For people who want to boost their digestive function, this article will be of interest since it will talk about some of the ways you can improve your digestive system. These actions are really simple, easy to remember and they’re going to take us back to the basics and the foundations of improving our digestive system to ensure that it works optimally for you.
I’m not going to use big terms, with the exception of a couple of terms. Your digestive system is run on a parasympathetic nervous system state. This is your rest and digest state of being. So when we are in a parasympathetic state, we are calm and we are able to digest. We often go into this state when we’re sleeping, meditating, watching TV or really finding ourselves in a peaceful, relaxing environment like when we take a walk outside.
The opposite to the parasympathetic state is going to be your sympathetic state. This is otherwise known as the fight or flight response. In this state, we are ready to run and move; we’re in survival mode. When we are stressed out, eating on the go, taking a working lunch or maybe even eating and then going right back to work, we’re in a sympathetic mode.
Our body is still receiving that nervous system response to stress. This is going to lead us to the first action item that I’m going to give you, and that is to allow yourself to move into a parasympathetic, rest and digest state before you enjoy your meal. You can do this on your way to enjoy a meal.
So whether you’re eating out or while you’re preparing a meal, or whether you’re eating in or maybe taking a lunch right in your lunch, just invite that, “I am calm,I’m going to be able to rest and digest while I have this meal” feeling and then take three big inhales and three being exhales. Just let the stress go before you enjoy your meal.
Allow yourself to settle down and may be, even give a little bit of gratitude and thanks to the people who prepared this food, regardless if it was you, a friend, family members or a chef. Allow your body to relax in that thanks. Once you’ve taken those few deep breaths and you begin enjoying your food and eating, the second action is going to be to chew your food completely.
Our stomach and our digestive system don’t have teeth, so it’s relying on us to break down the food with our mouth and jaw, along with our teeth, to make sure that it can then in turn absorb those nutrients to the full capacity that we’re going to need them. When you chew your food and you’re in a calm state, the digestive system is getting the response that, “It’s okay, I can take this in. I have the time and I can use the energy just for digestion.”
One good tip here is to avoid any sort of beverage while you’re eating. Our digestive system is like a fire and when we consume beverages while we are eating, it’s going to just put water on that fire, the fire the we need for digesting our food that’s been chewed properly.
The last action item is going to be happening after you’ve enjoyed your meal. So just like we’ve moved into our mealtime with a calm, grateful and slowed down state of being preparing for digestion, we then want to move out of digestion and rest the same way. So I’m going to encourage you that when you finish your meal, to just sit for a couple of minutes.
You can set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes and take several deep breaths. You might even want to express gratitude again or talk to your colleagues or whoever you’re eating with, and tell them how good the meal was and how much you enjoyed your meal. Bring some peace to this time and some gratitude again.
That’s it. The simplicity of these three actions is going to help alleviate some signs and symptoms that you might be experiencing like gas, bloating indigestion, acid reflux, constipation and even diarrhea. When we go back to the basics and the foundations, we can really look at our body as a mechanism for processing and putting it back into that rest and digestion state for optimal nutritional absorption.
David Hiddlestone-Naith is a licensed acupuncturist in San Diego, CA and the founder of Acupuncture Health Center of San Diego.