Get the most from the foods you eat

Good digestion is important for a healthy, vibrant and energetic body, writes Tanja Shaw

  • Dec. 3, 2017 8:30 a.m.

Digestion is essential for good health, not just something we only need to think about if we experience uncomfortable symptoms. After all, you can eat the healthiest foods, but if you’re not digesting the food properly, you won’t absorb and utilize the nutrients needed for good health. When we think about digestive issues, we often think about the more embarrassing consequences: constipation, heart burn, gas and diarrhea. But there are some other symptoms of poor digestion that we don’t always think of poor digestion as being their root cause. Some of these symptoms include feeling tired after eating, weight gain, allergies, nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency, immune challenges, weak or brittle fingernails, and hormonal imbalances. Here are three simple, inexpensive and amazingly powerful ways to improve your digestive health.

• Relax when you eat. Digestion starts in the brain and is a parasympathetic process, meaning that it occurs optimally while we’re in the ‘rest and digest’ mode. In other words, when we’re not shoveling food in our mouth while hammering out a work project, driving in our car and worried about traffic, or snagging a few bites while rushing to get our kids out the door to school. I get it, you’re busy. We’re all busy, And while you may not always have the time for a full 20 minutes of relaxation around each meal, you might consider giving yourself a few extra minutes to eat, especially when you realize how important it is. Take action: Before eating, take 5-10 deep breaths and say thank you for your food, or say a short prayer. As best as you can, focus on your eating and put away other tasks.

• “Eat your liquids and drink your solids”; in other words, chew your food! Digestion is a north to south process: starting in the brain and making its way down. Next stop from your brain is your mouth, where your teeth and tongue break down the food into a paste, allowing your stomach and small intestine to carry on with digestion. Most people do not chew enough- usually a symptom of eating quickly; rushing through a meal to get back to work. Unfortunately, the rest of the digestive system cannot adequately digest food that is not small enough, causing undigested particles to enter your gut, which can cause typical symptoms of indigestion such as bloating, gas, cramping and leaky gut. As a side benefit, when you slow down and chew your food, you’re more likely to be in tuned with your natural hunger and fullness signals, and you will likely eat less food. Take action: Chew! Now that you’re sitting down and have taken 5 breaths, chew each bite a minimum of 30 times. Your solids should be liquid when they reach the stomach!

• Whole food supplements: Certain foods can help digestion. These include bone broth (not to be confused with soup stock), lemon juice in warm water, and apple cider vinegar. Bone broth has been shown to help heal a leaky gut and intestinal inflammation. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar help to stimulate the production of gastric juices, preparing your body for digestion. Take action: A table spoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar diluted in warm water taken 15 minutes prior to eating can help digestion. Include a serving of bone broth daily, or a few times a week.

Whether you experience symptoms of indigestion or not, good digestion is important for a healthy, vibrant and energetic body. And while improving digestion can be an individualized process depending on your unique body, the tips in this article are a great start for everyone!

Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle, and host of the Ascend Lifestyle Performance Podcast. Ascend’s supportive, knowledgeable coaches help clients live a healthier life and achieve their goals through nutrition, fitness and mindset coaching in a family-like private fitness studio. Learn more at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

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