Digestion is the process by which foods and liquids are broken down to their smallest parts so that the body can absorb them and nourish cells to provide us with energy. Being healthy isn’t just what you eat or how you eat it, it is also whether your digestive system can process it and eliminate the waste.
We are not what we eat but WE ARE WHAT WE CAN DIGEST. If our digestion is not working at its best then it is likely that you are not absorbing all the essential nutrients from the food you eat. Your body can go into starvation mode. This might cause weight gain, weight loss, inflammation and other health concerns. Our digestion starts in the mouth and ends in the bowels. Your digestive system may not be as healthy as you think. There is more to a healthy digestion then just having a bowel movement every day.
In Ayurveda we say that a healthy digestion is the corner stone of good health. All imbalances and acute or chronic diseases start from the digestive system. Basically if your digestive system is healthy – you are healthy!
Poor Digestion is affecting millions of people all over the world and the problem is made more complex because of all the man-made food that has been introduced in the last 50 years.
Usually the digestive system is stronger in the cooler weather. This is important for a healthy immune system of which the digestive system is a part of. So how to you know if your digestion isn’t doing so well? Here are some indicators: having gas, irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, stomach cramping, not feeling hungry at mealtimes, post-eating lethargy and bad breath. Unfortunately these indicators are nowadays so common that they are considered normal. Such symptoms are actually clues from your body that something is out of balance.
So how can you improve your digestion?
- Eat slowly and chew your food well – It’s best not to eat on the run (which means your body is not focusing on digesting food). Chewing your food releases valuable enzymes in your mouth and lubricates the food. Enzymes released while you chew your food help to break chemical bonds.
- Using Spices – In Ayurveda we add spices like ginger, black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, fennel, rosemary, oregano and other warming spices to our food to make them more easily digestible.
- Lemon juice and warm water – Starting your day with one cup of warm water and lemon juice (half a lemon) will do wonders for your health. The benefits of warm water and lemon juice are amazing and include: a boost in your immune system, pH balance, aid in weight loss, natural diuretic, helps clear up skin, and it can hydrate your lymph system. Warm water and lemon help with digestion by cleansing your stomach while moving left over debris and excess acid away.
- Apple cider vinegar – Adding one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar to one glass of water can help stimulate hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach. It’s good to drink this 30 minutes before your meals. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) breaks down food. If you don’t produce enough HCL than you have an underactive stomach or hypochlorhydria. Symptoms of this include: bloating, belching after meals, cramping and abdominal pain.
- Avoid drinking with your meal – Drinking shortly before or after food can dilute HCL and digestive enzymes. Especially, drinking cold beverages during a meal can slow down digestion as food is broken down and digested more effectively at body temperature. If you need to drink while eating, try warm water or herbal teas.
- Avoid modern farmed vegetables and food – Pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria inside your body leading to overgrowth of harmful yeasts and funguses.
- Avoid processed foods – Digestive enzymes are found naturally in all uncooked and unprocessed whole foods but they are completely destroyed by heat and commercial processing. Your body produces its own enzymes too of course but when it has to produce all the required enzymes (because there is less or none in the food you eat) it puts a big strain on your digestive system.
- Avoid antibiotics and medications – Antibiotics can be a life saver but unfortunately they are nowadays prescribed far too often. Antibiotics don’t just kill the harmful bacteria in your body but also the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Most medications affect our digestion in a negative way.
These are some simple ways of improving your digestion. Sometimes that is not enough and then herbs, supplements, probiotic beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes can help.