Luckily, there are some easy ways to support good digestion. You see, how you eat is just as important as what you eat. You can eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, but if you are sucking your food in like a vacuum cleaner on steroids, it can wreak havoc with your digestive system. Digestion is the most stressful activity our body does. The key is to find ways to support the digestive process and relieve the body of unnecessary stress.
Here are four easy ways to improve your digestion this holiday season:
The act of taking a deep breath turns on the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulates the relaxation response in the body (Source). Full and proper digestion can only occur in a relaxed state. Right before you eat, while you are sitting with your food in front of you, close your eyes and take three deep breaths with the inhale and exhale being of equal length (4 seconds each is a good starting point).
2. Drink Water
This may seem obvious, but when you drink water is just as important as drinking water itself. Drinking a glass of water, eight ounces or more, before you eat, stimulates saliva production. Drinking water while you eat helps the stomach break down food before sending it into the small intestine. Drinking water also aids digesting soluble fiber and helps prevent constipation.
3. Chew Your Food
Properly chewed food is important for living a healthy, vibrant life. It aids digestion, the most stressful thing our bodies do. Chewing your food, rather than eating it on the run and gulping it down, produces extra saliva with enzymes that aid in carbohydrate digestion. It also sends signals to the brain about what you are eating so the brain can alert your stomach about what it will receive. If you properly chew your food, you are eating more mindfully and slowly. When you eat slowly, you are likely to become full on less food thereby preventing overeating. If you are spending less energy on digestion, then that energy is available for other activities in the body. There is no perfect number of the times you should chew your food before swallowing. A good place to start is to eat more slowly, putting down your fork (or food item) between bites, and really savoring and tasting your food.
4. Practice Gratitude*
Multiple studies have shown that practicing gratitude has numerous benefits for the body and mind. These benefits include an enhanced immune system, lower blood pressure, a more optimistic outlook, and less stress. The conventional wisdom used to be that happier people are more grateful. However, research now shows that gratitude cultivates personal happiness. If you are grateful, you have less stress, you are more relaxed, and therefore you are more easily able to digest your food and enjoy your meal. That’s a fist-pumping yes! right there.
Wishing everyone a holiday season of good digestion!