One common health complaint in modern times is that of indigestion.
Evidence of this fact are the steep hikes in GI medication prescriptions being written: 1 in 15 American outpatients receiving GI medicine prescriptions in 1997, increasing to 1 in 10 by 2007.
This condition (called dyspepsia) is characterized by a feeling of fullness, tenderness in the abdominal area, and bloating from excess gas. Although it’s causes can sometimes be associated with serious conditions (such as an ulcer or stomach cancer), it more commonly results from dietary issues.
Improperly digested food fails to break down completely in the stomach, whereby it eventually begins to rot. This produces excess gas and that uncomfortably “full” feeling that results from bloating. Not a pretty picture.
The reason for this is that not enough acid (HCL – hydrochloric acid) is being produced by the stomach to sufficiently digest the food that is being eaten. Why? It could be one or more of many reasons. Perhaps too much food is eaten at once, or the kind of food being eaten is too difficult to digest (oily food, excess meat, dairy, etc.).
Chew Your Food!
Remember that parental command? Well, guess what? They were right!
This is the first, easy and natural step you can take to make a huge difference in the quality of your digestion.
Chewing food thoroughly breaks it down into smaller pieces, allowing it to be coated more completely with saliva and digestive enzymes before entrance into the stomach.
Another benefit of taking the time to chew, chew, chew your food is that it slows down the eating process, allowing your stomach to adapt to the food it is receiving and signal the brain when it is “full.” If you eat too quickly, the stomach is already over-full before that signal to the brain is sent – and a stomach that is over-full will not digest food properly.
Lastly, chewing itself signals the other digestive organs to begin excretion in preparation of digestion (acid from the stomach, bile from the gall bladder, and enzymes from the pancreas). Simply by taking time to chew each bite of food twice as long, digestion will be greatly improved.
Food for Better Digestion
Do you love fresh pineapple? How about luscious, sweet papaya?
If you answered ‘yes’ then you’re in luck. These two healthful fruits both contain enzymes so effective at digestion that they are used commercially as meat tenderizers! Including them regularly in your diet will add these helpful enzymes to your system (bromelain from pineapple, papain from papaya).
Foods that have been fermented are a must-have in your digestion improvement strategy as well. These foods contain living, beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy flora balance in the G.I. tract.
Fermented foods to consider include yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Bitters Are Better!
There was a time past when, before bellying up to the dinner table, wise diners would first belly up to the bar for a dose of bitters.
The most famous brand, which today is practically synonymous with bitters, is Angostura bitters. Other brands are readily available as well.
These aperitifs contain herbs with a bitter flavour that stimulate the flow of digestive juices when consumed. A little goes a long way, and when taken before a meal, gets a jump-start on the digestive process.
Any herb with a bitter taste will improve digestion when taken before or with the meal. A list of commonly known bitter herbs includes gentian, bitter melon, goldenseal, wormwood, milk thistle, chicory, peppermint, chamomile, and echinacea. Teas made out of these herbs, alone or in combination, are helpful to digestion and overall health in general.
Don’t forget to include fresh bitter herbs, such as dandelion leaves and arugula. They are easy to add to salads and as garnishes to prepared dishes like casseroles.
Culinary Spices That Aid Digestion
It may surprise you that many culinary spices you already use are useful digestive aids. The most common are:
Cilantro – the plant from which the coriander seed comes. Both are useful diuretics (prevent water retention).
Fennel – well known to relieve excess gas.
Dill – helps to regularize bowel movements.
Turmeric – very popular in Indian cooking, turmeric also relieves bloating and excess gas.
Bay Leaves – an effective digestive stimulant.
Sage – helpful in the digestion of rich and heavy foods.
Better Digestion the Natural Way
Better digestion need not be a mystery, nor expensive to implement.
With the application of some simple techniques and the inclusion of certain foods and herbs with a proven history of effectively improving digestion, better health, increased energy, and heightened absorption of nutrients is within easy reach.