How to Improve Your Digestion




"That food disagrees with me."  Here's how to settle the argument. 

1. Of course you remember the person who went to the doctor and said, "Doc, it hurts when I do this." The response, of course, was: "Well then, don't do that." If a food always bothers you, just eliminate it. There is no shortage of choices; eat something else instead. My Dad used to eat pastrami and always have an upset stomach. So he stopped, and so did the symptoms. For this we need doctors?

2. Eat when you are really hungry. Digestion is strongest when you really need to eat. Food tastes better then, too, for "hunger is the best mustard." 

3. Chew your food thoroughly. We know it, we say it, but we do not do it. Mechanical digestion is nearly as important as chemical digestion. Your teeth are for cutting and grinding. Since you brush them, and fill them, and floss them, why not USE them? One of the reasons people suffer indigestion is they eat too fast. That really means they swallow too soon. If food goes down in chunks, it will end up in your colon in chunks. This promotes an overgrowth of certain flatulence-causing bacteria. 

4. Eliminating meat from your diet is likely to eliminate distress from your belly. I know a person who cured his chronic indigestion just by giving up pork. For another fellow, it was quitting hot dogs that helped the most. The dead muscles of a dead animal are not a boon to digestion. Meat contains zero fiber, clogging the pipes and literally decaying in your digestive tract. 

5. More fiber may help in general. Roughage helps keep everything moving and automatically stimulates the digestive process. Salads, raw vegetables and fruits, well-chewed nuts, whole grains, sprouts, and legumes (peas, beans and lentils) are, as my Grandfather would say, "good for what ails you." 

6.  Eat more rice.  While bagels and pizza are particularly "gassy," rice is the opposite. Remember that rice cereal is recommended as a first solid food for babies because it is so easy to digest. 

7. Yogurt and other cultured dairy products are an easy source of beneficial acidophilus bacteria (as well as protein and calcium). Such friendly bacteria digest much of your food for you. Every time you take an antibiotic, it kills off these good bacteria. That is one of the big reasons why there is so much indigestion in America. If you find that dairy products make you stuffy, see Suggestion #1, above. Alternatively, dilute your yogurt with water. This is called lassi in India (no relation to the famous Collie). If you don't like less thick yogurt, just drink a glass or two of water before eating any dairy product. This really helps. If you wish to completely do without milk products, you can buy acidophilus capsules at any health food store. 

8. Try a multiple digestive enzyme supplement to improve digestion and absorption of foods in general. Such a product will commonly contain pancrease, papain, hydrochloric acid, ox bile, bromelain, and amylase in one tablet. Totally vegetarian digestive supplements are also available. Begin with only one-half of the recommended amount, and gradually increase as needed to get the most comfortable result.  More will usually be needed for larger meals and higher-protein meals. The elderly will especially benefit from such supplementation. If a young person has simple indigestion, see Suggestion #3, above. 

9. To get bonus digestive enzymes from your food, eat more raw bean sprouts, and fresh or dried papaya, figs and pineapple. Pineapple contains bromelain, papaya contains papain. Sprouts and figs contain a variety of beneficial enzymes. Cooking temperatures destroy enzymes, so try to eat these (and more of your foods in general) raw whenever possible. 

10. Raw vegetable juices are very easy to digest. People with REALLY troubled tummies often make great improvements with the addition of carrot, cabbage and other vegetable juices to their diet. Naturopathic authorities frequently recommend a short period of fasting on vegetable juices alone. 

11. Get a medical opinion if indigestion persists. If you are told that you have an allergy, or are lactose intolerant, ask for the basis of that diagnosis.  Only one in three "lactose intolerant" people really is. A breath-hydrogen test will confirm it one way or the other. Even lactose intolerant people may be able to eat cultured dairy products such as aged cheeses and yogurt. Vegetarianism is always a sensible option.  Many a so-called allergy goes away quite promptly with the addition of substantial amounts of vitamin C to each meal. Vitamin C acts as both antitoxin and antihistamine. 

12. To improve your digestion, don't just sit there, do something! That something is exercise. Now of course you don't go out and log an entire forest right after a big meal. However, regular exercise, especially between meals, will make a world of digestive difference. 

Some References on Digestion, Assimilation and Cultured Foods: 

Howell, E. Food Enzymes For Health and Longevity, Omangod Press,1980

Liebman, B. "Out of Gas?" Nutrition Action Healthletter, March 1991

Ramig, V. B. "Make Your Own Yogurt" Mother Earth News Health, Nutrition and Fitness, No.11 

Rowell, D.  "What Acidophilus Does" Let's Live Magazine, July 1983 

Sandine, W. E. "Roles of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in Human Health"  Contemporary Nutrition, 15:1, 1990 

Savaiano and Levitt  "Nutritional and Therapeutic Aspects of Fermented Dairy Products" Contemporary Nutrition, 9:6, June, 1984 

Sehnert, K. W. The Garden Within: Acidophilus-Candida Connection, Burlingame, CA: Health World, 1989 

Copyright  C  2008, 2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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