Bloating, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, cramps, belching….when you think about, there is ALOT that can go south (literally) when dealing with the digestive tract. Fortunately, with the proper knowledge and real food as a staple in your diet, digestive woes can be reduced or eliminated. A helpful way to view the digestive tract is to think of it as a “North to South” process. If things aren’t going correctly up North, it will be bad news for you down the line.
Lets start with Step One, the most “northern” part of digestion, YOUR BRAIN! Ever wonder why you can’t eat if you are upset, or get stomach distress when you are nervous? This is because digestion is a para-sympathetic process. If you are stressed, distracted, or simply not sitting and relaxed to enjoy a meal, your body may be switched into the sympathetic nervous system, and you may be setting yourself up for disaster.
- Turn off all electronic devices during meal time
- Take time to breath before each meal
- Give thanks for the food you are about to consume
- Never eat on the run, always allow for sufficient time to digest
- Eat in a comfortable environment
Step Two, YOUR MOUTH! You have been hearing this all your life and I repeat, “Chew Your Food!“. Chewing allows the food to be physically broken down and takes the stress off of your stomach. Just as importantly, while you chew, salivary enzymes are released to break down food, specifically carbohydrates. Properly chewing your food enables you to enjoy the flavors and textures of your meal and slow down, allowing your body to recognize when it is full.
- Put your fork down between bites!
- Practice counting your chews and then mimic the action
- Allow sufficient time to eat
- Use smaller utensils and take smaller bites
Step Three, YOUR STOMACH! It is responsible for the “burn” and “churn” action of digestion. The stomach chemically “burns” food by producing hydrochloric acid and other enzymes and mechanically “churns” food to help physically break down the food. Sufficient stomach acid is a MUST! It protects the body from pathogens, allows proper absorption of minerals, helps properly break down proteins, and prepares food to enter into the smaller intestine. Antacids can worsen digestion and simply mask a symptom of improper digestion.
- Do not over eat, allow room in your stomach to digest
- Eat real whole foods, they are easier for your body to break down
- Eat fermented and/or raw foods with each meal
- Supplement with hydrochloric acid or enzymes if necessary
- Stimulate your digestion naturally with bitters
Next Week, we will go further down the tract!