Last updated on May 16th, 2023 at 03:51 pm
Digestion is the cornerstone of our health. The great thing is that there are so many simple steps to improve digestion at home naturally. The simplest one? Slow down – I am serious; it is that simple (and it is free.)
While studying the digestive system in Nutritional Therapy School, I was shocked to learn that this small step can impact our overall well-being. I have never thought about how fundamental digestion is for optimal health. I could trace many of my health issues back to poor digestion, speedy eating, and eating on the go.
Digestion is the first thing I always address with all my clients.
The bigger question is, why does simply slowing down work?
For this concept to make sense, we must first examine the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
The parasympathetic nervous system regulates homeostasis (balance) in the body. This means it controls the body’s “rest and digest” function. When parasympathetic, your body can rest, digest, and heal. Your muscles can relax, your heart rate decreases, your stomach secretions, and your saliva production increase.
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s “fight or flight” response. When your body is in a sympathetic state, adrenaline is released – this causes your muscles to tense up or contract, your heart rate increases, your body speeds up and tense, your stomach secretions decrease, and your saliva production reduces.
At this point, what does this have to do with digestion?
Did you know that digestion actually starts in the brain? When you think about food, your brain sends signals to produce more saliva. Then when you start to eat, your stomach begins to make stomach (hydrochloric acid or HCL) and other enzymes to help properly digest your food.
Sadly, we have been led to believe that having “too” much stomach acid is terrible when it is a super important part of digestion. Hydrochloric acid is responsible for breaking down food and helps kill harmful bacteria and other pathogens the body might encounter.
When you are in a hurry (hello, modern world), eating on the go, stressed or anxious, and so on, your body is in a sympathetic state. This signals the body to decrease saliva and stomach secretions (like hydrochloric acid.) This process has an immediate negative effect on your digestive system. Your food will need to be more digestive. This can cause significant issues in your gallbladder, pancreas, liver, metabolism, and intestines.
Do you see what a significant disruption such a small step (and overlooked step) can have on the overall well-being of the body and health?
Think about how many of us eat in a hurry or feel stressed when we sit down to eat a nourishing meal. This fight-or-flight status can be so harmful to long-term health and wellness.
The fantastic news is that we can start taking small and simple steps to improve digestion naturally at home. Bonus points, they are all free or very inexpensive..
A simple way to do this is to include your family to encourage each other to eat slower and enjoy the food (and company.) Gratitude before each meal is a simple step to remind us to slow down; taking a deep and intentional breath when sitting down and putting your fork down between each bite also ensures that you chew more slowly.
Here, you can also get some tips on how to naturally support stomach acid production.
It takes some time to get used to, but it can have a fantastic effect on our overall health – so, in my book, that is worth it.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is for educational purposes only.