Digestion is the (mostly) silent superhero that is always working for us. It’s easy to forget how important the process is, but we still need to pay attention to how our bodies are digesting the foods we give it.
In fact, the way we break down food, absorb nutrients, and get rid of waste is foundational for our health.
Unfortunately, as we age our digestive function tends to decline. It becomes even more important to plan meals for optimal digestion, but that isn’t always easy! The bright side is that there are many tricks to help your body along. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your digestive system.
1. Stay Hydrated
This should be priority number one for everyone, but it can become a challenge as we age. The best way to stay on top of hydration is to make it a daily habit.
Aim to drink 6-10 glasses of water per day depending on your size (the bigger you are, the more water you need.) Having said this, don’t drink too much liquid with your meals. You can take sips to “whet your whistle” but avoid drinking too much with your food as to not dilute your digestive juices.
Pro Tip: Drink a glass of water with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice first thing in the morning to get your digestive juices flowing for the day!
2. Be Conscious of What You are Eating
How does it smell? How does it look? Digestion begins before food even enters your mouth. Start enjoying your meal before you taste it and get your digestive juices flowing.
Once you take your first bite, chew your mouthful properly. This is the most important phase of digestion. If you do not chew your food properly, the rest of your digestive system will have to work harder to break down your food so you can absorb your nutrients.
Another way to be conscious of your food is to eat your meals at the dinner table. Try not to eat in the car or in front of the TV or when you are stressed. If you’re unsure which foods cause stress to your body in particular, consider intolerance testing.
3. Eat Enough Fiber
We can’t talk about digestion without talking about fiber and its benefits. Next to drinking water, this is the most important thing that you can do to make sure you are having regular bowel movements.
Bowel Tips (for strong-stomached readers): It is important to have at least one bowel movement every single day. That movement should be formed, but not too hard. It should come easily but not be too loose. It shouldn’t smell super terrible and you shouldn’t have to wipe very much.
The best sources of fiber are vegetables and fruit. Other sources are whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds; which brings us to our next tip.
4. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Eat food that you know is good for you. Don’t fill up on foods that don’t provide you with value (like white bread, white rice, sugar, and junk foods). You eat for a reason, and that is to get nutrients like protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Eat a variety of different foods to get a variety of different nutrients and eat lots of vegetables!
5. Get Help If You Need It
If you are not pooping every day, ask your health care practitioner what you can do to help. If you are not breaking down your food properly, try a digestive enzyme or sip on a little bit of apple cider vinegar in water before your meals. A nutritional consultant can also help in this area.
There are many resources that provide advice on this topic. If you’re in the Lethbridge area, feel free to stop in and talk with one of our awesome staff members at Purple Carrot Health Foods & Wellness Inc.