I believe that good digestion is the foundation to a healthy body and above all – a happy life. Frequently feeling tired, nauseous or bloated after meals may indicate that you are suffering from digestive problems. It took me several visits to doctors and naturopaths alike (and lots of research) to work out that the bloated and nauseous feelings I kept experiencing was directly related to an intolerance of the food (and drink) I was consuming. I also discovered that my diet not only affected me physically but also emotionally as I often felt stressed and found it hard to see the bright side of life. The signs that I was neglecting my body and actually doing harm to my digestive system became obvious once I started eliminating the culprits in my diet and when I incorporated consistent exercise in my life. In effect, I made a conscious choice to become healthy. I now recognise that the power is within us to make the right changes towards a healthy and happy life but it does require a bit of knowledge of how to go about it and determination. Once you start seeing and feeling the benefits, you won’t look back. To get you going, here are some easy to follow suggestions on how to improve your digestion.
Eat a diet rich in fibre
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and some gluten free whole grains. How you prepare your food is an important consideration as it will depend on the cause of your digestive problems. For some people it is best to avoid eating lots of raw food as they are harder to digest and can cause discomfort. Instead, lightly steam vegetables and enjoy more soups, curries with spices such as cumin, cayenne, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon that have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Eat slowly and mindfully
When we are hungry we often eat food faster than what we should which can cause over eating and bloating. Chewing your food well releases digestive enzymes in the stomach that help break down food so your body can convert it to energy.
Drink plenty of water
70% of the human body is made up of water which plays an important role in proper functioning of the body. Drinking water helps to flush out toxins from your system and aids with the absorption of essential nutrients. The many benefits of drinking water first thing in the morning include an increased rate of muscle and blood cell production and purification of the colon which improves the absorption of nutrients. Try drinking up to 1-2 glasses of warm water with a squeeze of lemon or organic apple cider vinegar in the morning before breakfast (try wait 30mins to an hour before eating). Ditch the soft drinks and reduce your coffee intake and swap for green tea and fresh ginger. Drink more herbal teas such as peppermint, ginger, and chamomile tea as they are known for their calming effect.
Replace dairy products
Often, people suffering from inflammatory problems are also intolerant to dairy. Try nut milks such as almond milk. You can make your own or you can buy from a health food store or supermarket but be sure to get unsweetened where possible.
Substitute processed sugar
Many processed foods we eat contain processed sugar, so ideally we should avoid these foods as much as possible. Processed sugar is inflammatory to your digestive system as it feeds harmful bacteria and parasites.. Substitute processed sugar with homemade snacks containing natural sugars such as dates, apricots, raw honey and stevia. Try my apricot & almond balls for a guilt free snack.
Eat gluten free whole grains
For people who are gluten intolerant, natural grains such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat and amaranth are great gluten free alternatives. A so called ‘ancient grain’, quinoa is not only a complete protein but also very nutritional with high levels of potassium to help control blood pressure and notable Vitamin E content. Try my Quinoa & Spiced Blueberry Bircher.
Try fermented foods
Fermented foods break down protein, fats and carbohydrates to create micro flora a friendly bacteria beneficial for the gastrointestinal system. Try foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and kombucha tea.
When we get stressed it activates the “flight or fight” response in the central nervous system. In this response our digestion shuts down and can make you feel nauseous, cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system and stress like symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation. To help avoid stress and digestive problems, try yoga and exercise more. Only welcome positivity into your life and enjoy the benefits of being in nature more often.