If you suffer with digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, reflux or burps this post is for you!
As you may well know, an enjoyable and delicious meal with good company can quickly turn into a sour experience when unpleasant digestive symptoms like indigestion, belching and gas strike. Burping during conversation and gassing out your pals can be a really embarrassing experience that can leave you hiding behind your napkin!
The following tips will improve your digestive capacity to help make pain, discomfort and embarrassment at meal times a thing of the past.
Let's get into this!
To improve digestion it helps to first have a basic of understanding of how it’s supposed to work in the first place. With that in mind, here is a simplified version of the stages of digestion and the steps you can take to help improve each of them:
DIGESTION BEGINS IN YOUR BRAIN!
It may surprise you to hear this but digestion really does begin in your brain. The reason is simple; digestion is a parasympathetic activity meaning you have to be in a calm and relaxed state to properly digest food.
Stress shuts off digestion by priming your body to fight or flee from a stressor. Even if the daily stresses you face are not life threatening or require you to fight or run, your body’s response is the same.
Eating food in your car whilst caught up in heavy traffic or when in a rush at work can trigger a stress response which shuts down your digestion.
The thought, sight and smell of food triggers the secretion of saliva which helps to break down carbs and kicks your body’s digestive system into gear. If you are stressed or distracted this response won’t be optimal.
DIGESTIVE TIP #1
Eat your food in a relaxed state. When you eat food you should be sitting down at a table or somewhere relaxing such as a park bench. Pushing food into your mouth whilst standing up, driving a car, or walking to work is not a good idea.
Turn off any electrical devices such as Tv’s, mobile phones and computers which can distract your attention away from eating. If you are feeling wound up take 3-5 deep and slow belly breathes – this will help to switch your body out of stress mode and into a state of rest and digest which primes your body for digestion.
CHEW YOUR FOOD
Chewing provides the mechanical breakdown of food into smaller chunks and mixes it with saliva which contains enzymes that initiate the breakdown of carbs.
Failing to properly chew your food can result in undigested starches entering into your intestines and feeding bad bacteria which can lead to overgrowths of bugs and candida.
DIGESTIVE TIP #2
Many nutritionists advise chewing food until it turns to liquid inside your mouth, whilst this may be “ideal” it’s probably unrealistic for most of us. A smarter strategy is to increase the number of times you chew your food is to put your fork down in-between bites.
The simple act of putting your fork or sandwich down in-between bites automatically slows down the speed at which you eat and leads you to chew more. Give it a try!
THE STOMACH: CHURNING & BURNING
When food hits your stomach it gets bathed in acid and churned around, these actions really help to break down food molecules before passing them into your small intestine for further digestion. If you skip tips 1 and 2 above you are highly likely to run up against several issues here.
As mentioned before, if you are not in the right frame of mind to eat (i.e. in a relaxed and undistracted state) the digestive juices will not be secreted by the stomach which will impair this stage of digestion, and lack of chewing leads to undigested starches entering the stomach which are then unable to be completely broken down.
Excess alcohol intake, medications, lack of sleep, food allergies and nutrient deficiencies (such as zinc and B vitamins) can also impair your stomach’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of acid to properly digest food so pay attention to these too.
Interestingly it is when you produce TOO LITTLE stomach acid that heart burn and GERD usually occur – this is probably the complete opposite to what you have been told!
If the pH of the stomach is too alkaline (due to any of the aforementioned reasons) food cannot be broken down sufficiently which causes it to sit and ferment inside of the stomach. When this happens gasses build up which can harm the lining of your stomach and create pressure which causes the food to reflux up into the esophagus which is never meant to happen (expect in the case of vomiting).
Whilst the stomach is specially designed for an acidic environment the esophagus isn’t, so when these partly digested, semi acidic foods burst up into you esophagus it burns like hell!
Taking an alkaline medication like Tums can provide short term relief by reducing the pH of the stomach contents which soothes the esophageal burning but in the long run taking these medications actually contribute to the hypo-acidic problem! 9 times out of 10 people need MORE not LESS stomach acid!
DIGESTIVE TIP #3
If you pay attention to the upstream steps of digestion by relaxing and chewing your food properly this step should take care of itself.
When everything is running smoothly your stomach passes the food you have eaten onto the small intestine in the form of an acidic paste called chyme. When this acidic paste hits your small intestine various hormones and enzymes are secreted which complete the breakdown of your meal.
If steps 1-3 do not occur as they should your small intestine will pay the consequence by receiving partially digested and excessively alkaline foods which impair the final stages of digestion and can lead to numerous digestive issues from candida to chron’s disease.
Fat break down also takes place in the small intestine and is dependent upon hormones and secretions such as CCK and bile. The production of Bile is dependent upon an adequate intake of healthy fats, therefore if you are on a no fat or extreme low fat diet (say 15% or less of total calories for an extended period of time) the organ responsible for squeezing out bile into your intestines (the gallbladder) will be dysfunctional and you will struggle to properly digest fats.
Eating healthy fats is critical to your health.
DIGESTIVE TIP #4
Follow steps 1 and 2 to prevent digestive dysfunction from ocuring here.
Digestive dysfunctions are extremely common these days, most probably because we live such rushed and stressful lives. By slowing down, relaxing and chewing your food not only can you greatly improve your digestive capacity – you can also enhance your enjoyment of one of life’s greatest pleasures – food!
DIGESTIVE TIP LIST
1. Drink a glass of water 15-30 minutes before your meal – digestion requires proper hydration.
2. Relax! Turn off the TV, put your phone away, sit down, and quiet your mind to focus upon and enjoy the food in front of you.
3. Chew you food! Place your fork down in-between bites of food to reduce your eating speed and chew more.
4. Add in some digestive support if needed. Eating a little pineapple or papaya before protein heavy meals can aid your digestion via enzymes that support digestion called bromelains and papain. Taking a little apple cider vinegar in water can also support your digestion.
5. Hydrochloric acid and/or digestive enzyme support may also be required if your digestive symptoms do not improve after following the tips above for a few weeks.
Proper digestion is critical to your overall health because every single cell in your body depends upon your digestive system to provide it with the nutrients it requires to function properly.
If you suffer with digestive discomfort like gas, burps, reflux or bloating try implementing these tips to give your digestive system the reboot it requires!
Hope you find these tips useful and always shoot me a message if you have questions.