are trying to solve Constipation or another digestive issue, contact Russell Mariani for a consultation about your health. Especially if your issue has begun to interfere with your life, you owe it to yourself to see if Russell can help. Also, pick up a copy of Russell’s book, Healing Digestive Illness, for a deeper look at how to solve your digestive issue, available exclusively at healingdigestiveillness.com.