Do you remember back at school the petty I hate your guts insult? On reflection I have decided that it was a whole lot nastier than it sounds on the surface because your guts are goddamn awesome! Do you know how awesome they are? If not you may be pleased to hear that these oft forgotten organs are getting some extra attention these days and you’re education is probably going to intensify as the bodies of information swell. The other day the ABC aired a two-part special which really explored the nitty gritty. (You can watch the show here and here if you’re interested).
So here is a condensed bit of basic info.
Firstly, our gut is not just what we get from too much beer. Our guts are considered to be our digestive organs and their accessories (possibly the first time an anus has been considered an accessory. Imagine that runway show!). It is our stomach, intestines, liver, colon, anus and oesophagus. Basically anything food passes through.
Our guts are considered the second brain of our body. It is where 95% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) lives. It is the part of the body that has the most interaction with the outer world – food, infections and toxins. It also absorbs and assimilates nutrients into our body and, you know, keeps us alive.
See, I hate your guts is a bloody nasty insult! But by my logic that means “I love your guts” is the best compliment one could hope to receive. So I am hear to tell you, I love your guts. I love them so much that I made a list of 20 ways to nurture it. I know, I move fast right? Next i’ll be asking if I can leave my toothbrush at your place.
20 Simple ways to improve digestion.
- Drink a large glass of water about half an hour before you eat. This is a simple message to your body to fire up the engine, get the bile and acids brewing ready to do some kickass digesting. If you want to get extra fancy you can add some Apple Cider Vinegar to warm water which is a powerful digestive aid.
- Consume ginger with (or before) your meal. Ginger is just plain great for your digestion. I like to grate up some of the root and have it in hot water as a tea.
- Digestzen. One of my favorite essential oils blend is Digestzen – a mix of ginger, peppermint, anise, fennel and more all fantastic digestive agents. I mix a few drops in coconut oil and rub it onto my belly if I am feeling particularly bloated and it works every time. Drinking a diluted drop also works wonders
- For gods sake, woman – CHEW! In today’s fast paced world we seem to overlook this simple mechanical function and instead apply the “Duck Method”; swallowing mostly whole food. Chewing is one of the first stages of digestion and we really need to rediscover it. I got so passionate about it that I wrote an entire post about it here.
- Eat a probiotic rich diet. We have millions and billions of bacteria within our gut, called our Gut Flora. There is good bacteria and bad bacteria and (if you’re healthy) they balance each other out and harmony reigns. However a lot of us have imbalanced gut flora due to stress, processed foods, allergies or antibiotics. I spoke all about my issues with candida over here which is all to do with gut health. A great way to repopulate your gut with the good stuff is to eat fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kim chi or beet kvass) with every meal or at least as many as possible. Or if they really ain’t your thing you could add a good quality probiotic capsule.
- Eat mindfully (which is woo-woo speak for slow down). Scoffing food also results in swallowing a whole heap of air which just leaves you feeling uncomfortable. So unless you want to be burped like a baby after every meal you can instead try to eat mindfully. Bring your awareness back to the plate, turn off any devices and be there with your meal and your family. A fun exercise is to get your Hemingway on and describe – in mouthwatering detail – what you are tasting. It brings your attention right back to the task at hand and is a surprisingly enlightening exercise!
- Don’t eat too much. Think of your stomach as a food processor. Hang on a second? That’s exactly what it is – this is not my finest analogy. I have regrets. I mean the kitchen appliance food processor. If you were to put an entire onion into it and turned it on it would eventually chop the thing up, but it would be a slow clunky and messy process. And if your food processor is as crap as mine you’d probably also have a burnt out motor. It’s much easier if you try smaller chunks. Your stomach is much the same. It struggles to operate if the task at hand is too big i.e. you are too full and especially if you have a crap food processor (bad gut health). Don’t eat too much. Stop before you are bursting at the seams. Give yourself room to digest.
- Stop snacking as much. Using the same logic as above this will allow your digestive juices to build so you can fully digest your meal and extract its nutrients. Constant grazing doesn’t allow for this. And talking of giving your system a break…
- Periodically Cleanse. Every few months I give myself and my digestive system a bit of a break by going on a juice cleanse for a day or two I always feel so much better for it. If you are new to cleanses then make sure you do the research, follow a plan (like this one) or purchase a pre-juiced cleanse which is delivered to your door (liike this one).
- Exercise. Moving your body is fantastic for speeding up digestion. It increases blood flow to your organs and also gets the intestinal muscles working. For one week, try a simple ten minute walk around the block after dinner and see how you feel. I notice a huge difference when I schedule this into my daily routine.
- Get Bendy. On that… if it’s too cold or dark to venture outside after dinner, there are some fab twisty yoga poses that you can do from the comfort of your loungeroom. You can have a squizz at the image below, or if you prefer a guided practice I love this vid and this one too.
Awesome graphic found here at Stuffed Pepper.
- Practice Good Posture. Sitting up straight and having a good strong core can improve your digestion – seriously. Biomechanist Katy Santiago, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura says “If your core musculature is slack, your body stabilizes abdominal organs by packing fat around them, which heats the organs and reduces their function”.
- Identify allergies and intolerances. If you suspect that you have an allergy or food sensitivity, do not stick your head in the ground like an ostrich. Address it! Mind Body Green have a great article which goes over how to address it here.
- Drink water – lots of it. Are you sick of that piece of advice? It seems to be the autoreply for most wellness questions. But it’s true. Water helps to break down your food as well as flush waste and toxins from your intestine which can interfere with digestion.
- Eat bitter and sour foods. They stimulate your digestion. So?… that means Lemon Lime Bitters with vodka is a health drink, yes? No. Sigh. I tend to add a squeeze of lemon to my meal (if it suits). Lots of lettuces are naturally bitter, kale to, so the bitter component is a cinch in Summer. Tahini is also great and is easy to incorporate into your meals!
- Give yourself a gut massage. After you eat place your flat palm on your stomach and move it firmly clockwise in about a 3cm radius from your belly button. When you do this circular massage (between 2 and 5 minutes) you should notice an improvement in your digestion in no time. You could maybe get your partner to do it for you to add a little romance. Nothing like an anti-constipation rub to warm the loins.
- Eat more fiber. I have heard fiber being described as the traffic cop of your gut and I love it. It is so true. It slows the digestion enough to allow proper absorption and keeps blood sugar stable. But then it keeps everything moving by softening le poop (talking French makes it less gross, oui?) and preventing constipation.
- Eat bone broth. This miracle broth helps to heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract which makes it easier to digest and absorb.
- Eat your biggest meal at lunch. This has possibly been the biggest shift that I have reaped the best reward from. If your body isn’t taking up all its energy digesting a huge meal it can get to the real work that it needs to do while it sleeps; healing and recuperating.
- If in doubt, meditate! I so need to get that tattooed on me forehead. I genuinely feel that it would be hard to find something that isn’t remedied by a little meditation. Except war. Meditation would suck for warmongers. All the more reason to embrace it.
What about you? Do you have any tips and tricks up your sleeve to help with your digestion? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.