Many people today have digestive difficulties but few are actually aware of the true causes of poor digestion, and how to correct the problem. It’s much easier for our society to medicate instead of investigate. Instead of just healing the symptoms, we need to focus on preventing them from occurring in the first place. If you’re looking to find the causes of poor digestion consider some of the tips below. Poor digestion doesn’t have to rule your life, and there are better options than just popping antacids or digestive enzymes.
1. Eating in a Hurry
One of the root causes of poor digestion is the inability to process the foods we are eating. It shows up in the form of heartburn, indigestion, stomach cramps, nausea or gas. One commonly overlooked reason is we are simply not at peace when we are eating a meal. Whether we are eating on the run, or in a hurry, our digestion is immediately compromised by stress from multi-tasking. Our bodies cannot properly digest and assimilate food to break down into nutrients when we are too busy moving, or in stress mode. Before you eat, be sure you are stationary, preferably in a quiet area, and concentrate on your meal. Enjoy the flavors, scents, and the tastes. Try to do whatever it takes to slow down your meal times and stop eating in a hurry.
2. Processed Foods
Chemicals and preservatives in processed foods are one of the major causes for poor digestion in today’s world. Many people eat processed foods, never knowing what they’re putting in their bodies and how it’s affecting them. Certain chemicals in many processed foods like dairy products, cereals, chips, dips, cookies, crackers, granola and more, have all been linked to cancer, digestive difficulties, weight gain and headaches, along with asthma. If you don’t know what an ingredient is on a food label of something you buy and eat, don’t waste your money on it. Spend your hard earned money on real food, and most likely, your digestion will improve as a result. The human body can’t process or digest what it doesn’t recognize and when it is forced to do so, it will throw up defenses to try to repel the toxic invaders it sees those ingredients as. The defenses the body gives us come in the form of the reactions we might face ranging from headaches, breathing difficulties, or digestive issues. Real food rarely causes such issues, and are what our bodies prefer to digest and assimilate on a regular basis.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most prevalent digestive concerns in women today, along with many men. When nerves in the digestive tract get out of balance from external or internal stress, they become overactive, or underactive. Life circumstances and poor diet can both cause various stresses that lead to IBS quickly. Symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and nausea are all signs that whatever food is being ingested can’t be properly digested due to high stress. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. Instead, try to minimize stress in your life and eat more whole foods instead of processed foods. Your body naturally prefers these foods to chemical based foods and will suffer less stress as a result. Peppermint tea also helps calm the digestive tract and herbs like fennel and anise can also help IBS symptoms. IBS isn’t something you have to live with, and in fact, you should never just ignore it.
4. Not Chewing Properly
How many times do you chew your food? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this question myself, but I do know I focus more on chewing my food now than I used to. Chewing is the best way to break down nutrients in your foods before they even hit your stomach where these nutrients are digested and assimilated into the body. Chewing stimulates enzymatic activity starting in the mouth. While it’s not necessary to count each bite, never just gulp and swallow your foods! I know this might be challenging if you’re hungry or in a hurry, but really concentrate on chewing your food as we were meant to do. This will help digestion before it even begins and also keep you from getting hungry an hour later because your body is absorbing more nutrients.
5. Food Intolerances
Take a moment to think about the last time you ate and suffered digestive problems. What was in your meal? Did it include any highly allergenic foods like dairy, soy, gluten, or eggs? What about peanuts? Many people simply think they just "have digestion issues", but never relate it back to a food intolerance. My mother, for example, recently linked her indigestion to peanut butter, a food she’s eaten all her life with no problems. Food intolerance can come at any point in life, and isn't the same as a food allergy. An intolerance simply means for some reason, your body lacks the ability to digest the food properly, which leaves you with all kinds of nasty symptoms. An allergy is an adverse reaction to a food. Though they are different, neither should be ignored. Keep a food journal after each meal to help you track how you feel and write down what you ate. Over a period of time, you should be able to find the problematic foods based on your journal entries, helping you get relief sooner rather than later.
6. Pain in the Lower Abdomen
Pain in the lower abdomen after your meals is something you definitely need to pay attention to. This is not normal, and could be the cause of an ulcer, or something more serious. If left untreated, it could lead to intestinal bleeding, or you could even have a blockage. If you suffer pain in your lower abdomen directly after meals, be sure to get checked by a doctor. It could be something as simple as gas buildup, or could be something more serious. Either way, it’s worth paying attention to. If an ulcer is the case, I suggest focusing on a diet that caters to ulcerative colitis, and other digestive disorders to eat more simple to digest foods for your condition.
Constipation is an issue people don’t like to talk too much about, but one that we all want to avoid. Constipation is not normal, no matter what you might think. Bowel movements should optimally occur once or twice a day if your body is digesting your food properly and assimilating it for elimination. If you rarely go to the bathroom on a daily basis, this isn’t something to ignore. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and focus on soluble sources of fiber like oatmeal, flax seed, chia seed, pumpkin and winter squashes. Yams and sweet potatoes are another great option. Ditch the red meat, gluten and dairy, and most likely, everything will clear up on its own. Chronic constipation can lead to many other digestive concerns if left untreated, yet it’s very easy to treat by simplifying your digestion through your diet. Walking also helps, since regular movement helps the bowel transit time improve dramatically, and you should also try and reduce your stress.
Poor digestion isn’t something you should suffer on a regular basis. If you find that your digestion is always off, it’s time to give your body a break and listen to it. What tips do you have to ensure better digestion?