This week’s post is written by my friend Jenn Burton who is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and a graduate from The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition
Definition of Digestion
The process in the alimentary canal by which food is broken up physically, as by the action of the teeth, and chemically, as by the action of enzymes, and converted into a substance suitable for absorption and assimilation into the body.
“We are what we eat and how we digest it”!
Why is Digestion Important?
Most people actually digest very little of what they eat because their digestive systems have been compromised by years of eating poor quality foods and living with high levels of unmanaged stress. Foods that aren’t digested properly ferment in the intestine, introduces toxins into the blood stream, feeds bad bacteria and parasites, decreasing even less absorption
Think of your digestion system resembling a gas tank of a car. You put gas in the tank, are you putting good quality gas or diesel in a gas vehicle, etc.? Does the car run clean? Does it smoke or produce toxins?
When working with clients, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist will start ALWAYS with the digestive system as everything begins with simple digestion. Your digestion is so vital to the overall vitality of ones well-being.
How do you Feel After Eating?
- Need a nap after you eat
- Brain fog
- Heart burn
- Become full very easy
- Difficulty losing weight
What is Involved in Digestion?
- Mouth – Start of the digestion process as it breaks down food into smaller particles. Digestive enzyme (amylase) is released and is mixed with the food
- Esophagus – Is a travel way for the food to travel into the stomach
- Stomach – Acts as a food reservoir, mixes and breaks down food with HCL and other enzymes to help move to the small intestine
- Small Intestine – very important part of the digestion process as it breaks down fats, carbs and proteins into tiny particles that can be absorbed into the blood stream. It is also over 20ft long!
- Large Intestine – also very important part of the digestion process even though it doesn’t actually breakdown food, it is responsible for absorption of water and elimination solid waste
- Pancreas – it is responsible for producing enzymes to breakdown food and also produces insulin
- Liver & Gallbladder
- the liver is the central cleaning house for all unabsorbed nutrients. It has over 500 daily functions and is the main organ for digestion
- the liver stores and absorbs vitamins and nutrients
- bile salts are formed in the liver, which the gallbladder is storage for those bile salts. The gallbladder will release the bile when digesting fat to help breakdown
13 Simple Steps to Improve Digestion:
1) Chew your food
- many of us are in a rush, eat standing up, swallowing un chewed food. Try chewing your food 20 times before swallowing. Hard eh? Our throat is a muscle and we need to train that muscle again.
- wait until you mouth is empty to take the next bite
- we always say our mouth waters when we see food, it is actually true. An enzyme is produced in the saliva called amylase, this is the start of digestion
2) Make peace with your food
- enjoy your food, you are not in a rush, breath between bites
- only eat when hungry
- eat until your 80% full it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten enough
3) Do not drink with meals
- drinking fluids washes away HCL and fills the stomach up with fluid, the fluid starts to ferment the food and creates gas
- take little sips and or drink before your meal
4)Start your day off with lemon water
- upon waking, prepare warm lemon water (real lemon!), this helps to get your digestion working!
5) Add fermented foods to your diet
- sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, kefir, baby coconut water, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar
- take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals
6) Consider digestive enzymes
- helps with absorption of nutrients
- this should be temporary until digestive system is up and running
- speak with a Registered Holistic Nutrition before taking to chose the right one
- People who had their gallbladder removed most likely will need to take a digestive enzyme with ox bile on going
7) Add probiotics to your daily routine
- Especially if history of taking antibiotics, Conditions such as IBS, etc.
- Brands: DDS, Genuine Health, Genestra, Usana
8) Eat clean, unprocessed, nutrient dense food – Organic
- lessen the chemical load on your body which makes digestion easier, the body isn’t fighting to remove the toxins
9) Remove food sensitive foods
- many food sensitivities can lead to poor digestion. Intestines cannot digest food properly. This is a huge area of poor digestion
- work with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist to find out food sensitivities and develop meal plans, recipes and introduce you to different foods that will improve digestion and overall being
10) Stay hydrated
- drink at least 2 liters of GOOD QUALITY water daily, if possible 3 liters
- get in the habit of filling a water bottle and bring it with you everywhere
11) Remove stress
- when our bodies are stressed which can be from an assortment of things, our bodies go into fight or flight. Think about your body how it would react from running away from a bear. When our body is in fight or flight our food cannot digest.
- Yoga, breathing, mediating, dealing with the stress can help alot
12) Food combining
- some people really benefit from food combining, it may not be for everyone but it is good to know anyways
- always each fruit alone – wait 30mins before eating anything else
- starches (rice, bread, beans) combine great with veggies – takes 3hrs to digest
- protein (fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat) combine great with veggies – takes 4 hrs. to digest and meat can take up to 8 plus hours
- protein & starch do not combine well at all i.e. steak and potatoes, western sandwich, lasagna
- protein and fruit do not combine well either
13) Finish eating 3hrs before bed
- sleeping is for resting, not digesting
Lets talk about poo, undigested food in your poo? How many times a day to you go? If you go LESS than once per day you are bunged up! Food should be eliminated 18-24hrs after eaten. The rule of thumb, foot long floater and colour – yellow – food digested too fast, dark – been in too long, dark patches – something was stuck, should be medium brown (like a cork board)
Are you consuming enough fiber?
- what we eat needs to come out, if food stays in your intestines and can’t get out. Toxins or undigested food start to leak back into the body.
- recommended intake is 30-40 grams daily
2 types of fiber:
Insoluble fiber (doesn’t dissolve in water)- acts like sweeping the intestines and removes bulk. This is key for constipation. Examples: whole wheat, green leafy vegetables, nuts.
Soluble fiber (dissolves in water)- acts like a gel and slows down digestion and helps to stabilize blood sugar. Examples: chia seeds, flax seeds, apples, oats, beans
This may look overwhelming, it’s a process, and you don’t need to make all these changes overnight. Biggest step is to be aware of your body and how it feels after you eat. Once you start your journey you realize how little changes can cause a huge change, physically, emotionally.
~ Jenn Burton, Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Email me for more information firstname.lastname@example.org