5 Easy Ways to Improve Digestion Today

Everywhere you look, people are talking about digestion. Bad digestion, good digestion, improving your digestion – but where do you even begin?

Start by listening to your body and paying attention to the clues it gives you during and after eating. Experiencing symptoms like bloating, gas, belching, heartburn or even fatigue after meals could indicate less than optimal digestion. Although it may feel complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Let’s go over the basics:

Take A Time Out… and Eat

It has become all too common to eat on the go, eat in front of screens or at our desks while we’re at work. With such busy schedules and long work days, it can seem like there isn’t another option – but trust us, you will feel better if you give your body the opportunity to stop, enjoy your meal and digest properly. Shut off your monitor, put your phone away, take a deep breath and relax.

Avoid Eating While You’re Stressed Out

Chronic stress has become the norm in our society and many of us are spending our days in “fight or flight” mode, with cortisol and other hormones coursing through our bodies. When we perceive a threat is imminent, our sympathetic nervous system takes over, and in addition to releasing hormones, it also limits body functions that are non-essential to fighting or taking flight – this includes digestion. Before eating your meal, take a moment to make sure you are calm and have time to enjoy your food.  

Chew, Chew and Chew!

Often, when we think about digestion, the stomach or gut come to mind first but digestion actually begins in your mouth. A digestive enzyme called “amylase” is produced by the salivary glands and begins the process of breaking down carbohydrates as you eat. Give yourself time to enjoy your meal slowly – chew thoroughly by taking a bite, putting your fork down and not picking it up again until you have finished chewing that portion. 

Don’t Drink and Eat

This doesn’t just mean excluding alcohol from your meal, we are talking about minimizing any liquids before and during a meal! Of course, a few sips as you eat won’t negatively impact your digestion (and hey, we all get thirsty). But pounding several glasses of your favourite drink can dilute your stomach acid, which makes it more difficult for your body to break down foods and absorb nutrients. 

Proper Food Combining

Did you know that our bodies digest different foods at different speeds? It can take your body around 20 minutes to digest watermelon but 4-5 hours to digest pork. One way to improve your digestion is to eat certain foods together and avoid others. While this sounds a bit complicated, keep the following rules in mind: 

  • Eat fruits alone and on an empty stomach
  • Pair vegetables with proteins and starches
  • Avoid eating animal based proteins and starches together
  • Avoid combining different animal based proteins

Most importantly though, start where you are. If all of this sounds overwhelming, try focusing on one element at a time. If you’re having a super busy and stressful day – eat on the run if you have to. Don’t have time to figure out if starches and protein can be eaten together – just eat your meal! Implementing change can take time and shouldn’t feel stressful or burdensome. Every little bit helps, so take small steps and go at a pace that feels right for you.

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