Digestive Habit Changes

Digestive Habit Changes: Overview

For real internal health, good digestion and regular bowel movements/habits are very essential.  Good digestion starts with thorough chewing of food in the mouth.

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Tips for better digestion:

  • Eat smaller, evenly-spaced meals throughout the day. As far as possible, keep to a regular schedule of meals and snacks.
  • Don't eat too fast. Not only does eating too fast mean we don't chew our food well enough, but remember that our brains don't register the food ingested and trigger a sense of "fullness" until about 20 minutes into a meal.  If you have spent those 20 minutes piling in the food as fast as you can, then you will have overeaten by the time you feel full.  Those who eat too fast are much more prone to obesity, acid reflux, GERD, gas, bloating and other problems.
  • Chew your food well. By chewing our food more, the food is broken down into smaller particles, which in turn are more easily and completely absorbed into our bodies.  It increases energy levels (more energy is derived from the food) and nutrient absorption, which means we don't need to eat so much food to obtain our daily nutritional needs... which in turn means it can also help us to lose weight.  Try chewing each mouthful 20-40 times, taking about 20 minutes to finish a meal.
  • Don't overeat. Overeating leads to weight gain and digestive disturbances, and has two main causes:

    • Eating too quickly, which means we eat too much before the brain has had a chance to signal that we are "full";
    • Enjoying food too much and not wanting to stop eating.
    Stand up during a meal to see how full you are.  As soon as you feel "comfortably full" then you have eaten enough.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet. A high-fiber diet helps keep food moving through your digestive system, reducing or eliminating constipation and that "backed-up" feeling.  A high-fiber diet also helps prevent or treat certain conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids.  Constipation causes straining while attempting a bowel movement, and this straining can lead to hemorrhoids.  Be sure to include both "soluble" fiber (this absorbs water and prevents watery stools) and "insoluble" fiber (roughage), which adds bulk to the stools.  Fiber comes only from plant sources; there are no animal sources of fiber.
  • Reduce your intake of high-fat foods. Fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process and cause constipation.  Be conscious of the amount of oil and fat that is in the food you eat.  Choose lean meats and low/lower-fat foods.  Read food labels and divide the "calories from fat" by "total calories" to determine the percentage of calories from fat.  If the label only shows "grams of fat", multiply this number by 9 to obtain "calories from fat".  Low-fat diets include 0-30% fat; government recommendations are that we obtain 20-35% of our calories from fat.  Dieting systems generally restrict fat intake to between 8% and 20% of calories – our bodies require fats, so lower than this would be unhealthy.
  • Eat more cooked food and less raw food. It is true that some nutrients are destroyed through cooking, so some raw food is good for us.  The cooking process breaks down food, effectively "pre-digesting" it and reducing the burden it places on our digestive systems.  This may be why humans have evolved to prefer the smell and taste of cooked foods.
  • Don't combine too many types of food at one meal. Combining too many different foods taxes the digestive system and can lead to indigestion.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water aids the digestive system by dissolving certain nutrients and allowing faster absorption.
  • Reduce overall stress. Stress and anxiety can adversely affect the digestive system, causing various problems such as indigestion and ulcers.
  • Relax while eating. While stressed, our bodies use the Sympathetic Nervous System ("fight or flight mode").  Energy is diverted away from our digestive system to our muscles and extremities.  By relaxing, we switch to the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is essential for proper digestion.  Eating in a relaxed environment allows us to calm down, have relaxed thoughts, and breathe more slowly.  Try to sit down 5-10 minutes before you eat.
  • Sit down at meals. When you eat, you should be sitting down at a table.  You should not eat while standing, walking, lying down or driving.
  • Sit up. Don't slouch or hunch over the table to eat your food.  Sit close to the table and bring your eating utensil to your mouth, instead of your mouth to your utensil.  To ensure proper posture while sitting follow these tips:

    • Sit in a chair that provides your back with support
    • Keep you knees level with your hips and sit as far back in the chair as possible.  To keep your knees level, your feet should be flat on the floor.

    Note: If your lower back bothers you when sitting, put a round cushion or towel between the chair and the small of your back to provide support.

  • Relax after eating. This helps to get digestion – the amazing process that turns food into energy and nutrients – off to a good start.
  • Don't lie down. Although you should allow your body to rest after you've eaten, make sure you are sitting or standing.  Do not lie down as this slows digestion.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise keeps food moving through your digestive system and helps maintain a healthy weight, which is also good for digestion.
  • Eat freshly-cooked foods. Fresh foods contain the most nutrients and lower levels of mold and other products of decay.  They also taste better, of course.  Canned foods lose many of the nutrients originally present in the food, and the cans themselves are often coated in BPA-based plastics.  Some studies have implicated BPA (Bisphenol A) in a variety of health risks.
  • Use probiotics if possible. Probiotics are the "good" bacteria that are naturally present in your digestive tract.  They have many benefits, including enhancing nutrient absorption and better-formed, less foul-smelling stools.  They are killed off by antibiotics, so it is important to replenish them after antibiotic treatment.  A good natural source is yoghurt.
  • Reduce or eliminate bad habits. Tobacco, caffeine and alcohol create a variety of problems, including stomach ulcers, heartburn, and interfering with the digestive process.

On This Page

Digestive Habit Changes:

Digestive Habit Changes can help with the following:


Heartburn / GERD / Acid Reflux

Although there are many types of antacids and other medications you can take to help relieve symptoms of acid reflux, the right posture can have a positive impact on the way you digest food, thus preventing acid reflux from occurring.

Ulcerative Colitis

Foods should be eaten slowly and be well chewed.  Eat in a calm atmosphere; do not read or watch television while eating.  Any influence that may disrupt good digestion should be avoided.

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