Digestive discomforts such as bloating, acid reflux, excessive gas, belching, constipation, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal pain are signs of digestive dysfunction. These are alarming messages from your body letting you know that your digestive system needs some help. If nothing is done about it, later, the digestive dysfunction might lead to other dysfunctions somewhere else in your body. While you are working on the root causes, you can also obtain significant relief of your symptoms by simply adopting a few principles of what we call Eating Hygiene.
Here are some tips to help alleviate your digestive distresses. Don’t be fooled by how simple these ideas seem at first; they are powerful!
Chewing is the only part of the digestive process that we control. The less we chew our food, the harder our GI tract has to work. This creates post-meal fatigue. Ideally, we chew our food until it’s almost liquid before swallowing. This can reduce gas and increase post-meal energy. When we swallow chunks of food, it’s harder for digestive enzymes in the intestines to do their job. When carbohydrate foods hang around too long, the bacteria in our guts feast too heartily and create gas build-up as a metabolic byproduct. The result? Distention, bloating, flatulence. If you Chew thoroughly, it’s also much easier to Slow Down.
Need help getting started? Count your chews. Literally, chew every bite 20-30 times, except perhaps soups and other delicate foods. If you feel a solid impetus to swallow beforehand, just move the food to the side of your mouth, swallow saliva, and keep chewing. Think of what you automatically do with gum.
When you wolf down your meal in a hurry, your body may not have time to release an adequate level of digestive secretion such as stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes. These substances need time to be fully secreted. If you’re stressed, it takes even longer, thus contributing to indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux. Also, it takes about 20 minutes for your gut to signal to your brain that you’re full and reduce your sense of hunger. Gulp down your food in 10 minutes? You’re much more likely to overeat and end up feeling bloated 20 minutes later.
Need help getting started? Get in the habit of putting down your knife and fork and sitting back in your chair in between each bite of food. Then, after you swallow, take at least one full, cleansing breath before you pick up your utensils and enjoy another bite.Stay well hydrated
low saliva production caused by dehydration or some medications (antihistamines, beta-blockers, anticholinergics) can interfere with proper chewing. Therefore, make sure to stay well hydrated to prevent dry mouth. Suppose you are taking any of the medications mentioned above. In that case, it’s even more crucial to pay attention to your water intake.
Many people feel that eating is somehow a waste of time unless it’s done while multi-tasking. This is not true, considering food is what gives you the energy to function. Therefore, taking the time to focus on your meal is actually an act of self-care. When we eat in a way that doesn’t allow our nervous system to fully relax and move into parasympathetic mode, we literally put out less digestive secretion.
Unfortunately, in our hectic society, we have gotten into the habit of eating “on the go,” for example, in the car or while walking to another building; or eating while catching up with some work on the computer. All of these are a recipe for indigestion and other health issues in the long run. I understand that sometimes we have no choice, especially when it comes to breakfast and snacks. Still, you can be more intentional about lunch and dinner.
Remember, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and taking the time to nourish it is also an act of worship to God.
Need help getting started?
Pick one meal of the day to start with. Then, sit down at the table, away from the computer and TV, and focus only on your food. Which meal are you going to start with?
Seat down, breathe, relax, and savor. The body needs oxygen to properly digest. Help calm your body and support digestion by taking a few slow, calming breaths when you sit down to a meal – before you start eating.
Try to learn to just be in the moment with your food. Colors, textures, aromas, flavors… Most of us are mentally “elsewhere” while we eat. The result? The brain tends to miss out, and we are much more likely to overeat. Distraction increases food intake. Postpone stressful discussion until later.
Need help getting started? Plan your meals. For many people, it helps to put them literally in your daily appointment/commitment calendar. This ensures the time is truly “set aside” to care for yourself via mindful eating.
Don’t drink too much with your meals.
Yes, we need to be hydrated and focus on plain, clean water intake for overall wellness. However, the best time to hydrate is in between meals. When you consume large amounts of water during a meal, you dilute the acidity of your stomach acid and slow digestion. Depending on your sensitivity, this can cause an early sense of fullness and other discomforts such as belching and bloating. Therefore, during meal time, limiting water to a glass throughout your meal might be helpful.
If it’s near mealtime and you feel thirsty, make a point of drinking a large glass of water right away. Then allow your body to absorb it while you are in transit to your meal or while you prepare it (ideally 20+ minutes before eating). This allows the water to clear your stomach before its digestive duty begins. Ideally, get in the habit of carrying a water bottle around with you throughout the day and sip on it regularly.
Don’t overfill your stomach.
A very full stomach has trouble mixing acid and enzymes well with your food. All on its own, this dynamic creates indigestion. Think of trying to blend food when the blender is overfull. If you go above the limit, there’s simply not enough room, and your food will spill. Overfilling your stomach when eating makes it harder for it to work effectively, resulting in belching, burping, and acid reflux. Over the years, I have taught my kids to always leave 8o% space in their stomachs when they eat. How do you measure that? Imagine you ate, you are satiated, but you feel like you can take a few more bites. That’s when you should definitely stop, considering those extra few bites might overfill your stomach.
Listen to your body
Some people struggle with digestive discomforts caused by food sensitivity. Paying attention to how you feel after eating will help you identify foods that may be causing your distress.
Digestive distress such as bloating, acid reflux, excessive gas, belching, constipation, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal pain can be debilitating, as they interfere with your work and social life. Although they might be caused by a severe dysfunction in the body, they are also triggered by poor eating habits. Therefore, implementing some essential eating habits called “Eating Hygiene” can drastically relieve your symptoms while working on the root causes. Through my personalized health coaching program, I can help you with that. Learn more HERE