In the busy, hustle and bustle world we all in live in, taking the time to eat is often brushed to the way side. Instead, we feverishly cram down a snack in the car while driving, or munch down luke warm leftovers at our desk while responding to emails. Immediately after, we might feel bloated, crampy, gassy or all of the above. Because digestive discomfort has become the norm for so many people, it's not uncommon for poor digestion to go unrecognized and untreated. So, how can we improve our digestion?
Good food hygiene.
What does that even mean? As in don't eat finger food with dirty hands or put your elbows on the table? Well not exactly - although eating with clean hands is always a good start! Sitting with just your meal without distractions like the phone or T.V is the first step to healthy food hygiene. Taking the time to smell the aromas of your meal and considering how the food is nourishing your body will begin allowing your saliva to produce the enzymes (like amylases and lipases) needed to begin breaking down nutrients during chewing. Turns out, salivating from the smell of freshly baked apple pie at grandma's house is actually a really good thing.
Chewing completely and eating slowly.
I cannot stress this enough. Inhaling food like it's the last meal you'll ever have is a poor habit that can lead to digestive distress. Eating absent mindedly and/or not making time for a meal is usually what leads to eating excessively quickly. Mastication is the first step to digestion, and signals for the pancrease to begin secreting enzymes needed to facilitate digestion further along the G.I. Plus, chewing promotes satiety and can help prevent over-eating. ** Pro tip: chew your smoothie or soup! It will help you stay fuller longer.
Include something bitter in your meal
There are many take aways that have been observed from the Mediterranean Diet, one of which is beginning the meal with a salad. Bitter, leafy greens also help stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes and promote better digestive quality. Even enjoying some aromatic bitters in a beverage can be helpful in achieving this effect.
While these are seemingly obvious concepts, it is often the first place I start when working with my clients. If we aren't properly digesting, then we aren't properly absorbing our food which can lead to a myriad of health problems, and many nutrient deficiencies. A way I like to eat with my family and friends is to offer something we are grateful for, before diving into our meals. This not only gives us time to reflect, but creates space for seeing, smelling and anticipating our meal. Plus it promotes positive mood and is an exercise of mindfulness. Of course there are many more aspects that go into optimal digestion, but these are a few simple ways most people can do to improve digestive quality and minimize digestive discomfort.