By Lauren Fischer
Digestion is one of the foundations of health. Every cell that makes up every tissue that makes up every organ depends on the body’s digestive system to provide the nutrients it needs to keep on functioning. Digestion is the process that turns your food into fuel. It is what provides you with the energy to dominate a workout, be productive at work and play with your kids.
Despite its importance, proper digestion is probably not one of the million things on your mind. There are so many demands for our attention today that, as a culture, we are too stressed to digest. It is time to slow down, prioritize meals and reap the benefits of increased energy and less digestive distress. Here are three steps you can take today to improve your digestion.
Sit down and unplug
We tend to live in a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state due to chronic daily stressors like traffic and email. The problem is that digestion shuts down in fight-or-flight mode. Only in a parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) state can your body properly secrete stomach acid, breakdown food, and absorb and assimilate nutrients.
Switching from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest is as easy as sitting down and unplugging from distractions. Turn off the TV, put down the phone and take a seat in front of the meal or snack you are about to enjoy.
Take a minute to relax
Once you are seated, take a minute to really relax. Take a few deep breaths, appreciate the effort that went into preparing the food, and notice the beautiful aroma and colors of the food. Digestion actually begins in the brain. Just the sight and smell of food triggers the production of saliva and other gastric juices.
Chew, chew, chew
Your stomach is not prepared to handle intact foods, despite what you may have learned from Joey Chestnut, the competitive eater. Your stomach does not have teeth. Fortunately, your mouth does. Aim to chew each bite 20–30 times. This allows the food to be mechanically broken down by your teeth as well as chemically broken down by enzymes in saliva. Set your fork down between bites and savor your food.
These three steps prepare your food to travel through the remainder of the digestive system without a hitch, meaning less uncomfortable bloating, indigestion, and reflux and more nutrient absorption and energy.