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    Digestive Hygiene- HOW to Eat Properly

    Digestive Hygiene- HOW to Eat Properly

    There are three main considerations we must take into account when it comes to eating:


    1. WHAT we should eat: this is obviously very important and receives plenty of attention (often times too much in my option).

    2. WHEN should we eat: the timing of eating is just as important as what you eat. Circadian rhythms and time-restricted eating are now becoming a popular topic of discussion

    3. HOW we should eat: this is by far the least talked about topic but it is an equally important consideration.

    Today you will learn HOW to eat properly- also known as digestive hygiene. Perhaps you’re convinced that you already know how to eat. Put food in your mouth, chew then swallow, how hard can it be? There's a lot more than goes into proper digestion and very few people in today’s society actually eat properly for optimal health. If you are someone who suffers from digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, heartburn etc, this is especially important for you!

    Here’s are some things to focus on:

    Get into a RELAXED (parasympathetic) state

    When your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your “rest and digest” functions are working properly. When in a sympathetic (“fight or flight”) stressed out state, energy is diverted away from digestion and you cannot absorb or utilize nutrients properly. Here are a few ways to help activate your parasympathetic nervous system before eating:

    • Breathing exercises: Take 5-6 deep and slow breaths in and out of your nose. You can hum or make another audible noise on the exhale to enhance the effect
    • Use bitters: Bitter herbs are a very effective way to quickly shift the body into a parasympathetic state to prepare it for digestion. Some examples of bitter herbs are Gentian, Globe Artichoke, Dandelion Root, Milk Thistle, and Wormwood. Taking a small dosage of a tincture (alcohol extract) is usually the easiest and most effective strategy.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar “shots”: Taking small amounts (1 tsp-tbsp) of unpasteurized organic ACV (make sure the bottle says "with the mother") straight or slightly diluted in water helps to boost stomach acid for those struggling with digestion.
    • Eat outdoors: The simple act of being outside reduces your cortisol (primary stress hormone), allowing your body to truly relax. It is also important to give your body signals from your environment (sunlight) that match the signals you are providing from food (ideally local seasonal food) to help your mitochondria burn energy effectively. 
    Eliminate distractions

    When eating, just eat. Put your phone and computer away, turn the TV off, don’t read or listen to anything other than relaxing music. Definitely don’t eat while driving or when on the go in general.

    Eat slowly and chew your food properly

    Mastication (chewing) is a critical part of the digestive process that not only mechanically breaks down food but also adds important digestive enzymes from saliva to assist with the process. When we scarf down food quickly our body doesn’t have time to release our primary satiety hormone leptin, which leaves us feeling hungry causing us to overeat. If you’re a fast eater, try using chopsticks or small utensils!

    Eat regular meals and don’t snack

    Meal regularity helps prime our digestive system to be more effective at certain times of the day. You don’t have to be too strict with exact meal timing but as a general rule you want to eat your meals when the sun is up as this is when digestive function is best based on circadian rhythms. Constant snacking never gives your digestive system a break. You want focus on reducing the frequency of eating (not necessarily the amount of food) to maximize digestive efficiency.

    Eat with friends and family!

    This is one of the most important yet most overlooked factors when it comes to nutrition. Eating is meant to be a social event. When you look at traditional cultures and areas of the world that are known for their longevity, a common recurring theme is social connection. Obviously you can’t eat all of your meals with others but whenever you can, make an effort to enjoy your meals in good company!

    Extend gratitude to your food

    Regardless of whether you are religious or not, giving thanks to your food will improve its ability to nourish your body. There is plenty of research demonstrating the positive impact that gratitude has on our body and I have no doubt that our emotions also affect the food we eat. Give thanks to the farmers, cooks, soil microbes, plants, sun and animals that contributed to putting food on your plate. Take a few deep breaths and be thankful for the food that is about to become a part of you!

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