If you’ve ever experienced any digestive issues, you know how unpleasant they can be. Symptoms include everything from from fatigue after eating, bloating and gas, heartburn, acid indigestion, and acid reflux. Luckily there are a few simple steps we can take to help our body digest at its best.
Take it slow and don’t rush your meal. The stomach has difficulty producing the acid it needs to digest food if you’re anxious or rushed. Taking a few deep breaths before eating will help you relax.
1. Chew it over. Properly chewing makes it easier for your stomach to do its job. Chewing also helps you relax and enjoy the tastes, textures, and aromas of your meal.
2. Stop when you’ve had enough. Eating slowly allows enough time for the digestive system to communicate satiety to the brain. Overeating slows digestion and encourages bad habits.
3. Ditch distractions. You can’t focus on your food if you are watching tv or reading. Try listening to quiet music or having a pleasant conversation instead.
4. Don’t drink and eat. Limit the amount of fluids consumed with meals to approximately 4 oz. or less at room temperature. Drink your eight glasses of water between meals. If you’re thirsty around mealtime, drink no later than half an hour before and no sooner than half an hour after eating. Drinking fluids with meals dilutes digestive juices and impairs digestion.
5. Keep it warm. Cold beverages numb the stomach’s acid-producing glands which inhibits digestion for several hours, so ditch cold drinks at mealtime.
6. Say no to caffeine. Coffee and tea act as appetite suppressants and can stimulate stomach emptying before food is completely digested. This could prevent absorption of important nutrients.
7. Get help from a pro. Digestive enzymes are supplements that help break down foods. Enzymes may contain ingredients such as papain (from papaya), bromelain (from pineapple), amylase (digests starch), HCl (hydrochloric acid for protein digestion)*, bile (breaks down fats), and others. *Avoid enzymes containing HCl if you experience heartburn or if have an ulcer.
8. Combine wisely. Mixing certain foods together may interfere with digestion. Carbohydrates are first digested by alkaline juices in the mouth, whereas proteins are broken down by acidic juices in the stomach. Eating starches and proteins together neutralizes digestive juices. Consequently, your meal will take much longer to digest. The sweeter or more refined the carbohydrate (white bread, cookies), the more it interferes with stomach acid. The heavier the protein (like red meat), the longer it takes to digest. Separating starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes) from proteins (meat, eggs, fish) improves digestion, frees up your energy, and speeds up metabolism!