A proper functioning digestive system acts as a good barrier to undigested food particles, bacteria, mold, and yeast. Additionally, it allows for optimal nutrient absorption. If our digestive system is not functioning properly, one could experience digestive complaints such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea and/or constipation. Additionally, one may experience symptoms of food sensitivities including eczema, headaches, sinus infection, difficulty with weight loss or weight gain, allergies, and asthma.
There are a variety of reasons our digestive system may not be functioning at an optimal level. The good news is there are certain lifestyle modifications one can begin to make in order to improve the function. Below are 3 suggestions you can begin to incorporate into your life to optimize digestion.
- Our brain and gut work together, therefore, the sight of food alone can trigger thoughts in the brain that trigger a stress response. When eating under a stressful environment, our body does not produce the digestive juices, saliva, and digestive enzymes necessary to help digest and absorb food. On the other hand, when we eat in a relaxed environment and feel pleasure with eating, these responses do occur. Due to this, it is important to eat in an environment that is calm and relaxing and to prepare our foods in a way that appeal to us – this includes the look, smell, and taste of our foods.
- Adequate chewing is necessary to ensure our food is broken down into small enough pieces for our body to absorb. Smaller particles are absorbed into our system at a faster rate than larger particles. Additionally, larger particles may get eliminated before they are absorbed. This means one could be eating nutrient rich foods, but not receive the benefits of those nutrients if they are eliminated prior to absorption. Research shows chewing each bite of food 40 times is optimal, especially for harder foods like nuts.
- General stress management is important for many aspects of our lives. As far as digestion goes, general stress can interfere with our ability to produce enough stomach acid, which helps us to properly absorb and digest various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, stress management is key for proper digestive functioning. Incorporating simple stress management strategies, such as meditation and deep breathing, can be very helpful to ensure optimal digestion.