These days, it’s so easy to get carried away with the latest food and diet trends. We demonize certain foods because we’ve been told they’re “bad” for us. Not to mention the 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 that we often lose sight of the basics.
I sat down with a 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, as this is where sugar starts to break down and doesn’t happen again throughout the whole course of the digestive process. They say to chew your food a minimum of 30 times per 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 meals. If we don’t start with that foundation, it doesn’t matter how many enzymes you to take. You have to build the foundation of what it looks like to have a healthy plate. This includes how to physically eat your food—in terms of sitting properly. The age-old practice of giving thanks, and breathing for five seconds helps shift the nervous system. We are always operating from this place of “fight or flight”, which means your digestion won’t work as it would normally. Why? 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. 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. However, you do want to be mindful of water consumption around meals. You don’t want to dilute your stomach acid—so one cup will do. Let’s say you’re on your lunch break. Take a few minutes and say to yourself that it’s almost lunch, so “I’m going to pour myself a cup of tea and drink it at my desk.” This way, when you get to your lunch, you are in a different headspace altogether.
You can even start simply with hot water. Adding some lemon or apple cider vinegar can work, too. 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 work for everyone are fennel, marshmallow root, and ginger.
Simplify your smoothies!
A ton of people get really bloated just from their smoothies. This is normally because their digestive system just isn’t strong enough to handle 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. 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 a lot of cold or dampening foods. 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 chai tea. It makes you actually feel physically warm after you’ve had a bit of cardamom and nutmeg, and these things that have a warming effect on the body.