Do you eat on the run and gulp down quick meals on a regular basis? An hour or two later, an upset stomach, heartburn, bloating or gas become your unwanted companions. Popping antacids as a regular habit only makes matters worse by removing important stomach acids that are meant to help digest foods. Digestion problems result. You can improve digestion naturally with a few simple changes.
Change Poor Eating Habits
1. Make time to eat lunch. Choose wisely. Instead of gulping a pizza while driving, stop and eat a proper meal. Resist the urge of balancing the steering wheel of your car with one hand while chomping down fast food. Digestion starts with a calm demeanor. Either bring a brown bag lunch with a sandwich and some veggies and a piece of fruit from home or choose a healthy choice at a restaurant. Avoid food covered in creamy sauces or deep fried fare. Grilled chicken and vegetables and rice, a tuna salad and fruit, or even a plain burger with a salad and soup are better alternatives.
Don’t stuff yourself. Respect your body’s signals that tell that you’re full. Eating binges are a sure fire way to feel sick and bloated.
2. Make an oil change (for you, not your car!) Use healthy oils such as cold processed olive or coconut oil, ground flax seeds in yogurt, or high quality fish oil capsules – taken with meals. Poor quality oils and trans fats can make you feel nauseous. (Healthy oils also benefit the heart, brain, skin and nervous system.)
3. Notice if you have a private stash of food (like cookies, chocolate bars, bags of chips, soft drinks, candy or other junk food). Work on eliminating those foods to improve digestion. (A couple of squares of dark chocolate, with cocoa content over 71%, may be beneficial for you as dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants to protect health!)
Consider Digestive Aids
4. Friendly bacteria to help digestion includes lactobacillus acidophilus found in yogurt. Yogurt can be eaten for breakfast or at snacks. You can also try taking a probiotic capsule (consisting of many strains of friendly bacteria) once or twice a day to help the digestion process. These capsules can be found in most pharmacies or health food stores. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract) is another digestive aid. Studies show that DGL stimulates the natural protective factors in the digestive tract, which can help relieve stomach discomfort quickly.
Another helpful digestive aid includes a digestive enzyme complex that is taken with food. Some digestive aids contain HCl (hydrochloric acid) in their formulas. HCl is naturally found in your stomach to help digest proteins and it also kills many bacteria that get in the stomach with food. Your stomach secrets many gastric acids such as pepsinogen that is activated by HCl into pepsin to help digest your proteins. But through poor diet, quantities of HCl can become too low or missing.
Food Allergies Can be Culprits
5. Notice if certain foods cause you digestion problems – you may have food sensitivities or food allergies. If you suspect that a certain food is problematic, try eliminating that food for a few weeks to see if you notice fewer symptoms. Another good strategy is to get tested for food allergies, either through scratch tests (which identify foods that cause immediate reactions), or blood tests to determine those foods that cause delayed reactions – symptoms that occur a day or two after eating them. Common foods such as milk, wheat, corn or eggs can be culprits. Gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley) can cause constipation or diarrhea. Gluten free grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, rice and corn can be tried.
6. There is a brain/gut connection and the gut sends messages to the brain constantly. Ever notice that you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? Two thirds of the body’s serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) can be found in the gut. If you’re upset or stressed a lot of the time, digestion becomes affected leading to diarrhea or constipation. Exercise can help relieve stress (- a reason to get moving!) along with Yoga, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.
Drink Water for Better Digestion
7. Drinking water helps many processes in the body, especially digestion. Water helps relieve heartburn and promotes easy and healthy waste removal. It also helps flush toxins, transports nutrients through your body and controls body temperature. You lose water through sweat, breathing and getting rid of waste, so you need to top up your water supply to maintain body functioning. Aim for six to eight glasses of water a day. Your health is worth the effort.
More critical information for better digestion, mood and vitality through a healthy, balanced diet can be found in three chapters of Rosalie’s best-selling book, Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide To Thriving. . .Not Merely Surviving.