Digestion can have a huge impact on our quality of life. It’s difficult to feel energised and uplifted if your tummy hurts, your belly is bloated, or you’re visiting the toilet too frequently or not frequently enough.
While these symptoms are very common, they’re not normal. Food intolerances are very much an issue for many people, however sometimes we can assume the cause of our digestive issues is more complicated than it really is – and this can lead some people to put it in the “too hard basket” and they continue to tolerate unpleasant symptoms.
The answer to your digestive woes may be simpler than you think.
YOU AREN’T CHEWING YOUR FOOD PROPERLY
This may seem obvious, but thorough chewing can be a game-changer. The stomach doesn’t like to allow food to move into your small intestine for further digestion until it is well broken down. There are no teeth beyond our mouth, yet so many people eat as though their oesophagus is lined with teeth!
Because of our busy lifestyles, many of us no longer sit down to a relaxing meal, and instead often eat on the run, while watching TV, working on our computer or scrolling through social media. This multitasking means we are not paying enough attention to our meal, and this tends to result in under-chewing and overeating.
To help you slow down and chew properly, try not to take another mouthful until you have completely chewed and swallowed the previous one. If you find this difficult, putting your knife and fork down between each bite can be helpful. Chewing properly also helps us to feel more satisfied.
YOU’RE TOO STRESSED TO DIGEST
Have you ever wondered where the term “gut feeling” came from? Or why you might get a funny feeling in your belly or feel more urgency to go to the bathroom when you are nervous? The gut has its very own nervous system (often referred to as our second brain) and stress can irritate the nerves of our digestive tract. This can affect people in different ways – think bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.
When we’re feeling anxious or stressed our body releases stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol), which communicate to our body that now is not the time to focus on digestion. These hormones are responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which was originally designed to allow you to run away from a tiger trying to eat you.
Because digestion isn’t a priority if your life is in danger, the stress response hinders digestive processes by reducing the secretion of enzymes into the digestive tract that are required to digest and absorb nutrients, and decreasing the motility of the digestive tract.
YOU’RE CONSUMING TOO MUCH CAFFEINE
If you find things are moving through your digestive tract a little too quickly, you may like to consider your caffeine intake, as it is known to stimulate a bowel movement. Caffeine also triggers the release of adrenalin which can hinder our body’s ability to digest foods optimally. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so I encourage you to pay attention to how it affects you and your digestion.
Even if digestion isn’t an issue for you, paying attention to these simple things will enhance your ability to absorb and utilise the nutrients that allow you to look and feel your best. If
you are experiencing ongoing digestive symptoms, I encourage you to seek support from an experienced healthcare professional – resolving this could have a huge impact on your overall health and happiness.