Most people who strive to be healthy become very consumed with what they’re eating but forget that how they’re eating is equally, if not more, important. What is the point of eating all this healthy food if your body does not break it down properly in order to receive the nutrients it needs to benefit you?
Proper digestion is one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to our well-being because it is the process that ensures we get the nutrients from food that our body requires to ward off illness and have energy. On the other hand, improper digestion leads to undigested food fragments in our gut, creating a feeding ground for bacteria and can lead to symptoms like gas, bloating and abdominal pain, as well as a slew of other chronic conditions.
I know for me personally, improving my digestion was a vital component in addressing my health issues. And this is how I did it!
My 4 C’s for Proper Digestion:
1. Choose The Right Foods
Obviously choosing organic food that is nutritious is important but when it comes to eating for good digestion it is important you follow certain food combining guidelines. The rationale behind this is that protein, carbohydrates and fat each digest at a different pace and require different digestive enzymes to be broken down. If you eat foods in the same meal that have conflicting digestive requirements, you’re putting undue stress on your digestive system.
So starting with your next meal, try and follow these guidelines:
- Eat Fruit Alone (exception: citrus)
- Eat Protein with Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Eat Starches with Non-Starchy Vegetables and Good Fats
2. Calm Yourself
People severely underestimate the connection between our brain and our gut. Without going into the detailed science of it all, think of our central nervous system has having two modes; stressed and calm. When we’re stressed, it triggers a fight-or-flight response in us and our body sends all of our energy towards coping with the stress. In doing this it diverts blood away from our digestive system to the other parts of our body that need it. This shuts down our digestive capacity, and leads to decreased secretion of stomach acid and enzymes that are required for proper digestion. Therefore before we start eating we need to ensure our body is in calm mode, also known as “rest and digest”.
A simple way to do this is:
- Take 10 deep breaths prior to eating
3. Chew, Chew, Chew and Chew Some More
I can not stress the importance of this step enough! Our stomach does not have teeth. We need to physically break down the food we eat enough in order for our digestive system to successfully do its part. The act of chewing also secretes saliva, which contains enzymes that mix with the food and breaks it down further. Lastly the process of chewing signals to the rest of the gastrointestinal system that it’s time to begin the digestive process. Can you believe that something as simple as chewing your food, which you probably never give a second thought to, plays such an important role in the digestive process and thereby your overall health?!
It is recommended that you:
- Chew your food until it pretty much liquefies in your mouth
- Chew until you can no longer identify the texture of the food
- Chew approximately 30 times before swallowing (less for softer foods)
4. Cool It With The Liquids
Drinking liquid during your meal impairs digestion because it dilutes the body’s naturally occurring digestive enzymes and stomach acids required to break down food. If you’re used to drinking something with your meals, it may be a tough habit to break. However if you’re chewing your food sufficiently, you should be creating enough saliva to eat comfortably without a lot of liquids.
Going forward try to:
- Avoid drinking liquid during your meals
- Avoid drinking liquid 30 minutes before and 1 hour after your meals
- Stay hydrated the rest of the day so you don’t feel the need to drink during your meals
- Limit your liquid intake to 8oz. during meals, if necessary
So there you have it, the 4 C’s of digestion that rocked my world. I hope they do the same for you. These are not meant to be hard rules that end up governing your life (no I don’t expect you to count your chews for every bite of every meal for the rest of your life!) but I bet if you try following these guidelines for one week, you’ll experience a decrease in digestive distress and they’ll become like second nature.
Yours in health,
The Well Girl