By Carla Oates
Good digestion depends on more than making healthy food choices. That’s why it’s often said that we are not only what we eat, but what we digest.
Eating too fast, too much, too late at night, or eating when we’re not even hungry can all disrupt our digestion, reduce our ability to absorb nutrients from our food and slow our metabolism. Likewise, eating while stressed, upset or distracted can slow our digestion, causing imbalances and symptoms such as bloating, gas, low energy, foggy thinking and inflammation.
Here’s how to set the stage for optimal digestion which in turn can help support a faster metabolism, better nutrient absorption, deep sleep, clear thinking, better moods and immunity, radiant skin and best of all, more energy.
Begin your morning with a big glass of warm water with a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to get your digestive juices going. Stay well-hydrated throughout the day by sipping herbal teas that support digestion (think ginger, peppermint, fennel, dandelion and chamomile) along with filtered water to keep things moving—don’t forget one of our Inner Beauty Boosts for an extra dose of skin-loving goodness. Aim for around two litres of H2O a day but avoid chilled or icy cold drinks and don’t drink too close to mealtimes—Ayurvedic practitioners believe these dampen your digestive fire. An hour before bedtime, brew a calming chai latte using SLEEP™ Inner Beauty Support to soothe your nervous system.
Eat with your eyes first
Making your food look appealing actually stimulates your salivary glands. This initial phase of digestion—called the cephalic phase—can be triggered by the mere thought of food along with smell, sight and taste. Begin by noting the colours and aromas to kickstart your digestive juices well before you take your first bite.
Make a date with your plate
No more eating on the run! Set the table (or clear your desk) and plan to sit down and eat your meal mindfully. That means no screens, no meetings or reading at the same time. Take a few deep breaths to calm your parasympathetic nervous system before you begin. Then send silent thanks to all those who help grow, make, transport and sell the food you are about to enjoy. Savour it.
Remember to chew each mouthful 30-50 times until it’s almost liquid to help your meal mix with salivary and digestive enzymes. This begins the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates and fats. Plus, it sends a signal to the rest of your gut that food is on the way, triggering the digestive glands to secrete mucus, acids, juices and enzymes. As studies show, eating slowly may also help you feel full faster.
Dress it up
Raw foods contain digestive enzymes that help break down the contents of our stomachs, so including some leafy greens or freshly chopped herbs with cooked foods supports digestion and microbial health. Adding a little grated ginger helps stimulate digestion and peristalsis (the movement of your stomach muscles) plus it’s an anti-inflammatory. A side serving of raw lacto-fermented sauerkraut will also support digestion and help balance your gut microbiome—plus provide it with a healthy dose of probiotics.
Think about when (as well as what)
Think about whether you’re actually hungry or just bored. Likewise, observe whether you are feeling stressed, sad or anxious and how that emotion may have affected what you feel like eating. Eating too frequently can put a strain on your digestive system, making it sluggish and imbalanced. And remember to try and eat your last meal at least three hours before bed to allow time for digestion.
Listen to your gut
Pay attention to your gut microbiome and listen to what it’s telling you about your eating habits, food choices and energy levels. Your gut feelings can reveal a lot about which foods to avoid—and common gut irritants include processed foods such as white flour and refined sugar, trans fats, gluten and dairy. Don’t forget that different gut bacteria feed on different nutrients, so for good digestion, go for diversity.