I’m sure you are familiar with the saying, “You are what you eat.” In other words, to be fit and healthy, you need to eat good food. And yet, even the healthiest of food won’t be properly processed by a poorly functioning intestinal tract; and this can lead to chronic health problems. In fact, more than 60 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders including heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Poor digestion can result in fatigue, headaches, and depression – all of which can lead to weight gain.
Making a few simple changes in the way you eat can make a big improvement in your digestion and maximize your weight loss efforts. Here are 5 very simple steps you can take to improve the health of your gut and start feeling better today.
Step 1 – Eat less
One of the most common reasons for poor digestion is overeating. Too much food entering your body at once overwhelms your upper digestive system and this can result in heartburn, gas, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms. A simple solution is to reduce your portion sizes. Imagine your stomach being a blender that needs room to properly grind and mix together the food you eat with enzymes. If you overfill your stomach, it will not be able to properly mix its contents. Don’t stuff yourself; eat until you are about two-thirds full. And eat regularly throughout the day. Aim for 3 small meals per day with little snacks in between.
Step 2- Eat unprocessed unrefined whole fresh foods
With all the highly processed fast-food meals consumed every day, it’s no wonder so many people suffer from digestive problems. One of the most significant things you can do to ensure proper gut health is to eat a diet rich in whole foods providing adequate nutrients and fiber. Examples include:
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grains
• Organic eggs and poultry, grass-fed lean meat, and wild cold-water fish
Step 3. Chew your food properly
There is more to chewing than simply grinding up the food in your mouth so you can swallow it. Important enzymes that help with the digestion of carbohydrates and fats are secreted by the glands in your mouth. If you swallow your food too quickly without adequately chewing it, you may experience symptoms of maldigestion and malabsorption – gas, bloating, indigestion and worse. Simply put, adequate chewing is essential for good digestion. Learn to take your time when eating. Chew each bite thoroughly and enjoy your food.
Step 4. Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water is absolutely essential for good health, and it is especially important for digestion. One of the major functions of water is to bulk up your stool and keep it moving along so you don’t get constipated. Also, water plays an important role in detoxification by naturally flushing the toxins from your entire body including your digestive system. Make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day to avoid becoming dehydrated as this can negatively affect your digestive system. If you don’t normally drink much water, make a conscious effort to do so. Drink a glass first thing in the morning and swap your soda, energy drink, and coffee for water throughout the day. As a general guideline, drink ½ ounce of water per pound body weight. That means if you weight 150 lb, you should drink 75 ounces water every day.
Step 5. Be Active
The benefits of regular exercise are many, yet most Americans do not get nearly enough. A lack of exercise can contribute to weight gain, which in turn can lead to digestive diseases and many other chronic health problems. Exercise – in and of itself – supports proper digestion by stimulating the normal contractions of the intestines and reducing constipation. Thus it is important to remain active each day. In general, 30 – 45 minutes of light to moderate exercise daily will support gut health and an overall sense of well-being
The key to successful weight control and digestive health is making changes in your eating and life style habits that you can keep up for the rest of your life. This can be extremely challenging – especially with all the unhealthy food choices you’re faced with every day.
I can help. Click here to get my 7 proven (non-diet) strategies today.
Until next time, eat and be well!
Lorraine Matthews-Antosiewicz, MS RD