By now it’s common knowledge that our gut health is crucial for our overall health and well-being. The internet is inundated with articles touting the benefits of eating probiotic-rich foods, soaking your nuts and drinking apple cider vinegar shots daily to improve your gut health.
The plethora of information, recipes, and resources that are available are outstanding, BUT is all this advice enough? What happens when you implement all of the dietary suggestions out there and your digestion has not improved?
If this is your situation, then it is time to pay attention to not only WHAT you eat but HOW. The state of being you are in, the environment you eat in, the thoughts you have towards foods—all these things affect your digestion and assimilation. You could be eating the healthiest meal in the world but if you’re not eating properly, then bloating, acid reflux, constipation, and other discomforts can still persist.
So today I want to share with you 2 non-food things that are essential for optimizing gut health.
Chewing your Food
One of the first things to ask yourself when trying to optimize your gut health is, “Am I a fast, medium or slow eater?”. If you answered “slow” then good for you, but you’re an anomaly. The majority of us will answer “fast.”
It’s not your fault, we are living in a time where there’s is an epidemic of speed. Our society pushes for fast internet, fast cars, fast workouts, fast shopping, and fast food. Now you don’t have to be getting food from the drive-through for you to be a “fast eater.” Many of us scarf down food even while we are at home and before we know it within a matter of minutes the food is gone, our stomachs are bloated and we want to curl up into a ball to relieve the pain, sound familiar?
This habit of scarfing down food though can be one of the main reasons why you have gut problems. When you eat fast you’re likely to be ingesting large particles of food which do not belong in the stomach. These large particles require a lot more stomach acid to break down into liquid form to then send down your intestines.
After a while your body gets worn out and simply can not produce enough acid resulting in large particles of food sitting in your stomach putrefying, causing bloating and gas. There is a solution to this and it is simple–CHEW YOUR FOOD!
How do you chew properly? First off, don’t put too much in your mouth, this will lead to larger particles being swallowed before it’s really ready to go down. Second, chew your small bite until its liquid. This will coat the food with enzymes found in your saliva that will start the digestive process and make it easier for your stomach to break down. Third, take your time before you put another bite of food in your mouth, the food isn’t going anywhere.
This seems so simple but you will be amazed how simply eating slowly and chewing your food will change how your digestion feels.
Eating when Relaxed
In our fast-paced modern world stress can become a chronic state of being. We are always running from one place to the next, thinking about bills that need to be paid, work that needs to get done and children that need attending too. Many of us take this stress with us into the dining experience.
Eating in a stress state will have a negative impact on your bodies ability to digest. When you are stressed, your body is in the sympathetic nervous system response state, aka the fight or flight response. At this time the body sends all its blood to the limbs in preparation to run away from the saber-tooth tiger or the boss with the checklist of to do’s. During this time blood flow to your digestive organs is dramatically reduced and your body does not produce enough stomach acid or enzymes to break down the food.
After eating a meal in a stressed state, it can feel like there’s a rock sitting in your stomach. Well, this rock is your food, sitting in your stomach undigested waiting for a better time, when you are relaxed, to digest.
If you want to optimize your digestion, get out of the stress response state. How you do that is by deep breathing. This is a simple and free yet very effective technique to switch your body into the parasympathetic response where it can digest and assimilate the nutrients from your food.
Before each meal close your eyes and place your right hand on your heart and your left on your belly. Take a big inhale breathe through the nose filling up the lung with air and open mouth exhale as you sigh it out. Then close the lips and take 5 deep breathe in and out of your nostrils. It takes about 1 minute of your time and gives you great results in your digestion.
In conjunction with a healthy diet, these tips will surely put you on the path of feeling great in your body!
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Photo: Chloe Murdoch