Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Having efficient and comfortable digestion is an important key to good health. The old adage ‘We are what we eat’ is true, but perhaps truer is ‘We are what we can digest and absorb’. If your digestion is sluggish, or too quick, then it may be likely that you are not gaining the vital nutrients your body needs, from the food you eat. A bowel movement, that is easy to pass, at least once daily is key. If you suffer from wind and bloating, chances are your digestive system could use a hand.
Below are some helpful hints to help improve digestion:
Chew, chew, chew your food! – the mouth is the point where food is broken down (that’s what our teeth are for!) and mixed with digestive enzymes in saliva. Ideally we should chew every mouthful about until it is liquid. Whilst this may seem time-consuming it really is a goal worth reaching for. If you can’t manage that, simply chewing more than you already are usually helps. If you do not chew your food properly this means that your digestive system has to work much harder to break down food, therefore using more of your daily energy for digesting food, rather than for repair and healing, or growth.
Avoid gut irritants – these include fried or burnt foods, alcohol, coffee, fizzy drinks, artificial preservatives and colourings, spicy foods, tobacco, sugar, refined carbohydrates (white flour, bread and pasta). All animal products are harder to digest and are best kept to a minimum or avoided if you have a digestive problem. Dairy and wheat tend to be mucus forming which may add to any digestive problem and negatively impacts on the uptake of vitamins and minerals from the digestive tract. Junk foods and sugar can destroy intestine-friendly bacteria.
Drink plenty of fluid – our bodies cannot function well if they are dehydrated. If you are constipated, sufficient fluid is vital. Drink 6 to 8 glassed of filtered per day, along with fruit or herbal teas, and diluted fresh vegetable juices.
Eat plenty of fibre – studies of the diets of certain people in Africa show they have far fewer bowel problems, probably due to their high fibre diet. Eat plenty of brown rice, rye, quinoa, millet and oats, as well as lots of vegetables, having some raw. Fibre helps to increase transit time, balance blood sugar levels, stabilises cholesterol, reduces build up of toxins, yeast and pathogenic bacteria, and binds and deactivates carcinogens.
If you are not having regular bowel movements - try 1 tbsp of linseeds (flaxseeds) soaked overnight in a glass of water. Drink the fluid and seeds in the morning. Do this for a few days until regular bowel movements are established. Also eating 6 stewed prunes (leave in boiled water for 10 mins) before each meal may also help the bowels to move.
Practical tips - Make sure you are fully relaxed before eating, and take time to eat. Don’t eat standing up or on the run and concentrate on eating – don’t do 2 things at once (e.g. read, look at your phone or watch TV when eating). Don’t rush up immediately after a meal - relaxing for 20 to 30 minutes after a meal really helps the digestive process. Sit up straight during and after a meal as bad posture cramps your digestive system. Taking a few deep breaths before a meal, and after, is a useful way to reduce stress and let go of gut-aggravating tension. Inhale deeply through your nose and out through your mouth slowly.