Feeling gassy and bloated after eating? It’s a common problem that many people put up with or resort to taking daily antacids. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can improve your digestion so you can eat without discomfort and absorb the nutrients your body needs from the food you eat.
It all starts by chewing your food properly and eating in a relaxed environment. That might not be possible all the time, but you should aim to do so as often as you can. When you eat quickly you tend to not chew as well and can miss out on the pleasure of the flavours of what you’re eating. You might also notice you feel indigestion afterwards when you swallow larger chunks of improperly chewed food. So taking time to really savour your meals as much as you can can help with digestion.
Too Little Acid
Do you find yourself reaching for an antacid after meals? Can you believe a lot of times your stomach actually doesn’t produce enough acid? This is called an underactive stomach. When a stomach is underactive, not enough enzymes are produced to digest food properly. When hydrochloric acid (HCl) is low in the stomach, the enzyme that digests protein, pepsin, isn’t activated.
So what causes an underactive stomach? It can be caused by eating too much processed foods, red meat, dairy products, and fast foods. Not chewing properly, eating protein with carbs, and being under stress can also contribute to an underactive stomach.
In addition, as we age, HCl production decreases–especially over the age of 40. This can lead to malabsorption of vitamins and minerals and constipation as well as poor protein and fat digestion.
Food combining can help when your digestion is weak. For example, eating protein and carbs together can slow down digestion. The acids in your stomach digest protein while the alkaline juices in your mouth first digest carbs. When you eat protein and carbs together, they inhibit the digestion of each other. So eating sweets for dessert after a steak dinner isn’t the best option.
When digestion is slowed, there is a greater chance of putrefaction and fermentation in the gut. Eating protein and carbs away from each other helps speed up digestion and fewer toxins will be produced from your intestinal flora.
Taking a tablespoon of raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the “mother” approximately 15 minutes before meals can help with digestion. The “mother” looks a little like a cobweb, and it is made up of good bacteria, enzymes, and proteins.
Another way to help with digestion is to avoid drinking too much with meals, especially cold drinks. Sipping on water during meals is preferable to not dilute digestive enzymes.
While you don’t want to gulp down large beverages with breakfast, lunch, or dinner, drinking more water in between meals is helpful. You can get your fluids through food as well and consuming water-rich foods such as cucumbers, leafy greens, radishes, zucchini, and citrus fruits will help.
Keep a Food Diary
Certain foods can cause digestive issues and sometimes it’s easy to tell which foods are the culprits. But if it isn’t obvious, it is helpful to keep a food diary for five to seven days. Eat as you usually do and write down everything you eat each day and any symptoms you experience. You can look back on it and your notes can point you to some possible offenders. It is also handy to have to show your healthcare practitioner.
Probiotics can help with digestion by helping with nutrient absorption. You can either take a quality probiotic or eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kefir, tempeh, and kimchi.
Increase Fibre and EFA Intake
If you suffer from constipation, increasing your water and fibre intake can help. It helps food mix with digestive enzymes, increases bulk, and helps with nutrient absorption as it helps food have more contact with intestinal walls.
Along with adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet, you can add ground flaxseed and chia seeds to your meals. Both can be added to smoothies, salads, and oatmeal, which also contains fibre. Snacking on almonds will help with your fibre intake as well as provide you with protein and healthy fats.
Increase your fibre intake slowly over time if it’s currently very low to avoid unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and constipation. Increase hydration along with fibre.
Help lubricate your colon with essential fatty acids (EFAs). You can find them in salmon, sardines, mackerel, beef, flaxseeds, chia seeds, whole grains, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, and avocados.
Ginger also helps with digestion by helping with nutrient absorption from food. It also helps with slow digestion by speeding up gastric emptying. Consult with your doctor before taking ginger if you are on blood thinners.
If you need some extra help, taking a plant-based digestive enzyme with meals to help you break down your food is another option.
You can eat the healthiest food but if you aren’t digesting and absorbing it, it isn’t doing you a lot of good. Instead of reaching for an antacid, try one or more of these suggestions to help your body do what it’s supposed to do.
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