Bloating, gas, indigestion, burping after meals…none of this is fun nor comfortable.  Many people do have weakened digestion or bacterial overgrowths that may be driving these symptoms, but more often than not, one’s eating hygiene is to blame.  Before we run to do a comprehensive stool test, let’s lock in the not-so-sexy basics of eating hygiene that are free, shall we?

Think back to your last meal.  Did you breathe before taking your first bite to make sure you were fully relaxed and ready to digest, chew your food thoroughly and take your time to slowly eat your meal?  I already can hear the “Um…there is no time for that!” reverberating back at me as you read this.   So many GI symptoms are rooted in poor eating hygiene.  What I am about to share with you may sound so simple, but let me assure you, they are foundational to good digestion and energy and if you are not practicing them, you may be feeling the pain of that.

Here are a few powerful eating hygiene tips that I encourage you to implement to see if you shift your digestive symptoms and energy:

  1. EAT SLOWLY!!  Eating quickly becomes a habit and does not enable our body to shift into a calm, relaxed state that flips the switch on digestion, signaling the release of stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes.  When we eat quickly we are asking the body to break down our food without these important supportive enzymes and digestive secretions and the result is bloating, gas, GERD and fatigue.  A little tip for getting started if you are a fast eater; try putting your fork down better bites and take a deep breathe before picking your fork up.
  2. CHEW!!  The average person chews their food only six times before swallowing.  That is asking the body to work really hard to break down food as our stomach does not have teeth like we do in our mouths! Ideally we want our food to be liquid before swallowing. Need help getting started in chewing?  Count your bites to 20-30 times before swallowing.  This will also help you to slow down and savor your meal as well.
  3. BREATHE!!  Do you see a theme here?!  The body needs oxygen to properly digest food.  Try taking a few deep, cleansing breathes before you even begin eating and in-between bites.  I like 4-4-7 breathing as it also releases tension and shifts us into a calm, parasympathetic state. 
  4. LIMIT LIQUIDS DURING MEALS!! I am all for hydrating well throughout the day, but mealtime is not the time to catch up on your hydration.  When you consume large amounts of liquids during meals you dilute the stomach acid making it harder for foods to be broken down and depending on your sensitivity, create an early sense of fullness and then downstream, malnutrition in key nutrients such as B12 and iron.   Four ounces or so with a meal is fine but keep the big drinks to between meals.

Simple yet powerful shifts that can create big change for you in how you feel overall and in your health.  The key to creating change in your eating hygiene and digestion is consistency.  Pick one area where you are struggling the most and make a decision to consistently show up to improve it and build from there.  If you are still struggling with GI symptoms after locking in your eating hygiene it then may be time to dive deeper into underlying root causes of disease that actually may be rooted in your gut.