Eating is the start of a complex process by which food is digested by your body. Digestion plays an important role in supplying your organs with vital nutrients.
The sight, smell, and expectation of food causes your body to produce saliva, contract stomach muscles, and release enzymes to prepare for digestion. Special enzymes in saliva begin to break down the food as we chew, and the tongue helps push it down a pipe called the esophagus. Food is pushed toward the stomach by a series of wavelike muscular contractions called peristalsis.
In the stomach, foods are further broken down by powerful muscle contractions as well as strong acids and enzymes. Food is separated into smaller chemical building blocks, and nutrients are released into the bloodstream and sent around the body. Substances that cannot be digested, such as dietary fiber, are passed to the larger intestine or colon. The bulk that remains is excreted as feces.
Tips for Healthy Digestion
There are several factors that can improve your digestion and avoid stomach upsets.
- Eat at regular times. The digestive system works best when it has a schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Try eating plenty of whole, natural foods
- Eat moderate portions; your stomach produces only a certain amount of digestive juices.
- Try to relax at and after meal times. Your Digestive muscles will function better, and juices flow more freely when you are relaxed.
- Increase good bacteria in your gut by eating probiotic dairy products. If you are a vegan or allergic to dairy products, eat soy or other nondairy yogurt and supplement it with capsules of live probiotics, which are, easily found at your local pharmacy or health store.
- Eat your food slowly and chew each mouthful.
Role of Fiber in Healthy Digestion
Insoluble fiber acts as a bulking agent for eliminating waste and toxins from the digestive system, absorbing water in the digestive tract and making it easier for the food that you eat to pass through your body.
Fiber acts as a scrubbing brush, removing bacteria and waste matter from the large intestine as well as encouraging regular muscle contraction. This speeds the passage through the system.
High Fiber Foods
White and refined foods have had most of their fiber removed, so go for whole-grains. Increase your fiber intake by eating brown rice, oats, whole wheat, and corn in cereals; bread or pasta; and lightly cook or raw vegetables and beans.
Water and Healthy Digestion
Water lubricates food’s passage through the digestive system, and so it is essential for healthy digestion. Between two to two and a half liters per day is recommended to keep the body hydrated. Dehydration can result in dry, hard stools and also constipation. Plain water is the best fluid, but alternatives such as fruit juices and herbal teas can help to increase your daily fluid intake. On the other hand, alcohol and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea are dehydrating, encouraging fluid loss by acting as a diuretic to increase urination. Too much water, while you are eating, will dilute digestive juices, so drink gradually throughout the day rather than concentrating on taking in fluids at meal times.
Helpful Herbs and Spices
Some herbs and spices can also promote healthy digestive function.
A natural relaxant that when taken as tea relieves stomach upsets.
Has a relaxing effect on the digestive muscles, calming the stomach wall and relieving pain while encouraging the production of digestive juices.
Grate ginger and infuse in water to make tea to settle an upset stomach, relieve gas and nausea.