Digestion is EVERYTHING! If we can’t break down foods into the very building blocks that help us regenerate and rebuild, how can we absorb what we need to live?
With an estimated 74% of Americans living with digestive symptoms like diarrhea, gas, bloating, acid reflux, and abdominal pain, it’s become normal to live in digestive discomfort. (Source) This is SO sad and completely unnecessary. This is primarily due to a high consumption of processed foods and high levels of stress.
Breaking down, assimilating, and utilizing nutrients is a vital process that keeps us alive! If our digestion is working perfectly, we are healthy! If our digestion is slow, or troubled, we may suffer from countless symptoms or chronic illnesses.
In this post I offer you a deeper understanding of how digestion works. This is KEY to grasp so that you can advocate for your gut health!
Check out this diagram of the digestive process:
North to South Process
It’s important to note that digestion is a north to south process and begins in the brain. Implementing simple steps to help our digestive process, for some, could eliminate all symptoms! I know this sounds crazy, but truly creating a state of ease and presence when we eat is SO healing!
Eating Parasympathetic State
Many of us eat quickly or in a rushed state. Eating in front of the TV, computer, or our phone presents our digestion a “stressed” state in which it cannot fully break down foods. When we are stressed or if our nervous system is heightened, we pull vital energy away from our digestive process and move it towards our extremities to prepare us to fight, flight, or freeze. This stressed state is called sympathetic, discussed in a previous lesson.
When we eat in this state we work against our digestive system AND ourselves!
On the contrary, eating in a parasympathetic state, or rest and digest state, utilizes the necessary energy that it takes to digest your food completely. Thus, cultivating a calm state before and while eating can greatly benefit your entire microbiome!
To cultivate this state implement one or ALL of these tips:
- Turn off any screens and create a calm environment. Cultivate presence around the meal you are going to ingest!
- Take three deep breaths before you eat!
- Slow down! Relax. Release your shoulders and place your attention on your meal.
- Enjoy your food! This leads us to my next tip:
Truly see, smell, and look at your food!
When we become aware of the very nourishment that will be fueling our beautiful body, we begin the digestive process.
Take a few moments to really see and smell your food! If you begin to salivate, even better! These are digestive enzymes ready to break down your food! Our saliva is the first step in breaking down our food… the next is to CHEW!
Chew your food!
- Chewing your food messages the brain to trigger proper digestive processes for the foods you are eating.
- Saliva is paramount to breaking down your food!
- Saliva is a complex mixture of electrolytes, hormones, and enzymes.
Chewing our food completely does a lot of the work before the bolus, or chewed up food, empties into our stomach. This simple step can greatly benefit the rest of your digestive system!
Support your stomach acid!
90% Americans produce too little HCL (hydrocholoric acid). In order for our food to be broken down and assimilated into nutrients our bodies can use, our stomach must have sufficient amounts of acid!
Let’s talk about the roles of stomach acid:
- Baths the stomach
- Disinfects the stomach
- Kills bacteria and parasites
- Activates pepsin, so we can digest proteins
- Stimulates gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the release of gastric acid
- Breaks down proteins
Important to note that Acid Reflux disease is actually caused by TO LITTLE HCL as there is:
- Not enough acid in the stomach means foods don’t get broken down.
- Maldigested foods cause a reflux, or backward flow, into the esophagus
- If the stomach is too alkaline, food in the stomach stays longer and begins to ferment, putrefy, and becomes rancid. Gross.
Stomach acid is our first line of defense against yeast, prions, bacteria, parasites, etc. When we have enough HCL pepsin digests these microorganisms… they become food. When we don’t have enough HCL, an environment is created in which these organisms thrive and raise havoc in the GI tract.
So what inhibits the production of stomach acid?
- Excess Carbohydrate Consumption
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Excess Alcohol Consumption
Supporting our stomach acid can be simple.
- Eat in a non-stressed or parasympathetic state
- Really look at your food. Smell and see it. Allow the production of saliva to start first before your first bite.
- Chew your food!!! Put your fork down between bites to help you slow down.
- Before you eat consume
- Sweetish Bitters (in Supplement package),
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- The juice of one lemon in about 4 ounces of water 15 – 20 minutes before your meal time.
- Consume fermented foods as it provides enzyme methylmethionine which stimulates HCL production.
- Don’t drink water close to meal time… especially alkaline water. Consuming cold drinks close to or during meal time inhibits the production of stomach acid and slows down digestion. If you must have something to drink, choose a hot herbal tea like ginger or dandelion root!
Use one or ALL of these tips to help support your digestion. When you begin to love and take care of your digestive system, it will take care of you! Of course eating real, whole, and nutrient-dense food is key. Check out my other blog posts for more support and insight on this topic. Like my post on Simple Guidelines for Reading Ingredient Lists. That post will also help you steer clear of digestion disruptors!
Also, check out my post Super Simple Switches for more great tips on sourcing food your body knows what to do with!
If you love this information, join me in my new Gut Health Program! Details coming soon. You can e-mail me to be put on the waiting list. Program begins the first weeks in April 2020!
In love and wellness, Becky