Unfortunately, the vast majority of people suffer from digestive issues along the lines of acid reflux (GERD), heartburn, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. So much of this suffering is needless! These symptoms can be very effectively treated and often entirely eliminated through dietary habits and nutrition alone.
Here are five very easy-to-implement eating habits that improve digestion and make you far more able to enjoy eating:
- Don't drink liquids with meals. Liquids dilute your stomach acid and digestive enzymes, making food harder to digest and making you more prone to experiencing bloating, acid reflux, etc. Taking small sips is fine, but don't gulp down beverages and try to do your hydrating between meals. Ideally you would stop drinking 15 minutes before eating and wait 30 minutes after eating to start again.
- Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Though I have yet to see a compelling scientific explanation for why this is true for some people, it doesn't change the fact that many people who are prone to digestive distress get bloated when they eat fruit with or after other foods. If you have a sensitive stomach, it's worth testing out the Ayurvedic practice of eating fruit only on an empty stomach. After eating fruit, wait 20 minutes before eating other foods.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Chewing plays a role in both the mechanical and chemical parts of digestion. It physically breaks food down into smaller pieces while simultaneously mixing it with salivary enzymes, ultimately making digestion and absorption much easier down the line. Chewing thoroughly also helps you avoid eating too quickly.
- Relax. Emotions affect digestion. Negative emotions like stress, sadness, and anxiety reduce your production of stomach acid and significantly slow digestion, which makes you much more prone to digestive issues like acid reflux and bloating. Do your best to be in a relaxed state of mind when you eat. Take a few deep breaths before you eat or take a minute to feel grateful for your food in order to prepare your digestive tract for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Sit down to eat. Sit down, appreciate your food, notice the colors, textures, smells, and flavors, eat with others if possible, and just do your best to make eating a nice experience. Practicing mindfulness, gratitude, and pleasant conversation as you eat helps you avoid overburdening your digestion by pacing yourself and also positively affects your emotions (see #4).
Let me know in the comments how these tips work for you!