Better digestion: Getting back to the basics
These days it’s so easy to get carried away with the latest food and diet trends, to demonize certain foods because we’ve been told they’re “bad” for us, or to try countless supplements that are supposed to help with digestion. Of course certain diets and avoiding specific foods can help with some digestive issues, but the problem is, we often lose sight of the basics. I sat down with holistic nutritionist and founder of My Edible Advice Jennifer Brott for her tips on how to improve digestion by keeping it simple! Here’s what she had to say:
Remember the fundamentals
We really need to get back to the fundamentals like, are you chewing? You have to break down your food and cover it with digestive enzymes because this is where sugar starts to break down and doesn’t happen again along the whole course of the digestive process. They say to chew your food minimum 30 times each bite, but optimally it should be much higher, even upwards of 60. [If you’re having digestive problems] you can also always use a blender to do some of the pre-digesting for you, and make soups or smoothies.
Take time to relax before you eat
I often find myself talking to clients about sitting at a dinner table and not standing over their sink to eat their meal. If we don’t start with that foundation, it doesn’t matter how many enzymes I tell you to take. You have to build the foundation of what it looks like to have a healthy plate, and how to physically eat your food — in terms of sitting properly, the age old practice of giving thanks, and breathing for five seconds to help shift the nervous system. We are always operating from this place of “fight or flight”, which means your digestion won’t work because all of your blood flow is going to your extremities. It doesn’t matter how healthy your kale bowl is, you have to bring energy and concentration to your digestive system. Getting into that chill and relaxed state before a meal is so important.
Feed yourself positive thoughts
Of course food and nutrition matter, but you feed yourself with more than just food. You feed yourself with how you think and your thought patterns, so if you begin your meal by thinking “Oh god, I’m going to feel like crap after this meal” then 100% that’s how you will feel. But if you go into it thinking “it’s Friday, I’m going to have some pizza with my girlfriends” then I promise you the reaction will be different.
Try a pre-meal warm drink
In many different cultures you’ll find people starting with a warm drink before they eat as a sort of meditation, where you are bringing heat to the esophagus and the stomach (however you do want to still be mindful of water consumption around meals as you don’t want to dilute your stomach acid, so one cup will do). On your lunch break for example, take a few minutes and say to yourself, it’s almost lunch so I’m going to pour myself a cup of tea and drink that at my desk, so that when you get to your lunch you are in a different headspace altogether. You can even start simple with hot water, or add some lemon or apple cider vinegar to include some digestive and probiotic properties. Great options for tea are chamomile, peppermint and lavender, which are all really great at calming the nervous system. Peppermint is also great post-meal if you’ve overeaten, as it’s very soothing to the digestive tract. Other go-to’s that can pretty much can work for everyone are fennel, marshmallow root, and ginger.
Simplify your smoothies!
I see a ton of people that get really bloated from their smoothies, and it’s normally because their digestive system just isn’t strong enough to be eating and digesting so many different foods at once, as it requires so many different digestive enzymes. Sometimes adding foods that have been cooked down, like a compote can be helpful too, so it’s not just a bunch of frozen fruit. You could also add warm tea, or avoid adding ice to keep the smoothie at room temperature, making it easier to digest.
Eat with the seasons
Anyone experiencing a cold and wet winter season should avoid introducing a lot of cold or dampening foods to the digestive tract. In cold weather we produce more mucous because we are combating more colds, and having a lot of cold and damp foods encourages the production of even more mucous. So, we want to add foods that have warming elements, or that have heat to them. That can be as simple as adding ginger or cinnamon. A great example is a chai tea, it makes you actually feel physically warm after because you’ve had a bit of cardamom and nutmeg and these things that have a warming effect on the body.