In an article in Natural Life magazine, I talk about
- how to improve digestion despite a busy schedule,
- why microbiotic supplements can be beneficial,
- how fermented foods and beverages may help,
- what lifestyle aspects should be considered when improving digestion,
- whether to drink water during meals or not.
Highlights of the article:
1. Chew your food to start digestion off right. Chewing mashes your food into smaller pieces and partially liquefies it, which makes it easier to digest. Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more digestive work is done while food is still in your mouth. There is another reason why chewing is so important: the process stimulates a reflex that tells your pancreas and other digestive organs to be ready to take action, for instance by producing enzymes, because food is about to arrive in the stomach and small intestine. It is a very clever part of the automatic communication system that keeps your body’s organs working in harmony.
2. Keep an eye on your refined sugar and processed foods. When you consume processed, sugar-laden, refined foods, you are feeding your bad bacteria with their favourite food, which increases the likelihood of all the aforementioned health issues that weigh you down and takes the spark out of your life.
3. Lessen stress. Remember when we talked about the connection between your brain and your gut? When you experience prolonged periods of chronic stress, your brain goes into “fight or flight” mode, causing your digestion and blood flow in the gut to slow down, the muscles that push along waste and bacteria to freeze up and the your digestive juices to decrease. All of these stress responses can result in a poorly functioning gut. Take care of your gut health by coping with stress through regular “time outs”, breathwork, yoga, meditation, therapy, time in the outdoors and the countless other stress reduction techniques available to you.
4. Take a probiotic supplement for a short while. If you feel really run down and are suffering from poor digestion, a one-month course of a probiotic supplement will help boost the good bacteria in your gut. This will help to keep the bad guys under control, improve your immune system and ease digestive issues. This is especially helpful when you are taking medication, especially antibiotics, as they wipe out a large amount of gut bacteria.
5. Eat probiotic whole foods. Once you have established a healthy gut flora, you should do take steps to ensure that it stays in balance. You can achieve this by eating whole foods that are fermented and contain large amounts of good bacteria. Sauerkraut, sprouted beans, miso soup, soy sauce and kefir are fantastic plant-based probiotic-rich foods.
6. Eat prebiotic whole foods. Certain foods support the growth and maintenance of good bacteria. By adding whole, plant-based, fiber-filled foods on a daily basis, you are fueling the bacteria that support your health. Raw onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes and bananas are some of the best prebiotic foods to add to your diet.
7. Eat regularly, but not constantly, and avoid eating late at night. Your gut needs a rest from digestion to get a chance to clean up and clear out bacteria and waste. Every 90 minutes to two hours, the smooth muscle in your intestines move to keep bacteria and waste going through your digestive tract. But this process is put on hold every time you eat. Can you see why snacking constantly slows down digestion and contributes to bacterial overgrowth? This is not to suggest that you need to fast for long periods — eating regularly helps prevent constipation and bloating — but it is best to take breaks between meals.
8. Stay hydrated in between meals- avoid fluid intake during meals as best as possible. People often ask how much they need to drink to stay well hydrated, which is a difficult question to answer. Your gut needs water to keep bacteria and waste moving through your digestive system, which will help with constipation and bloating. When you are dehydrated, these issues can lead to bacterial imbalances in your gut and then cause inflammation. However, drinking too much can have negative effects on your health, too. Daily fluid intake is very individual and depends on how much you exercise, how many water-containing foods you consume but also what climate and season you live in. One of the most reliable clues is your urine: If it is too dark, you need to rehydrate, if it has no colour, it are probably overdoing it.