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Digestion: It Begins Here

Digestion is the area of focus in my practice because to be honest, it all begins with digestion. I believe digestion to be the cornerstone of our health for so many reasons and literally anything I help a client with will always come down to supporting healthy digestion. So a lot of my Wellness Wednesdays, webinars, workshops, print material, and so forth will be centered on digestion. Today, we are going to talk about where digestion begins. I am going to give you 3 easy-to-implement tips to improve your digestion starting today.

First, we have to realize that digestion is a north to south process that begins before any food actually touches your tongue. Believe it or not, digestion begins with sight and smell. You see and smell that barbecue, pizza, fried chicken, or fried rice and what happens? Yes, your mouth starts to water. At that point, the digestive process has begun, not only in your mouth, but in a properly functioning digestive system, also in your stomach.

Let’s paint a picture of the way most people eat. Let’s say you are at a barbecue and your cousin Sam is there too. Sam is the life of the party, always telling a story about something that happened at work. Sam is near the grill because he wants to be the first to get his plate full of those fall-off-the-bone ribs. Sam finally gets his slab and is ready to take his first bite. He's is still standing up, and still talking as he puts the fork in his mouth. It is so good that he's only thinking about how fast he can swallow the first so he can get to the second. He quickly swallows the first bite and takes another. Then he’s looking around for something “to wash it down with.” Within five minutes, Sam's plate is clean. Thirty minutes later, Sam is looking for a seat because he feels overfull, bloated, gassy, has heartburn and is asking his wife, Barbara, for the antacids. And that’s just the beginning. Weird, right?

Let's check in Barbara. Barbara, was standing next to her husband near the grill and was second to be served. Barbara smells the food the same way Sam did and gets the exact same food on her plate. But Barbara takes her plate and goes and has a seat. She takes a moment before eating to appreciate the food, maybe she even says a prayer of thankfulness. She allows herself to be fully in the moment, which allows her body to enter the "Rest and Digest" state, in which it can begin releasing the digestive enzymes needed to break down the food she is about to eat. She takes the first bite and puts her fork down. Barbara enjoys the taste and texture of the food in her mouth and chews it until it is the consistency of a smoothie, and then swallows. Only then does she take another bite and then puts the fork down again. Barbara has been working on losing weight so she knows that if she takes her time with her meals, it will give time for her body to release the hormone, leptin, letting her know she is full. This will keep her from overeating.

Barbara also knows that drinking while she is eating can alter the production of the gastric juices in her stomach needed to break down the food she is eating, so she drank some water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt in it prior to eating. She learned from her Holistic Wellness Practitioner that the bitterness of the lemon will jumpstart the production of the gastric juices, particularly the hydrochloric acid (HCL), needed to break down those ribs she is about to enjoy. Sufficient HCL to break down the protein ingested is crucial because if it is lacking, the entire digestive process will slow down and the food will sit in her stomach and at the beginning of her small intestine. Food that sits in a slightly acidic environment will begin to ferment. Fermented things give off gas. That gas has to find a way out, and it does. Ask Sam...after he finishes taking his antacid.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but making these small changes will make a huge difference in your digestion.

So to recap;

  1. Always sit and take a minute to be present and calm so you can be in a Rest and Digest state before taking your first bite.

  2. Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing, to the consistency of a smoothie, before taking another bite. Put your fork or spoon down between bites to help you slow down. This will also help with satiety and help avoid overeating.

  3. Drink water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt 15-30 minutes before eating to help stimulate gastric juice production. Try to avoid drinking with your meal. (Insufficient gastric juice and stomach acid result in food sitting in your stomach longer than it should and as a result it begins to ferment. What happens to fermented things? They are pretty bubbly and gassy aren’t they?)

Okay, that was technically more than three tips but I always get carried away when I talk about digestion. So try out these tips and let me know how it goes for you. Also drop any questions or comments below. You can also connect with others by starting or joining a discussion in the forum. I can't wait to hear about your experiences. Until then...

Be well!

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