We are quickly winging our way to the big holiday meals of the year. I believe good digestion is foundational for health. In that spirit I thought I would share my thoughts on how to protect this system and curb digestive problems as we begin to enjoy the holiday season.
Tips for Improving Digestive Problems
Avoid Drinks at the Dinner Table
Every romanticized picture and painting of the American family table includes a big glass of something next to the plate. This is so unfortunate. Liquid should be available for occasional sips, or to help in case of choking, during a meal. The more we drink, the more we dilute our already depleted digestive juices. Truthfully, if you find yourself needing to drink to get your food down it’s a sign that you’re eating foods that are not right for you (this happens with a lot of bread products that act like glue) or that you have dried out your digestion and need to do some work.
We have a bitter receptor on our tongue that no longer gets stimulated with the American diet. This taste is very important to digestion, stimulating the production of bile. Eating food that is bitter increases nutrient absorption and decreases acid reflux, inflammation, and dysfunction in the digestive tract. Bitters like dandelion greens, radicchio and bitter melon can be added to the diet. We went for ease of use and created several bitters formulas for our household and our customers.
I would also add to this that you need to sit up straight. We tend to stand, run, drive, or recline on a sofa while eating. In order for food to travel from the mouth to the stomach without interruption or back-up of stomach acid, we need to work with gravity.
I believe the process of chewing is taken for granted. It seems that we throw some food into our mouth, bite it a couple of times, and swallow it down. Chewing and tasting are an important first part of digestion. It is critical that we chew our food slowly and completely. The more our food is broken down in this first step, the easier it will be in the next couple stages to absorb nutrition.
Eat with Friends
How you feel while you are eating contributes to how well you digest your food. In college, my friend Sharla and I had a running joke that anything eaten with friends was calorie-free. In a small way, we were correct. Food is not calorie-free, but we absorb the nutrition better and it causes less weight gain. If we are under stress, pressure, or if we are angry, our adrenal glands trigger hormones that shut down our digestion. Focus on a calm, happy, and relaxed atmosphere when you eat if you want best results.
Don’t Talk While You Chew
That’s right, just like your mother told you! Don’t talk with your mouth full! Only I’m not saying this just because it is rude and disgusting. When we talk while we chew we tend to swallow air. This is one of the reasons people tend to burp after eating.
Skip the Ice
Ice in your drink slows down your metabolism. It is a stress on the kidneys and causes your body to fight for temperature balance. It is especially troublesome in the winter when your body really needs to stay warm. Ice in your drink is the fastest way to blow out the candle that is your digestive fire.
What do you do to improve digestion?
Share your tips with the community in the comment section below.