So many of us are focussed on what we eat and obsessively follow a particular diet whether it be Paleo, Gluten-free, Ketogenic, low GI, Blood type diet, Mediterranean, The Zone, Raw Food, Weight Watchers or Atkins…. in an effort to stay healthy and well. Whilst it is vitally important that we make healthy food choices (and what these are can vary depending on individual needs), we also need to look at the way we eat.
In my 13 years as a practising Naturopath, I would have to say that most people I meet have digestive complaints whether it’s bloating, flatulence, constipation, heartburn, reflux, indigestion or something more serious such as Inflammatory Bowel disease. Many have experienced these symptoms for so long that they consider it to be normal and never think of doing anything about it. There’s nothing a laxative or antacid can’t fix after all, is there?! Many don’t realise however, that sometimes these symptoms are really easy to alleviate if they look at modifying “how” they are eating.
Eating on the run, drinking iced cold water at meal times, overeating and scoffing down a meal- are just a few big no-no’s that people do often. Read on to find out about some simple ways you could modify the way you eat to help improve your digestion.
Sarita's Top 10 Picks for Proper Digestion:
1. Don’t Overeat
Never eat until you have a “full” stomach. The breakdown of food and assimilation of nutrients is a lot more efficient when we eat small amounts of food more often.
2. Chew Your Food
It is essential that food is chewed properly in the mouth, as this is where digestion starts. Saliva (an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrate) that is produced in the mouth needs time to act on carbohydrate in food. If it hasn't had time to, it creates a bigger task further along the digestive tract.
3. Don’t Eat when you are Stressed
Digestion is best when eating in a relaxed environment. When we are stressed, our body puts all its energy into dealing with this and digestion becomes secondary. If we eat during these stressful times, food can sit and ferment in the gut and cause symptoms, such as bloating and flatulence.
4. Drink Water Away from Meals
Although it is common practice in restaurants to be given chilled water before a meal (in Australia anyway), it is not at all recommended for the proper breakdown of food and assimilation of nutrients. Drinking chilled water not only dilutes your digestive secretions, it causes contraction in the digestive tract, thereby weakening digestion. It is far more beneficial drinking water that is either warm or at room temperature 20-30 minutes away from meals. Instead of water at meal times, herbal or green tea is a great option, or anything that has a bitter taste that will help to stimulate digestion. My favourites at or around meal times are Digest and Oolong tea.
5. Include Bitter Tasting Foods and Drinks in your Diet
The bitter taste in foods and drinks stimulates the secretion of digestive juices in the digestive tract. Some bitter tasting drinks that can assist with digestion include: plain lemon/lime juice in water; lemon, lime and bitters; or BBTC’s Green, Oolong, Dandylicious or Digest tea.
Following is a list of common bitter foods that are recommended to include in your diet, the majority of which exhibit other flavours too:
Bitter greens- endive, rocket and radish leaf
Rye, amaranth and quinoa
Citrus and citrus peel
6. Avoid Drinking Iced Drinks and Cold Foods
Cold foods and drinks cause contraction in the digestive system, reducing the secretion of digestive juices. As a result, food can be left to sit and ferment in the gut without it being broken down by digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. This can be an implicating factor in symptoms such as bloating, flatulence and constipation.
7. Avoid Eating Late at Night
Our digestive capability is greatest in the first half of the day from 5am until 3pm and lowest at night when many of us in Australia have our largest meals. It is much better for us to eat larger meals earlier in the day when our bodies will break food down and assimilate nutrients more efficiently. Eating late when the digestive secretion are low means that food can sit and ferment in the gut and cause symptoms of bloating, flatulence and a “heavy” or “groggy” feeling the next day.
8. Aim for a Balanced Diet with both Raw and Cooked foods
If you have weak digestion, it is best to include both raw and cooked foods in your diet. An emphasis on just raw foods can weaken digestion even further and lead to many other signs of deficiency and ill health. Warming methods of cooking, such as baking or stewing, where the food takes a long time to cook, can help to support digestion as the breakdown of food is easier and absorption of nutrients more efficient.
9. Use Aromatic Herbs and Spices in your Cooking
If you have weak digestion, using aromatic herbs and spices in your cooking can help to stimulate digestion. The smell and taste can help to stimulate appetite and the secretion of digestive juices, making the breakdown of food and assimilation of nutrients more efficient. Beneficial culinary herbs to support digestion include rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, black pepper, marjoram, cumin, fennel, paprika, chilli, garlic and ginger. Some BBTC teas with warming aromatic spices that can support digestion are Chai and Ginger Zing.
10. Include Fermented Foods in the Diet
Foods such as Kombucha, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and miso are all fermented foods that contain high levels of probiotics that help to promote good bowel health.
We have a collection of four of my favourite teas to support digestion in BYRON TUMMY TONIC that includes Digest, Oolong, Dandylicious and Ginger Zing.