Chew on This: 5 Tips for Better, Healthier Digestion
When we’re getting ready to rumble in the gym or on our yoga mats, a rumbly tummy is the last thing we need. Bloating, gas and abdominal pain – all symptoms of poor digestion – can get in the way of asanas like pigeon, crane and sage’s pose, both mentally and physically. Most of us have experienced how an upset stomach can throw off our entire yoga practice (or day for that matter!).
We can improve our yoga flow by improving our digestive flow with these easy life hacks that tackle the psychological and physical problems that often derail our hardworking digestive systems.
Here are 5 tips to improve your digestion:
1. Slow down to savor
“So often, even when we stop to say a blessing before a meal, we’re mentally preparing to spoon some pasta or potatoes onto our plates,” writes Mary DeTurris Poust in her book Cravings. “We’re not usually focused on the present moment, simply placing ourselves before our food and entering into the still, slow space where eating is done for eating’s sake and not something we do simply to get to the next thing on our list.”
Great digestion starts before the food hits our stomach. The average person takes just 23 minutes – in the entire day! – to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to the Alliance for Natural Health. That means we’re gulping our meal down and treating everything like fast food.
Pause. Breathe. Slow down and savor each bite, chewing each morsel for approximately 30 chews. Don’t feel like counting? For many of us, that means we should spend 30-45 mindful minutes at each meal. Our mouths are an integral part of our digestive system, and slow, mindful chewing breaks down our food better, maximizes the power of our digestive enzymes, and triggers the satiety process that lets our brain recognize when we’re full.
2. Unleash the raw power of unprocessed enzymes
Pasteurization, cooking and food manufacturing destroys the natural enzymes in foods that help us to digest and absorb the vitamins, minerals and nutrients in our food. Introduce more raw, unprocessed foods to each meal to rebalance your digestive system.
Additionally, a naturopath or doctor may review our diet and recommend we try digestive enzyme supplements comprised of lactase, amylase, protease, lipase and the many other enzymes that work to process fat, protein and carbohydrates.
3. Take a chill pill
“Certain stressful life events have been associated with…some of the most common chronic disorders of the digestive system,” reports the international peer-reviewed medical journal Gut. Our gut and digestion is linked to our nervous system, and when we’re stressed, our digestion slows down and in some cases stops completely so that our body can focus itself on the stressful situation.
Before trying to fix the symptoms of our stress, we should first look at what’s triggering it – a chaotic office schedule, a long commute, a relationship that needs some healthy boundaries – and work on managing the root cause. But life is busy and it’s not always possible to avoid all stress triggers. When we feel stressed, well-researched relaxation techniques like meditation, tai chi, yoga and guided imagery can help ease away our worries.
4. Fertilize the good guys
By now, many of us have heard about the benefits of beneficial gut bacteria, also known as probiotics. The friendly bacteria assist the break down and absorption of food, reduce bloating and gas, and prevent constipation.
But there’s a missing puzzle piece: prebiotics. Prebiotics are functional foods that work sort of like fertilizer to make our probiotics flourish and grow. Add a prebiotic to each meal to amplify the benefits of the probiotic supplements or foods (yogurt, kim chi, sauerkraut, etc.) that we currently take. Top prebiotics include dandelion greens, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and bananas.
5. Hydrate with gut-friendly herbs
Drinking plenty of fluids moves our meal through our digestive tract and prevents constipation. Take your hydration game to the next level with herbal teas that support healthy digestion. Dandelion tea, milk thistle tea, ginger tea and peppermint tea may all help with bile production, digestion, bloating and gas.
Yogi Bhajan summed up much of this advice quite eloquently, saying, “Before a man eats, four conditions should exist in the environment. If these conditions are not met, then it is better for a man to remain hungry. First of all, he should be surrounded by a calm and quiet atmosphere. Secondly, he should be under no mental or physical pressure. Thirdly, the food he is about to eat must be properly cooked with all the ingredients. Lastly, there should be enough time in which to eat gracefully.”
Are you taking the necessary steps to ensure your digestive system is operating optimally? We all know the adage “You are what eat.” If this is true, then we’re only as healthy as our digestive system. Eat to your health!