Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. 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've. 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 also slows down as a result. Perhaps we may also feel bloated after eating and we may even think that's normal. 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 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?
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 scientific studies to help improve digestion:
- Eat only when hungry. It is important to allow enough times 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 (as the brain can take up to 20 min to register that your stomach is full).
- 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 yummy, but also helps you soothe your stomach.
- 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, but 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. Walking after eating aids your body to not only digest better, but also helps with fat loss by helping your body maintain its sugar levels. Growing up in Pakistan, 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.
Have you tried any of these simple strategis or any others in your daily life? Would love to hear what you find most useful. Leave us a comment below.