If you’re eating a clean, varied, and wholefoods diet, yet you’re still not feeling your best after meals, it may be because you’re not digesting your food properly.
Optimize your digestion with these simple practices and make the most of your healthy diet.
P.S optimizing your gut health means stronger immunity and better moods too!
1. Look out for a food intolerance
Food intolerances are often not as dramatic as they play out in movies. A food intolerance doesn’t have to be an uncontrollable bowel reaction to be merited as an intolerance.
Food intolerances indeed cause some form digestive inflammation. This can range from bloating, brain fog, gas, reflux, headaches, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea. To find out if you have a food intolerance, you can have yourself checked with a doctor to rule out any intolerances (and even allergies) or you can simply be more mindful and observe how your body reacts after eating certain foods.
Here is a list of the most common food allergens, that you could be intolerant to:
Modern studies have discovered some more common food allergens/intolerances that people are less aware of such as:
- Gluten (okay, this is a well-known one!)
- Salicylates – the natural chemicals found in plants that are used to protect the plants from the environment such as insects
- Amines- the most common known amine is histamines. This is the bacteria found in food when it has been stored and fermented
- Foods high in FODMAPS such as apples, soft cheese, lentils, beer, beans etc.
- Sulfites- a chemical used to preserve food
Keep an eye out as well for artificial ingredients used in fast food and packaged food such as:
- Sodium Nitrite
- Artificial food coloring
- Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame
While this may be a long list of food intolerances to look out for, most people tolerate most of these foods/ingredients well. If you’re experiencing indigestion, do an elimination diet to pinpoint exactly what food or ingredient is giving you indigestion, and cut it out.
2. Incorporate Probiotics
We can’t have a gut-health article without mentioning probiotics! These tiny living microorganisms bring so many health benefits to our bodies. Particularly for digestion, these microorganisms literally help us to break down our food, which leads to better digestion and more efficient nutrient absorption.
If you haven’t incorporated probiotics in your diet yet, this may be all you need to optimize digestion.
3. Incorporate Digestive Enzymes
A lesser known digestive aid than probiotics, (although we’d say is just as important!), digestive enzymes are key in breaking down food.
Did you know that you need a different enzyme to break down your macronutrients? Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins all require different enzymes in order for them to break down into a digestible and absorbable form for our body to use as nutrition.
Although our bodies naturally make its own digestive enzymes, coming from our salivary glands, stomach and pancreas, factors such as age, stress, and genetics affect our body’s ability to produce an adequate amount of digestive enzymes every single time we have a meal.
This is where digestive enzyme supplements come in. Think of them as your secret weapon to battle bloating, indigestion, and constipation. Best taken 20-30 minutes before meals in order for the enzymes to be ready and available for your food. Optimize your digestion with the very substances that you need to digest it.
4. Proper food combining
Although a debatable topic, proper food combining can prove to be beneficial for those eating a healthy diet yet still experiencing digestive issues. It may be a matter of pairing the right foods together. Here are a few basic tips for proper food combining. Give them a try and see if they help with your digestive issues.
- Eat fruit alone, or with other fruits from the same family. For example, only eat blueberries with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries etc.
- Consume beans and legumes with other types of beans and legumes. They can be eaten with whole grains and vegetables but not with dairy or fruits.
- Avoid eating raw foods all together and don’t mix raw food with cooked food.
While these aren’t strict rules, or rules that most diets can consistently adhere to, consider food combining as an option to try if you have digestive issues amidst an otherwise healthy diet.
Nurturing your own individual healthy digestion is a process of trial and error. Find what works for you by taking notice of how you feel after you eat certain types of food and the how and when of it. It may take time, but good digestion and all its benefits is well worth the effort!