In last month’s newsletter, we discussed the importance of good digestion to many vital functions in your body, including immune health and hormone production (missed it? Click here to catch up). Most people experience some degree of tummy troubles regularly and there are hundreds of products out there marketed to aid in digestion. While digestion aids are sometimes necessary, the innate triggers for digestion are often overlooked. Here are the four simple ways to trigger your natural digestion process.
Chew, Chew, Chew
This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but most people eat much faster than is ideal for food breakdown, even if they feel that they are chewing sufficiently. Next time you’re eating, pay attention to the consistency of your food when chewing. It should be a paste without any solid food particles before swallowing. Each mouthful of food should be chewed and swallowed before you add in another forkful. Swallowing large food particles is a sure way to trigger gas, bloating and indigestion so it is essential for symptom relief that proper chewing habits are in place.
Eat When Relaxed
How often do you find yourself eating while having a stressful day at work? Or rushing to get breakfast in before you’re late? Eating while feeling rushed, stressed, upset or anything other than relaxed puts us in a fight-or-flight state, meaning that your sympathetic nervous system is activated and preparing your body for survival. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, your blood pressure increases, your heart beats faster and blood flow will be redirected to your extremities-literally preparing your body to run. The digestion process is stopped while the sympathetic nervous system is activated as it is deemed a non-essential function during survival. Unfortunately, a large percentage of us are constantly in this state from mental stress. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing right before eating. If you really struggle with relaxing in your environment, consider more easily digested meals such as blended soups or smoothies. This scenario would be a time to stay away from the salads!
Give Your Food Some Attention
Its common practice to eat meals while distracted. Too often we are scarfing down meals while working, watching TV, reading or reading Facebook. Even a small degree of distraction can hamper the digestion process. Really pay attention to your meal; take in the colours, smell, and taste. Savour each bite. If you’re used to multi-tasking while eating, this may take some getting used to and you may feel fidgety at first. Monotasking is a rare thing these days, try to enjoy it!
Prepare Your Food with Love…and Interest!
You’ve probably heard the saying that digestion starts in the mouth, but the truth is, digestion starts with your eyes, nose and mind. Think about what happens when you are at your favorite restaurant when your favorite dish placed in front of you. For a moment, your sole focus is on this wonderful dish in front of you. Your eyes are taking in the sight and colours (because let’s be honest, professionally prepared food is generally more visually appealing than what we prepare for ourselves), you can smell the delicious ingredients and your mind is anticipating the wonderful flavours. You’re basically in food heaven and you KNOW it’s going to be good. Your mouth even may start watering before you take your first bite. Now think about your reaction when you’re about to eat your pre-prepared lunch or quickly thrown together dinner. Are you truly looking forward to what you’re about to eat? Are your taste buds anticipating the flavours? This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think it’s safe to say a lot of us aren’t that excited about what we prepare for ourselves. We’re busy, busy, busy and trying to come up with new and interesting lunches (or snacks, or dinners…) each week feels time consuming and sometimes overwhelming. Another common thing I hear is eating certain foods because “they’re healthy”. If you’re bored to tears with your food, chewing each bite without savouring and rushing to choke it down, it doesn’t matter how healthy the food is- you’re not going to break it down as well as something you truly enjoy. Choose foods that you love, real foods, and prepare it in a way that is appealing to you in taste, smell and sight. This is a sure way to fire up your natural digestion process.
Stay tuned for the April newsletter where I’ll be sharing foods and preparation techniques that can help digestion.
Jessica Mosiuk, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
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