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Simple Steps to Improve Digestion

Lemon water, Apple cider vinegar, What are my #1 tips to improve digestion?




Do you suffer from any of the following? These may be signs your digestion could do with some help!


- Dyspepsia/Indigestion - cramping or discomfort after eating

- Bloated, an uncomfortable feeling

- Excessive gas

- Heartburn

- Constipation/Diarrhea

- IBS - a broad term used to describe a range of symptoms including those mentioned above

- Acne


Digestive issues can be uncomfortable and not to mention embarrassing for the person experiencing them, causing a knock-on effect on confidence and the ability to carry out normal daily tasks.


Prolonged disrupted digestion can lead to many issues including those mentioned above but also many more. Our digestion is how we breakdown and absorb our food so impaired digestion can be linked to everything, malabsorption of nutrients, gut bacteria imbalances and negative changes in our intestinal lining.


The Cephalic Phase of Digestion


The Cephalic phase of digestion starts with the sight, smell and thoughts of food (Did you ever think of a food you craved and felt an increase in saliva?) The Cephalic phase is how our body gets ready for food intake, it kicks off secretion of important enzymes, acids, mucous and stimulates movement through our gastrointestinal tract. If one stage is impaired it can have a negative effect on following stages as usually one is needed for the next.




Steps to Improve Digestion


So, in saying how important the Cephalic phase is here are some steps that you can use to help your digestive system function optimally.


Ever hear of Mindful Eating? I see it mentioned everywhere on Instagram but can't recall the Cephalic Phase being mentioned. Mindful eating has many benefits like recognizing when you are full, helping us from emotional eating and eating out-of boredom (hands up who opens the fridge 100 times a day?🤷‍♀️) but mindful eating also it helps the Cephalic phase occur, which in my opinion, is most important!


How to Allow The Cephalic Phase to Occur...

1. Prepare your meal - cooking is always best as you are taking more time to see, smell and prepare your meal allowing your body to amp-up the secretions of enzymes, hormones etc.! If cooking is not possible, all isn't lost see the following steps.

2. Slow down, sit down, breathe, take time to just eat and do nothing else - These could all be broken into separate steps but they are all in an aim to do the same thing, switch from a stressed state to a relaxed state. The Cephalic phase is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system which is part of the autonomic nervous system and is also known as the 'rest & digest' stage, so if you are in a rush or answering emails, eating standing, running between here and there, the chances are you are not in 'rest & digest' stage which is crucial for optimal digestion.

3. Chew - self explanatory but your teeth are there for a reason! Teeth mechanically breakdown food in the mouth so the food is partially broken down and also allows salivary enzymes to access the broken down food more easily before it moves through the esophagus to the stomach for further breakdown. (I think we all know someone that inhales their food, and if you don't, it could be you😜)

4. Move (after eating) - go for a quick walk, do some stretching or fix up the house before you sit down after eating.


The above steps probably sound so boring and obvious but maybe you haven't thought about it before, I think people (myself included) usually want the quick fix, magic pill or silver bullet rather than hearing the boring stuff, which is usually what matters most!


There are so many other points I could mention to improve digestion but I do think that allowing the Cephalic phase to occur is the most important and one that should be looked at before other fast fixes!


References


Mates, R. (2003) Physiologic Responses to Sensory Stimulation by Food: Nutritional Implications. Journal of The American Diet Association. Available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822397001016 (Accessed on: 18/02/2019)


Nygaard, Tomten, Hostmark. (2009) Slow postmeal walking reduces postprandial glycemia in middle-aged women. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20029518 (Accessed on: 19/02/2019)


Powley, T. (2002) Vagal circuitry mediating cephalic-phase responses to food. Department of Psychological Sciences. Available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822397001016 (Accessed on: 18/02/2019)


“Your Digestive System & How it Works” National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Available online: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

(Accessed on: 19/02/2019)