It seems like how to have a better digestion has become a hot topic lately. And it makes sense – when it isn’t functioning smoothly, we feel awful! It makes us feel heavy and sluggish, and it can even be painful. Here are some tips to help you get your digestion operating at its best.
Were you one of those kids who rushed through meals so you could get back to the important business of video games and bike riding? If so, your parents were probably always telling you to slow down and chew. That’s excellent advice for adults, as well. When you’re eating too fast, it can take a little time for your brain to catch up to your stomach—meaning you may not realize you’re full until you’re completely stuffed. And overeating, of course, makes the job of the digestive system much more difficult.
Stay present with your meal
Do you remember on The Jetsons how food came in pill form? To fix a meal for the family, Rosie the robot maid just had to push a button to dispense the capsules. These days, it seems like many of us wish that were possible. With our hectic daily routines, the thought of actually pausing long enough to enjoy a meal seems impractical. But it’s actually very important.
When we pay attention to what we’re eating, we’re less likely to eat mindlessly, like we often do when we eat at our desks, for example. This means we’ll be less inclined to overeat – and we’ll have better digestion as a result.
Finally, when we’re not making food choices based on which option can be conveniently eaten while hunched over a keyboard, we will probably choose better foods. It may seem challenging to find time in your schedule, but remember, even taking 10 or 15 minutes to eat a real lunch in the break room is better than scarfing down a candy bar at your desk.
Our bodies evolved to be able to switch gears and jump into stress mode so we could get away from mountain lions – they’re not intended to be stressed out all the time. But that’s the situation many of us find ourselves in these days. When we’re stressed, our digestive metabolism literally slows down, meaning it’s much harder for us to digest our food if we’re worrying about the next 15 tasks on our to-do lists. So before you eat, take a few slow breaths and bring to mind something that helps you relax. If possible, put on your headphones and listen to calming music, or call a friend who always makes you laugh. If you find yourself beginning to eat too fast, pause and slow your breathing again.
When we allow ourselves to relax and enjoy our meals, we’re making it possible to get the emotional nourishment that eating provides, as well. This means we won’t feel the need to make up with quantity what we lack in the quality of our meal experiences.
Not only will this make for better digestion, giving your brain a short break will help you be more focused when you go back to your work, as well.
Eat quality, natural foods.
Our bodies know how to process real food – it’s what the digestive system was designed to do. But they often can’t make heads or tails of artificial ingredients. Processed foods are usually just empty calories that don’t contain nutrients our bodies can put to good use. It’s like filling your car with diesel – you clog it up without giving it what it needs to run properly. Eating quality, natural foods keeps the engine functioning smoothly and is a major contributor when it comes to having better digestion.
It’s also important to maintain a good macronutrient balance. Giving your body the right nutrients, in the right amounts, will help to keep all the moving parts happy and healthy.
Listen to your body.
At the end of the day, we all have unique bodies. Even some healthy foods might upset your digestion, though others may seem to have no problem with them. If you’re noticing unusual digestive symptoms, ask yourself if you’ve eaten anything out of the ordinary lately. If you have, the next time you eat that food, pay attention to how you feel afterwards. Be aware of how alterations in your routine – like what time of day you eat, for example – affects your digestion. The wisdom of the body is an invaluable resource if we learn to take in what it’s telling us.
Become a Mind Body Eating Coach
Summer 2023 enrollment begins soon.
Make real, lasting change - in your life and the lives of others using eating psychology coaching tools.
Subscribe to The Psychology of Eating Podcast
Get notified when new episodes go live.