Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Feeling bloated and sensitive digestion issues. I’ve always had a sensitive stomach and it doesn’t take very much to throw my system off-balance. Running from one meeting to another, I didn’t always take the time to properly sit and eat my lunch as I should have. Also, at this time of the year when it’s so cold outside, we tend to indulge in heavier foods to keep ourselves warm, and we also tend to move a little less. It doesn’t just end there, as our digestion slows down as a result which often results in bloating. Some of my friends think that feeling bloated is normal after eating. Guess what? I’m here to tell you that it’s not.
Connect the dots between lifestyle and health
So where do we start? The connection between our lifestyles, our immune system, our gut, our energy levels and our health is stronger than we realize. Our gut and brain are more in sync that you may realize. Poor digestion can lead to brain fog and even depression. A stressful lifestyle can negatively affect our digestive system, among other things. It can cause a decrease in blood and oxygen flow to the stomach causing inflammation and an imbalance in gut bacteria. Our gut health and digestion in turn impacts many other functions in our bodies including our immune systems, energy levels and even mental health. You see, how our bodies are an ecosystem?
So what can we do to improve our digestion?
Start with these simple steps to take charge
First work with your nutritionist or doctor to make sure that you don’t have any food intolerances or allergies e.g. wheat which may tax your digestion.
Otherwise, little tweaks in our daily habits can have a massive impact on our digestion and health. Here are some simple Ayurvedic principles that I’ve grown up with, and that are backed by numerous scientific studies to help improve digestion:
- Eat only when hungry. It is important to allow enough time between meals so your body has a chance to digest previous meal and heal some of its wear and tear. This also goes hand in hand with making sure that you stop eating before you’re full. This is because the brain can take up to 20 min to register that your stomach is full). Remember, that our bodies need a break from eating, and snacking all day can be taxing on your digestive system.
- Eat foods that are easy on digestion. My first advice would be to try to go without snacks between meals in order to give your body rest and allow it to repair itself. If you have to eat, consider digestion-friendly foods like avocados and cooked soups etc. Raw vegetables are harder to digest and can exasperate the situation. Also, add naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and yoghurts to your daily diet as they provide gut friendly bacteria.
- Add digestion-friendly spices: Certain herbs and spices have medicinal compounds that help relieve gas, indigestion and bloating. Spices like fennel, ginger, coriander seeds, and spearmint have been used for centuries to sooth upset stomachs and aid digestion. Adding them to your food or tea during meal will not only make your food more flavorful, but also helps soothe your stomach. Here is a post on benefits of licorice for digestion and stress (both of which are closely tried together).
- Drink some homemade bone broth first thing in the morning to help repair gut lining damage and calm it down. Here’s a recipe for an Ayurvedic Chicken Bone Broth I often make and it works like a charm.
- Squeeze a lemon on your food, or add to your water. The acid in lemon helps break down some of the food and aids in digestion. Same goes for adding kimchi or other healthy preservative-free pickles to your well rounded meal.
- Drink only warm water with meals, but not too much. Warm water helps stimulate the digestive enzymes in your stomach, and thereby helps digestion. However, too much water may dilute the acid in your stomach too much causing the feeling of bloating. As I mentioned above, add a little ginger or mint to your warm water for increased effect.
- Take a deep breath after your meal. It’s important to eat mindfully and not be rushed during and after our meals.
- Go for a 15-min post dinner stroll. Going for a walk after eating aids your body to not only digest better and reduce bloating, but also helps with fat loss. It does this by helping your body maintain its sugar levels. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, my family and all my neighborhood families often went for a walk after dinner, which made for a very vibrant and social time, almost every evening. Personally, I find post-dinner walk to be very effective with overall digestion and lowering blood sugars.
- Don’t eat late in the evening. This is no surprise as eating close to bedtime increases blood sugar levels well into the night and may result in extra pounds. Also, your body will be too busy digesting the foods at night and won’t be able to dedicate its energy towards its usual repair processes. Finish eating at least 3 hours before bedtime so your body has enough time to digest food.
- Sleep on the left side. Sleeping on the left side eases digestion. According to a scientific study done in 2010, researchers theorize that this is because your stomach remains lower than your esophagus, and so the gastric acid doesn’t move up which may causing acid reflux.
- Manage your stress levels. Stress and digestion are often tied together. When you are off balance in one area, it can set off inflammatory mechanisms in the body and can impact other areas of your life. So start with meditation, adding sauna to your gym routine, and removing sources of consistent stress.
Have you tried any of these simple strategies in your daily life to get rid of bloating or improve your digestion? Would love to hear what you find most useful. Leave us a comment below.