Seventy percent of the body’s immune system is centered in the digestive tract; this means maintaining digestive health is crucial to the body’s over all wellbeing. If your digestion is not at optimal levels, the body will have difficulty absorbing all the nutrients from the food and, therefore, the body will be provided with less nourishment for energy.
The following steps support digestion, boost the immune system, and help to alleviate unwanted bloating.
1. Drink plenty of water (between, not with meals):
It’s best to drink water 15 minutes before you eat and 30 minutes to 1 hour after you eat. Drinking during meals dilutes digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, slowing down the digestive process. Drinking away from meals helps to reduce excess gas and bloating.
2. Limit caffeine intake.
Caffeine is highly stimulating to the nervous system and overconsumption increases cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenalin production. This adds an extra layer of stress-induced bloating to the abdomen. Do your best to consume any caffeine in the morning and try to stick to no more than 1 cup a day!
3. Have regular meal times.
Keep a routine of when you wake, exercise, eat and sleep. This will “train” your body to release certain hormones, digestive enzymes and other chemicals to make your day run smoothly. Example: if you always wake at 6am and eat breakfast at 8 am, over time your body will begin to get hungry just before 8am, telling you that it is time to eat. Eating at regular times throughout the day also stabilizes blood sugar and heightens metabolism.
4. Eat fruit alone or leave it alone.
Try to eat fruit on an empty stomach, not with or directly after a meal as it ferments in the stomach & can disrupt the digestive process. Vegetables can be eaten with just about anything, and their high fiber helps to support digestion. Add a side of greens or a green salad to any meal to boost nutrient absorption.
5. Consume bitter & probiotic rich foods.
By eating bitter foods, you will enhance digestion by stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, bile and stomach acid. Eating high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes supports digestive health by increasing stool bulk and softness. Some forms of fiber also ferment in the intestine and provide a food source for beneficial bacteria. These include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, asparagus, snow peas, green peas and beetroot. Load up on probiotic rich foods like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, organic miso, tempeh, and coconut yogurt & kefir. These foods help establish a healthy environment for your gut-flora.
6. Rest and digest.
Ever eat on the go? Turns out its not beneficial to your digestion when you are in fight or flight mode. When you are stressed and in a hurry, your body shuts off digestion. By sitting down and relaxing your body, your nervous system will send the signal that it is time to eat and shift into parasympathetic mode. This diverts the blood to your digestive tract for proper absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Try to chew each bite 30-50 times before you swallow. Digestion begins in the mouth; saliva contains enzymes that help break down food particles before entering the digestive tract. The longer that food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it moves through your intestines and the less gas it creates.
7. Consume herbs that reduce bloating.
Incorporate more medicinal herbs into your food or tea. Some herbs the help combat bloating are:
Ginger – helps speed digestion, which helps the stomach empty faster to relieve discomfort and bloating.
Dill – Helps stimulate production of bile, soothes the stomach and helps bring relief to gastric heartburn and acid indigestion.
Chamomile-calms inflammation such as gastritis and helps prevent ulcers.
Peppermint- helps relieve stomach gas and bloating and prevents flatulence
Basil- relaxes the stomach and improves how gas moves through the intestines. Lessens the effect of heartburn. Relieves inflammatory bowel problems as well as stomach cramps, indigestion and unwanted gas
Parsley- stimulates digestion and the kidneys. Helps to eliminate toxins and kidney stones. Prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, relieves water retention, bloating, indigestion and flatulence.
For Alleviating Pre-Menstrual Bloat:
1. Reduce salt
The week before your cycle and be sure you are using low-sodium, mineral-rich Himalayan salt. Too much salt increases fluid retention, creating excess bloating and fatigue. Processed foods such as canned soups and packaged snacks are especially high in sodium as well, so avoid them whenever possible. (Especially right around your cycle)
2. Avoid all fizzy drinks.
All sodas and sparkling water, these drinks contain carbon dioxide, which adds to air bubbles in the digestive tract. They make your stomach feel distended, uncomfortable and gassy
3. Reduce/eliminate sugary snacks & processed foods.
Cravings for sweets trend upward when you have pms, but cookies, sweets and processed foods send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride. When you have a blood sugar crash later on, you’ll feel tired and irritable. Limiting your sugar supply sets the stage for steadier moods and stable blood sugar. Around your cycle, load up on sweet potatoes, which offer a natural source of sweetness and are high in antioxidants and fiber. Eat more avocados & bananas – Both are rich in potassium, which plays a huge role in keeping mood swings in check. This important mineral also helps to reduce fluid retention and decrease bloating.