Digestion Tips

Digestion Tips

The tips on this page are to help you feel good after eating your favorite foods. The use of antacids has soared in recent years, and with that, the potential for side effects. There are some simple things you can do to aid digestion, so that you will feel better and be healthier. Keep in mind that the tips found here are ones that I know for sure are useful, because I use them myself! I will be adding to this page as new tips come to mind, or as discoveries come my way.

Digestion Tips #1: Drinking to Indigestion

If you find yourself with indigestion or “acid reflux” after meals, before resorting to medications, consider not drinking any fluids with your meals, especially if you are over 40. When you drink with your meals, you tend to wash the food down with the beverage and you don’t chew it as thoroughly, making it more difficult to digest.

Also, if you drink water or other beverages with your meal you will dilute the saliva in your mouth and the digestive juices in your stomach, making digestion more difficult. Finally, the sheer volume you are putting into your stomach is increased if you eat a large meal and drink a large glass of water or two, making it more likely that the contents of your stomach will reflux into your esophagus.

Digestion Tip #2: Peppermint Tea

Sales of digestive aids have skyrocketed in recent years, but peppermint has been used for easing the stomach for many centuries. If you have an upset stomach, try brewing some peppermint tea and sipping it slowly. This got me through two pregnancies, when nausea was a given. Peppermint can also help with headache and will warm you up in winter. (In summer, you can drink it iced as a beverage, but the iced version is not as soothing to an upset stomach.)

Digestion Tip #3: Ginger

Ginger is another choice for a touchy stomach. It can be made as a tea or eaten in a crystallized form. It freshens breath and soothes the digestive tract. There are some very good ginger teas on the market if you do not feel up to buying the root and making your own. There are even some healthy ginger snap cookies on the market that might please your palate.

Digestion Tip #4: Beans, Beans, the marvelous fruit…

Beans are loaded with nutrients, such as protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they are also relatively inexpensive. However, you may avoid eating beans due to the effect they have on your digestive system. To reduce this effect, always rinse canned beans in a colander before adding them to your favorite dishes.

If you use dry beans, soak them, using the quick-soak method(boil dry beans, in 3 cups of water per 1 cup dry beans for 3 minutes, and let stand, covered for four hours) and throw out the soaking water before cooking in fresh water. This will eliminate most of the gas-producing compounds in the beans. (The overnight method of soaking beans does not eliminate as many of these gas-producing compounds.)

Digestion Tip #5: Licorice anyone?

Eating black licorice can help your stomach feel better. If you are prone to a tight or nervous stomach, you can take a product called DGL (Deglycyrrizinated Licorice), that is, black licorice with the glycyrrhiza component removed, which is the component which in large doses, could lead to high blood pressure.

The DGL should be taken about 20 minutes before you eat, or if your stomach is tight, later on. Keep in mind that so-called "red licorice" is not really licorice, and does not have this positive digestive quality!

Digestion Tip #6: Belching

I have heard that in some circles, a hearty belch after a meal is a compliment to the cook. However, most of us are embarrassed by this involuntary response to air in the stomach. Everyone swallows some air when they are eating, but if you eat slowly, chew your food well, and don't talk with food in your mouth, you are less likely to find yourself unexpectedly "complimenting the cook".

Digestion Tip #7: Relax!

One of the best things you can do for your digestion is to eat calmly, in a relaxed environment. Dinner conversation should be pleasant and not controversial, if possible. Eating on the run or while doing stressful activities may lead to indigestion. If you are distressed or upset about some issue in your life, you may want to wait to eat until you calm down. One of the advantages of saying grace before a meal is that it settles your heart and mind and prepares you to eat with a positive spirit--a real digestive aid!

Digestion Tip #8: Limit hard to digest foods.

A well-balanced meal is made up of a combination of all the food groups. However, that is not to say that all foods are the same when it comes to digestion. For better digestion, eat more carbohydrate foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and limit high fat foods and excessive amounts of meat, both of which are harder to digest.

You need fats and protein in your diet, but a little goes a long way. Try to include the leaner or lower fat versions of meat and other protein foods and resist adding high fat sauces and condiments to your vegetables.

Digestion Tip #9: Chew a teaspoon of fennel seeds* to soothe digestive tract and eliminate gas.

Keep a jar of fennel seeds on hand and if you experience gas or indigestion, chew a teaspoon full for relief. The taste is a little unusual, but only lasts for the minutes that you are chewing them, while the digestive relief is more lasting. You can also purchase fennel candy, which is popular in some cultures after a meal to aid digestion.

Digestion Tip #10: Spend more time chewing your food.  Digestion begins in the mouth when you mix the food with saliva and masticate it into small pieces.  If you set your fork down between bites, and concentrate on chewing food, thoroughly, you will most likely eat less and the food you eat will be more easily digested.

*Fennel seeds should not be taken in large doses by pregnant women, since they are a uterine stimulant.

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