Simple Approach to Healthier Digestion
Many of us suffer from a myriad of gut issues that may present as symptoms from bloating, gassiness, constipation or sometimes just a general feeling of fullness.
We many times find ourselves reaching for over the counter remedies such as ant-acids, H2 blockers or anti-gas medicines.
While these may help temporarily relieve symptoms, trying the following simple steps may go a long way towards getting you back on track to a healthier gut and better digestion.
Step one: Become aware and present with what you are eating. The types and the quantity of food being consumed at each sitting are of paramount importance. Does there seem to be a correlation between your symptoms and either of these two factors? If so, a simple trial of eliminating the offending food or foods for 2 weeks may be helpful.
If you are unsure, then you can try eliminating one or more of the foods that most commonly create GI distress- such as wheat or diary, for the same amount of time. It may seem extreme but if your symptoms improve, well worth it.
Step two: Mom was right: Prior to each meal wash your hands thoroughly to reduce introducing possible pathogens into the body that could cause an upset stomach.
Step three: Before eating each meal, stop and take 5 deep breaths. This helps to put the gut into a more receptive state and allows us to be more present with our food.
Eating while stressed not only decreases digestion and absorption but also detracts from the taste and enjoyment of our food. Eating unconsciously often times leads to over eating and poor choices that can lead to symptoms like bloating, reflux and even weight gain.
Step four: Chew each mouthful about 25-40 times. Sounds excessive? Not really. This simple practice has several benefits. You are savoring and relishing every delicious morsel. Digestion starts in the mouth so do it well.
You are giving the gut and the brain the time they need to communicate with each other to avoid over eating. Even more importantly, this simple act leads to the release of a substance that helps with healing and repair of the digestive lining.
Step five: Eat regularly. Not only do you avoid the crankiness and headaches of hypoglycemia but you also avoid triggering the urge to eat everything and anything in sight.
Step six: Make sure to drink plenty of water during the day. This may help to improve symptoms of constipation as well as reduce the urge to over eat. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish hunger from thirst, so reach for a cup of water first before grabbing a snack.
Step Seven: Get regular exercise. This has been shown to improve symptoms of constipation and may even improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An additional added benefit is that you may find yourself looking and feeling better as exercise has been shown to be a powerful tool in improving moods.
Finally, avoid eating at least 2 hours before bed. Allow the digestive system the time and opportunity it needs to move the food along. This may not only improve symptoms of reflux but also help us to maintain a healthier weight.
Bonus tip: Abdominal symptoms can sometimes represent more serious conditions such as ulcers, gall bladder disease or issues with colon or small intestine.
If symptoms persist or worsen or if you have any concern it is best to check with your family physician for further evaluation and guidance.