With mild symptoms of indigestion plaguing an estimated 74% of Americans, there is no question that folks need a little help when it comes to supporting the digestive process. These simple habits will have an immediate impact and are easy to incorporate now.
Eliminate Distractions While Eating
Incorporating mindfulness tactics into mealtimes can have a huge — and immediate — effect on our digestion. By eliminating common distractions like TV screens and mobile devices from the dinner table, we become more present to the action of consuming and enjoying our food. Studies show mindfulness practices during meals can lead to a higher level of satiation, better digestion and even weight loss. Try taking three to five deep, slow breaths the next time you sit down to a meal to ground yourself. Practicing gratitude prior to mealtime can also have a positive effect on digestion and is an easy habit to incorporate at the start of any meal.
Add Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, kombucha, kefir and naturally fermented pickles contain gut-friendly bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are available in capsule form, but studies show getting them from naturally occurring food sources makes them more effective when it comes to digestion. Gut-boosting bacteria like those found in fermented foods also encourage the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA. Try adding a spoonful of sauerkraut to sandwiches and grain bowls for a tangy flavor and nutrient boost. Be sure to read ingredient labels; truly fermented foods do not have added vinegar or preservatives.
It should come as no surprise that an increase in fiber intake is good for digestion. First off, fiber helps bulk up stool, making it easier to pass and encouraging more frequent bowel movements, helping to eliminate constipation. Second, a diet rich in a multitude of different sources of soluble and insoluble fiber helps to increase and diversify the strains of healthy bacteria in the gut, which is critical for proper digestion, assimilation of nutrients and the production of feel-good hormones. Aim to get the bulk of your fiber from food sources instead of supplements; it will be easier for your body to reap the benefits if it comes from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Take a Post-Meal Walk
The science in support of post-meal walking is compelling. People who consistently take a short, moderately paced walk after eating report better digestion, deeper sleep and weight loss. In addition, walking after meals can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and even protect against GI diseases like peptic ulcer, IBS, heartburn, diverticulitis, constipation and colorectal cancer. The physical action of walking helps to massage the digestive system and increase blood flow, all of which is helpful to the process of healthy digestion. Start out slow and see how your body feels. If you are prone to an upset tummy, wait 10–15 minutes after eating before heading out.
Chew More Thoroughly
Talk less, chew more! This crucial step at the early stages of digestion not only breaks food down into small enough particles for the body to absorb, sufficient chewing also cues the lower digestive tract to prepare to receive the incoming food. When food is fully masticated and mixed with saliva, the body is better able to absorb nutrients. Studies also show that people who chew their food thoroughly tend to feel more satiated and consume less, leading to weight loss. Experts say that chewing food around 32 times, or until the texture of the food has fully broken down, is ideal. For folks not used to fully chewing each mouthful of food, it may feel awkward at first, but stick to it until it becomes a habit.
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