Summer is coming. And good digestion means less buildup of waste, which translates into a slimmer-looking stomach. If you’re struggling with digestive issues, sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what is causing the problem. On top of that, sometimes the problem isn’t food related at all! Want to deal with your gut challenges before you slip into skinny jeans, a sundress, or a bathing suit? Here are six easy ways to help ensure your digestion is optimized and consistent.
For a better gut, gear up. Physical activity is a crucial factor in the digestion puzzle, and will help to promote movement in your GI tract, so find a physical activity you love and do more of it. Reason: Increased exercise has been found to have a positive impact on the amount of gut microbiota (gut flora) in the body. This translates into a healthier digestive tract and possibly a speedier digestive process.
For more digestive support, make sure you add high-fiber foods to your diet. Whole grains and legumes increase stool bulk and softness, promoting easier passage. Beans and eggplants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are vital for clearing your digestive tract. For a fiber-packed breakfast, add chopped dates, diced apples, and one tablespoon of chia seeds to your morning oats.
Some forms of fiber also serve as prebiotics -- a food source for beneficial gut bacteria. Anything that supports the health of gut flora will have a positive impact on digestion. Prebiotic-friendly foods include sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), chicory, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, asparagus, snow peas, green peas, and beets. If you’re struggling to get your daily fill of fiber, a high-quality fiber supplement can help also.
A bad night of sleep could equal a bad day of digestion. Tossing and turning increases the hormone ghrelin, which causes an increase in cravings for carbs, sugars, and caffeine — major digestion disruptors. Put away the smart phone at least an hour before bedtime and aim for seven to nine hours of rest each night so you can avoid this tummy trap.
Whenever the body is faced with stress, your 'fight or flight' response kicks in. As a result, the digestive process may take a hit. Occasional stress is okay, but over time, persistent stress and anxiety impairs both digestion and metabolization of food, and reduces nutrient absorption. Although stress can’t be totally avoided, there are many relaxation methods (reading, meditation, and journaling) that can help you regain mind-body harmony and ensure smoother digestion.
Sure, you’ve probably been told that drinking water helps with digestion. But how and when you're drinking water can make all the difference. Guzzling water while eating promotes gas and bloating. It also dilutes digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, which may decelerate the digestive process. As a best practice, sip (don’t gulp) water 15 minutes before you eat and 30 minutes to one hour after you eat.
Remember your mom telling you to chew each bite 32 times before swallowing? As it turns out, mom was right -- only you don’t have to go to extremes. Aim for 20 to 30 chews before swallowing. Why? Chewing is actually the first step in the digestive process. Saliva contains enzymes that help break down food particles before they enter the digestive tract. So the longer food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it will travel through your intestines and the less gas it creates.
Adopt some or all of these gut-helping tricks today, while staying away from fried and processed foods, and see how your body reacts. These practices are excellent all-natural digestive aids and may be exactly what you need to eliminate a sluggish system and fit into your summer wardrobe.
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