5 Simple Steps to Encourage Comfortable Digestion
By Dr. Kevin Passero
With 60%-80% of the immune system in the gut, improving digestion is vitally important to calming systemic inflammation and supporting optimal health.
Incorporating these five simple practices can make a big difference for digestive comfort:
Step 1: Get into a calm state before eating.
Stress disrupts digestion and elimination because it activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (SNS). Often called the “fight or flight” nervous system, the SNS engages to help our body deal with stress. This is beneficial if we are dealing with a stressor, but can be a problem when our bodies need to digest a meal.
Activation of the SNS while eating often results in uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, reflux, diarrhea or constipation. The SNS is easily triggered by negative emotions, mental stress, chemicals found in processed foods, and some medications and drugs.
The PNS (parasympathetic nervous system), nicknamed the “digest and repair” nervous system, is what you want to stimulate before eating because activation of the PNS supports all of the critical phases of digestion!
You can activate the PNS with creating a peaceful environment, the smell or taste of food we desire, listening to relaxing music, and the calming influence of loving relationships. Even just taking a few deep breaths before your meal can help you relax.
Step 2: Support your stomach acid.
Your stomach’s hydrochloric acid (HCL) sterilizes food and helps your body break down and assimilate nutrients. HCL concentrations tend to decline as we age, so many people do not have enough HCL for optimal digestion. That’s why it’s important to stimulate it.
A few easy ways to stimulate HCL is by drinking a few tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in an ounce or two of water, eat a few tablespoons of raw, fermented vegetables, or try digestive bitters about 10 to 15 minutes before a meal.
Also avoid drinking too much water during your meal because it dilutes stomach acid. Stomach acid is the key to digesting and breaking down protein so this is vital to maintaining a youthful appearance inside and out.
Step 3: Take a probiotic.
Probiotics are the good bacteria in our intestines that support our immune system and comfortable digestion. They also can help to support a healthy inflammatory response, and good gut bacteria have been associated with lowering the rates of serious heart and blood sugar issues.
Probiotics also help our body break down food we cannot digest and aid in the extraction of nutrients from food. Eating homemade cultured vegetables may be the best way to get these beneficial bacteria into your system, but for most people taking a high quality probiotic is a much more convenient way.
Step 4: Support biliary function.
Bile helps digest fat. It is made by your liver and stored and released by your gallbladder. Adding beets, radishes, leeks or asparagus to your diet will support healthy gallbladder function.
Including good quality fats in the diet are also key to supporting gallbladder function. Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, avocados, fatty fish and animal fat from grass-fed cows all support healthy gallbladder function.
Eating a super low-fat diet or eating unhealthy fats from fried foods or trans-fats can negatively impact gallbladder health.
Step 5: Don’t forget to chew.
Chewing is the first phase of digestion. The mechanical action of chewing along with the enzymes contained in saliva play an important role in preparing food for its next phase of digestion in the stomach.
If large particles of food enter your stomach, they may remain undigested when entering your intestines and can cause digestive discomfort and contribute to food allergies. The more thoroughly you chew, the easier the passage through your intestines, plus your body will absorb more nutrients.
Generally the recommendation is to chew each bite at least 20 times before swallowing. Chewing your food more thoroughly also helps to prevent overeating because your stomach actually has time to communicate to your brain when it has had enough.
Digestive disorders are commonplace in today’s society, and these tips are a great place to start. If you are still experiencing digestive problems after putting these steps into practice, I recommend adding a high quality probiotic to your daily health regimen such as Durable PROBIOTIC™.
Durable PROBIOTIC is made with a blend of two patented, extensively researched, genetically verified
bacterial strains that have been proven in human clinical trials to ease digestive discomfort while boosting immune health.