6 Tips for Better DigestionDr. Miranda Wiley, ND
August 4, 2016
Digesting food is a complex affair that involves five organs (stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, and large intestine) and even our brain. In a perfect scenario the food we take in is gratefully received by our bodies and processed effortlessly, but digestive issues and complaints are fairly commonplace and a leading cause of medical visits. Many of the underlying imbalances leading to digestive symptoms are readily resolved with a few tweaks to dietary choices and lifestyle habits.
Common Digestion Issues
For optimal digestion, all of the components of the digestive tract need to work together for the greater good. Considering the wide range of elements involved in converting food into usable nutrients, and eliminating waste from our bodies, digestive symptoms can arise from any number of imperfections or imbalances.
- Poor quality food lacks the range of nutrients required to promote optimal health.
- If eating while feeling rushed or under stress there may be fewer secretions to support the breakdown of food.
- Not chewing properly results in large molecules that our enzymes are unable to process.
- Nutrient deficiencies in minerals and/or amino acids can lead to lower levels of enzymes, which in turn contributes to further nutrient deficiencies.
- Imbalances in the microbiome (gut flora) can lead to a wide range of digestive complaints.
Overcoming Digestion Issues
Simple tips to counter issues and to encourage comfortable and effective digestion include:
- Start with a whole foods diet rich in a variety of colourful plants and balanced with good quality, clean fats and protein sources.
- Eat mindfully – set the table, light a candle, put the distractions away, enjoy the conversation of friends and family over mealtime.
- “Drink your food” – an old Ayurvedic saying is to “Drink your food and chew your drink”, meaning that saliva must be incorporated well with what we ingest.
- Bitters – bitter herbs have long been used as an “aperitif” to stimulate digestion prior to eating. The bitter flavour on the tongue encourages the release of digestive fluids from the stomach, liver, pancreas, and small intestine.
- Include living fermented foods at every meal or at least once/day to start (yogurt, kombucha, vinegars, pickled vegetables) – historically our diets were rich in living, fermented, microbe-rich foods. Fermented foods provide acids to support the stomach in the breakdown of proteins and liberation of minerals from the food. They are also an excellent source of B-vitamins which the body needs to convert food energy into cellular energy, along with probiotic strains that repopulate the friendly flora in our intestines.
- Take probiotics daily or as needed – until consumption of fermented foods becomes a natural staple in the diet it is a good idea to supplement with a concentrated fermented food product and/or a high quality living probiotic supplement.
Your local independent health and wellness store is a great resource to talk more about any specific digestive issues you are having and the potential solutions to help.