As you may already know, the process of digestion begins not in the mouth or the stomach, but in the act of smelling, tasting, touching and even thinking about food.
These sensory mechanisms allow our body to prepare for the digestive process by stimulating the production of saliva, chyme, stomach acid (HCl) and pancreatic enzymes that facilitate the breakdown, absorption and assimilation of food, literally, from our eyes, through our digestive system and ideally into our trillions of bodies cells. The ability for one to effectively utilize this digestive process is being recognized as a major limiting factor in how healthy we can be. Numerous physical symptoms and disease processes are being linked to poor digestion and gut health. In order to optimize this process, one must fully understand the many factors associated with complete digestion along with the steps involved in identifying and repairing an already compromised stomach and digestive tract.
Easy Ways to Immediately Improve Digestion
Eat and Prepare your OWN food:
In a perfect world, there would be little disconnect between the foods we eat and where they come from, however, this is simply unrealistic and impossible for most people. Regardless, it is not unrealistic to make a concerted effort to shop local, sustainable, and organic, as well as try and do the majority of your cooking at home. Spending time with family preparing, and cooking your quality food will impart significantly greater nutrition as well as ensure a more relaxed and healthy environment for you to enjoy and adequately digest your foods.
Chew, Chew, Chew...and Chew Some More
As one of my mentor's once said, "drink your food and chew your water", essentially saying, we need to savor our food and beverages a little more before swallowing, as this ensures better nutrient breakdown and ideally absorption.
Adequate hydration is crucial for necessary enzyme and stomach acid production. Often times, simply being under hydrated can be a major cause of digestive symptoms as water is essential for the cellular hydration needed to supply and protect the mucosal barrier that protects us from our strong stomach acid. Try drinking a glass of water 30min before each meal, but limit fluid consumption during and immediately after meals, as it can dilute the stomach acid needed to break down our foods.
I've mentioned before about how our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the digestion and detoxification process. Conversely, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight or flight response. Ideally we should have a balance between these two systems, but because of too much stress, sugar, caffeine, and lack of sleep, most Americans are living in a prolonged sympathetic state. This is hardly conducive to adequate digestive enzyme production. As Paul Simon said in 59th St. Bridge, "Slow down, you move too fast..."