Unlike supplements, none of which are universally suitable for everyone, here are some easy practices that are beneficial for anyone when it comes to digestion.
I couldn’t write this without Blu Cantrell’s song starting to play in my head (which shows my age). But there is such a strong link between the gut and the mind that it can’t be ignored. In another blog I explore the importance of a happy gut for mental health, but the relationship also goes in the opposite direction. Has anybody noticed what happens to your digestion when you eat when you’re stressed or upset? Bloating? Pain? Diarrhea?
There will inevitably be times in our lives where we are truly distressed and we still find ourselves needing to eat; that’s just being human. But even running around frantically from one work task to another and quickly stuffing food in our mouths can be a recipe for digestion disaster. One really simple way to make sure you’re in a good space to digest your food is to stop whatever you’re doing prior to eating and do a few rounds of box breathing, focus on inhaling for 5 seconds, holding the breath for 5 seconds, exhaling for 5 seconds, and holding the breath out for 5 seconds. Ideally you’d do this for a few minutes with your eyes closed.
Check in with yourself to make sure you’re now calm and fully present to enjoy your meal. Your digestion will absolutely thank you for it
2) Aim for diversity
I’ve mentioned this many times before, because it’s a pretty big deal. However, in case you haven’t heard, scientists from the HUGE American Gut Project determined that the most important determinant of a diverse microbiome (one which is associated with really positive health outcomes) is the amount of different plant foods you consume. Note: We’re talking different types of fruits as opposed to different types of potato chips, just to clarify.
Now if you’re reacting poorly to plant foods that you’re eating please check out my blog which goes into why this may be happening to you. For the rest of you whose guts are happy with your plant food consumption, aim to get as many different plants throughout your plate as possible; aside from aiming for a variety of vegetables, and different kind of beans and whole grains with your meals, using a variety of herbs and spices is a really inexpensive way to increase your exposure, whilst giving your meals tons of flavour.
3) Try apple cider vinegar before meals
Apple cider vinegar has many purported benefits. One way to use it when it comes to digestion is to consume half a teaspoon, half an hour before meals in some water. I’d strongly recommend drinking through a (stainless steel) straw, since being an acid, it can damage the enamel on teeth.
This can be a great habit to get into to increase the uptake of minerals from your food. It also has the benefits of being useful for people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), improving regularity of periods and hormone levels. For those with or without PCOS, it can also help improve insulin sensitivity and lead to weight loss. Win-win-win!
4) Add in some bitter greens
Bitter greens may not be everyone’s cup of tea initially, but with time you tend to acclimatise to the bitter taste and start enjoying it. Including a handful of a bitter green leafy vegetable, such as arugula, collard greens, radicchio dandelion, mustard, endive, or kale, supports your digestive juices, and particularly helps with the metabolism of fat. They’re also incredibly nutrient dense compared to the low number of calories contained in these foods, and a great source of both chlorophyll and carotenoids
5) Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely needed.
Whilst awareness is growing, there remains a huge overuse of antibiotics these days. They are frequently being taken where they have no place (in viral infections such as a cold or a flu, rather than as potentially lifesaving treatment for bacterial infections). Not only does their overuse wreak havoc with the gut, which can often take years to recover, but it also leads to antibiotic resistance which would be a terrifying situation to arrive at. Mindblowingly, 80% of antibiotics are actually fed to livestock, because of the disgusting conditions they’re kept in. Yet another good reason to follow a plant based diet.
When it comes to gut health, it’s not just pharmaceutical antibiotics which cause issues. Many people are going to health food shops and purchasing strong herbal antimicrobials due to advice given by unqualified bloggers/vloggers online. These influencers may even have led them to self-diagnosis with the latest buzz-condition such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which may not be the problem at all. Self-diagnosis and self-prescription can be hugely deleterious to gut health; leading you to deplete your health gut bacteria and set up a platform for a more serious health problem to occur.
I hope you found these tips useful to you! For greater support, check out the services I offer <3 Peace and plants