Published March 16, 2017 — Share
There could be many reasons you experience gas, bloating or indigestion. Whether you’re eating too fast and swallowing too much air, are intolerant to a specific food you’re eating, or suffer from an underlying digestive issue you may or may not be aware of, there are a number of natural ways you can tackle the issue. These are my top five tips to improve your digestion.
It seems so simple, but a lot of us don’t take the time to actually chew our food properly. Digestion begins in the mouth with the chewing of food and the release of saliva, which starts the digestion of carbohydrates. When we take the time to chew our food, it’s broken into smaller parts that are easier for your body to digest.
Slowing down to enjoy and taste your food contributes to feeling more satiated. Also, when you take the time to chew your food, there’s a greater chance you’ll feel fuller faster, which may prevent you from overeating, which happens when we shovel food into our mouth too quickly.
Canadians are simply not getting the recommended daily intake of fibre. Fibre is crucial because it lowers cholesterol and controls blood sugar levels. It’s also essential for massaging the interior of our digestive tract and feeding the probiotics in our gut.
As a general guideline, the average adult woman should aim to consume 21 to 28 grams of fibre per day, while the average adult man should aim for 30 to 38 grams per day. To put this into perspective, there’s about four grams of fibre in a cup of oatmeal and three grams of fibre in a banana.
To increase your fibre, you’ll want to increase your consumption of whole foods. My favourite fibre-rich foods include oat bran and oatmeal, quinoa, beans and lentils, and chia.
Probiotics are important for our digestive health because they help to liberate or create essential nutrients, build natural barriers to keep toxins from being absorbed into the body, and stimulate a strong immune system. This is why eating fermented foods, which are full of good bacteria, is so important. The process of fermentation helps to liberate important minerals, such as zinc and magnesium, as well as phytonutrients, amino acids and even B-vitamins. Consuming more fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir is a great way to get more probiotics into your day.
Your best bet to ensure you’re getting the right amount of quality probiotics is to supplement. You’ll know exactly what bacterial culture you’re getting, as well as the quantity in each capsule. The probiotic supplement should list the number of active bacteria, often called “colony forming units” (CFUs) on the label. This number can be anywhere from 20 billion to more than 1 trillion CFU/day, depending on the strain.
It’s also important to remember that not all strains are created equal; certain strains of probiotics are better for certain conditions. For general use on a wide range of conditions (including IBS, diarrhea, dermatitis and IBD), a mixture of probiotic strains appears to be more effective than single strains. Speak with your health care practitioner about the strain and amount that will work best for your individual needs.
Digestive enzymes help your body break down fats, protein and carbohydrates. They’re found naturally in our body and in foods such as papaya and pineapple, but cooking or processing can deactivate and destroy these enzymes.
As we grow older, the amount of digestive enzymes our body produces can decrease. Furthermore, stress can also contribute negatively to your body’s enzyme production. This is why you might want to consider talking to your health care practitioner to see if a digestive enzyme supplement is right for you, especially if you regularly suffer from bloating, gas and indigestion.
One of the most overlooked areas of improving digestion is the role exercise plays in helping your gut health. Light exercise releases neurotransmitters that stimulate the contraction of the muscles surrounding the intestines. This helps to keep food moving through the digestive tract and prevents constipation.
The timing of your exercise is important to consider. Digestion requires a huge amount of blood flow, and exercising right after a big meal can redirect blood from the digestive tract to the heart and muscles. This hits the pause button on digestion and can lead to heartburn and bloating. Make sure you’re exercising at least a few hours after a big meal, or have just a light, healthy snack about an hour before you hit the gym. Or, consider going for a light walk after a big meal, as this will still help to stimulate your rhythmic digestive muscles.
These are my five easy tips to help you improve your digestion, and keep the bloating, gassiness and indigestion to a minimum. For more information, you can also visit your local CHFA Member health food store to learn more about digestive health products.
Make sure that, when purchasing any natural health product, you look for the eight-digit Natural Product Number, or NPN, on the label. This assures you that Health Canada has reviewed and approved this product for safety, efficacy and high quality.