The digestive system is one the most important systems of the body because it processes everything you eat and drives your overall health and wellbeing.
When your digestive system is not functioning optimally, imbalances in the gut occur and you'll likely suffer from any number of discomforts and dis-ease.
One of the most common everyday discomforts is indigestion and bloating, which is generally caused by:
- Eating too much or eating too fast
- Eating even when you're not hungry
- Loading up on inflammatory foods such as, processed sugar, refined grains or fried and fatty foods
- Mixing processed carbohydrates and the wrong types of fats together
- Consuming heavy meals at night.
Here, we share with you 5 tips for improving your digestion and suffering less bloat.
Even if you don't experience digestive problems right now, these are important tips to remember that will support healthier eating habits, so that you'll be less susceptible to digestive problems over time.
1. Only Eat When Hungry
The heavily engrained “3 square meals a day” phenomenon recent generations have been raised with is actually not ideal or how human beings are designed to eat.
The problem with this type of format is two fold -
- It encourages us to eat no matter what, even when we're not hungry, and;
- It places unnecessary and constant stress on the digestive system because the body is 'always' process food and never gets the chance to properly reset.
For thousands of years, humans would go for many hours within each 24 hour daily block without food. And what's interesting is that dietary related illness and disease was almost non-existent as a result.
The longer you can wait between meals, the more you give your body a chance to assimilate nutrients and to work through the natural digestive and detoxification process. And when you're able to do this, you place less stress on your digestive system, meaning you'll have less inflammation in your body and you'll be less susceptible to bloating and other discomforts as a result.
This is where time-restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting, comes in as a daily lifestyle protocol.
Intermittent Fasting is a simple way to give your digestive system a chance to do it's handy work, because you extend out the fasting or 'non-eating' window within a 24 hour period.
It basically means compressing your eating window - the consumption of your daily calories - into a shorter time frame.
Advocates of intermittent fasting generally recommend an optimum format of two meals within an 8-10 hour time period, giving your body 14-16 hours of 'fasting' or non-consumption as the re-set period, which includes the time you're asleep.
You can learn more about intermittent fasting in our blog, Intermittent Fasting - Health Benefits & How To’s
Another important thing to remember when it comes to over-eating....
Often hunger is actually a mask for thirst.
In other words, the desire for food in many cases is actually the result of dehydration, so it’s always a good idea to drink a good amount of water first before deciding if you're really actually hungry.
If you really can't go without food for more than a few hours several hours, try some lighter options that will place less weight on your digestive system such as smoothies, soups, dips, fresh fruits, raw nuts or salads.
2. Chew Your Food Slowly
Eating too much too quickly is a surefire way to bring on indigestion and bloating.
There are digestive enzymes in your saliva that are activated more effectively when you chew your food completely before swallowing.
Take your time when eating, take smaller bites, savour the food, let your food settle and stop when you're satisfied.
Do this and you'll gradually become accustomed to eating less at meal time, which in turn will reduce bloating and digestive problems.
3. Drink More Water
By drinking water consistently throughout the day, you’ll feel less hungry. Not only that, drinking enough water is critical for ensuring healthy digestive function.
Remember, the first sign of appetite is usually "thirst" not "hunger" and this is amplified when you're dehydrated.
By staying hydrated, you'll dull your appetite and help to flush out your digestive system properly.
Drink a good amount of water when you rise first thing in the morning, following your morning exercise and take water with you to sip on throughout the day.
For optimum health, you should aim to drink at least 2 litres per day overall and if you're physically very active or perspire a lot, aim for 2 litres per 22 kilos of body weight.
Also, ensure that you drink clean filtered water, a natural spring water or distilled water, rather than water straight from the tap which often contains many unwanted chemicals.
Learn more in our blog, Water: Nature’s Best & Why It’s Critical To Life
4. Eat More Greens and Plant Foods
Eating more fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs is essential if you want to improve your digestion and help to avoid bloating.
These foods satiate your body and appetite because of their nutrient quality and density and because they're quickly assimilated by your cells.
Start meal time with a small handful of leafy greens (or a green salad with other ingredients added) to take the edge off your appetite and to get healthy fibres into your digestive tract.
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle sea salt on top. Make this a habit as much as possible and you'll find your digestive function will improve and you'll tend to eat less when the main meal arrives.
Interestingly, there are some specific whole foods that are renowned for their digestive supporting qualities. These include:
- Ginger Root
- Cilantro (Coriander Leaf)
- Green Peas
Learn more in our blog, Digestive System: Top Foods To Support Digestion, Gut Health & Healing
The more plant foods and fibres you can add to your diet, the more satisfied you'll feel and the better your digestive system will function.
If you feel you need some digestive aids to help get you on the right track, try our Get Things Moving Daily Fibre Blend which contains ground chia, psyllium and flax seeds.
Also, be sure to include natural fermented foods in your diet to ensure you have enough healthy bacteria in the gut.
Some good choices are:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Yoghurt & Cheese
5. Eat More “Good” Fats
In addition to intermittent fasting, boosting your intake of seasonal whole foods, water and fermented foods, it's also important to include 'good' fats in your diet.
Good fats are natural fats that don't cause chemical chaos in the body, that are loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals and help to keep you satiated throughout the day and less hungry at night.
Some great sources include:
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Macadamia nuts and macadamia oil
Other Helpful Tips
If bloating or digestive problems are a real issue for you, try keeping your evening meal as light as possible by choosing soups, salads and nut milk smoothies instead of a heavy meal.
Also, be sure to walk every day, particularly in the morning if you can, which is one of the best exercises you can do for supporting a healthy digestive system.
Another tip is to embrace essential oils such as dōTERRA's Digest Zen Blend which you will find in our store at tolmanselfcare.com. It's a proprietary blend of pure ginger root, peppermint, caraway, fennel, anise and coriander seed and tarragon essential oils. Simply place 1-2 drops into a mug of hot water and sip to support healthy digestion and to help prevent bloating.
The Main Take Away
When it comes to your health, your digestive system needs your support to function at its best.
A digestive system that functions poorly will lead to all kinds of problems, that may include indigestion, bloating, constipation, fatigue, skin blemishes and eventually more serious digestive related disorders and diseases.
Use the tips shared with you here to take care of your digestive system every day, by paying attention to your food intake, eating windows, and by ensuring you give it the time and space it needs to perform the way it is meant to.
When you do this, you'll feel physically lighter and brighter and you'll make digestive problems and bloating a thing of the past.
Tolman Self Care.