Back to Basics – Eating 101
As a Functional Medicine Health Coach, many people come to me because they suffer from gas, bloating, belching, acid reflux, and/or feeling overly full after a meal. Some people have a major GI disruption that may cause a closer look with your Functional Medicine Health Coach but, for many, the solution is in being aware of eating hygiene.
What is eating hygiene? It is a few simple tricks that will help you properly digest your food so that you do not have these uncomfortable issues. Here are 3 simple tricks that may help you reduce or even eliminate these annoying symptoms.
First, slow down!
Perhaps you came from a big family and you couldn’t have seconds or dessert until you basically inhaled what was on your plate. It may not be in your nature to slow down but proper digestion takes time. Stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic secretions need time to be fully secreted to properly do their job. If stress is involved, it may take even longer.
A full stomach which may be caused by eating too quickly, does not give the food time to mix with the stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Think of an overfull bowl of cereal. When you put the spoon in to bring some to your mouth, it overflows the side of the bowl and makes a mess. In the same way, if your stomach has too much food in it, it backs up. This, all by itself, may cause the dynamic that results in indigestion, belching, or acid reflux.
It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full and reduce your sense of hunger. If you gulp down your food in 10 minutes, you are more likely to overeat and feel bloated and disgusting 20 minutes later.
Prioritize meal time. After all, this is the opportunity for your body to get the nutrients that it needs to help keep you healthy and energetic. Why should this time be an afterthought? Make mealtime a time to sit down and relax with no distractions and no multi-tasking. If you send the signal to your body that it is time to “rest and digest,” your body will do a better job at providing you with all the tools that you need to get the most from your food.
Also, get in the habit of putting your fork down and sitting back in your chair between each bite of food. After you swallow, take one full breath before you pick up your fork and enjoy another bite of food.
Chew your food.
Sounds simple. Right? Believe it or not, the average person only chews their food 5 or 6 times before swallowing it. Chewing is the only part of the digestive process that is voluntary. The less we chew our food, the harder our digestive system has to work which leads to post-meal fatigue. Ideally, we should be chewing our food until it is almost liquid. This can reduce gas and increase post-meal energy.
When we swallow chunks of food, it is harder for the digestive enzymes to do their job. When foods high in carbohydrates hang around for too long, this allows the bacteria in our gut to feast which creates gas as a by-product. This leads to distention, bloating, and flatulence.
To properly chew your food, chew your food until it is liquid. On average, this could take 20-30 chews, depending on what you are consuming. But even something that you wouldn’t normally chew, such as a soup or smoothie, “chew” it a few times to start the digestive process.
Don’t drink too much during meals.
Many people inhale their food, do not properly chew it, and then help it slide down with glasses of liquids. Consuming too much liquid at mealtime dilutes the stomach acid and slows down digestion. For some, this can cause an early sense of fullness, belching, and, in the long-term, malnutrition, specifically of such key nutrients as vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron.
Consume your fluids at least 20 minutes prior to mealtime. This allows the water, ideally you should be drinking pure water with maybe some fresh lemon in it, to clear your stomach before the digestive process begins.
If these tips and tricks do not ease your discomfort, you will need to explore your situation more deeply. A Functional Medicine Health Coach can help you identify other sources of your problem and help you to reverse it.
Missy Cohen, MPH, Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach is available for individual consults at Just Breathe in Westborough, Massachusetts by phone or in person.