1. Drink up!
Drinking 1½ litres of water a day is a cheap and effective way of improving health and raising energy levels. Try not to drink too much just before, during or after eating, as this will dilute the digestive juices. More than 20 minutes before or after eating is the best bet for effective drinking.
2. Avoid tobacco, coffee, sugar and alcohol
This is particularly important if you are constipated, as they upset the gastric secretions and deaden the response of the bowel when used long term.
Foods that will help include:
- Short grain brown rice, cooked with lots of water and chewed well
- Figs, raw or cooked
- Dates, raw or cooked
- Prune juice
- Carrot juice (why not add carrot juice to your favourite smoothie such as this delicious Carrot and Mango Smoothie recipe)
3. Whatever you eat, chew it well
Don’t bolt your food down. If it hardly touches the sides as it goes down, the chances are the digestive system won’t be ready for it and all sorts of mayhem will break out. Try chewing each mouthful 20 times for a while and surprise yourself with how much better your digestive tract feels.
4. Sit down and sit up
Yes, sounds silly; but what I mean is make sure you sit down to eat, rather than rushing to the shops in your lunch break with a snack in your hand, or jumping up all through dinner to fetch things for other people.
So sit down, and make sure that you are sitting up with your shoulders back rather than slumped over your meal, as this makes it easier for the stomach walls to move and mix food up with the digestive enzymes. Cramping up your stomach (which is situated under the ribcage) is a great way of causing indigestion.
Once you’ve finished your meal, give yourself five minutes to start digesting, rather than rushing off at once. This again will make the digestive process more effective and less painful.
5. Exercise regularly
Even if only gently, exercise helps to stimulate muscle activity and assists peristalsis. Yoga is a good idea as it strengthens muscles and increases mobility without being beyond anyone’s ability.
To give your bowel more individual attention, massage gently in a clockwise circle around your belly, going up the right hand side and down the left, gently but firmly. Massaging in lavender oil, using a cream or oil base, is also helpful (and nice for the nose too).
6. Try some bitter herbs
Bitter herbs could be the best thing your gut has ever experienced. A bitter taste on the tongue stimulates the production of digestive enzymes in the stomach, not to mention the correct balance of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).
If you are producing the right amount of stomach acid then you are more likely to break down your proteins properly and keep bugs such as Helicobacter pylori at bay. The production of stomach enzymes also triggers the rest of the digestive tract into action, so your liver and pancreas will wake up and take notice, meaning better absorption of food, less likelihood of food intolerances, and fewer cravings.
Extracts of bitter herbs such as Centaurium and Yarrow are therefore traditionally recommended for those suffering from acid reflux, acid indigestion and heartburn. Bitters are known to work very quickly. They should be taken before each meal, although they may be taken afterwards if necessary. Take them until your digestion has been working well for several weeks. You can return to them whenever necessary.