The modern world is one of immediate gratification. Someone can go to a fast food restaurant and have a full meal in five minutes or less. Many people expect the same thing from diets. We’re always looking for diets that promise fast results with little work. We want the pill that will cause us to lose a hundred pounds. With so much information out there, where do we begin?

We got some tips from Jessica, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) Practitioner at Optimize To Thrive, a Holistic Health and Coaching company.

1. Start eating a Whole Foods diet

I can’t stress this enough! Eating a whole foods diet allows us to eliminate the following nasties:

  • Food Dye
  • Chemical Preservatives
  • MSG
  • Ingredients that are banned in other countries like: Olestra, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Butylated Hydroxytoluene.

Eating a Whole foods diet also assists in weight loss and management. If we focus on eating veggies, nuts, seeds, fresh cuts of meat and seafood along with fruit and water, it’s very hard to overeat. These foods taste good and can be combined in a variety of ways to intensify their flavor, but they never become “hyper-palitable” like snack foods, breads, and heavily processed grains and meats do. When the food companies start combining flavors and removing fats to add sugars they change the make-up of the product and therefore it’s no longer a “whole food.”

2. Proper Chewing and Mindfulness

The digestive process actually begins outside of your mouth, it starts with the sense of smell and sight. When we see and smell food our mouths start to water and saliva contains a very important enzyme, amylase, that starts the chemical breakdown of starch. Once we begin to chew the physical aspect of digestion begins and we masticate our food making it possible to swallow without choking. Have you ever heard of “inhaling” your food? Better yet are you guilty of doing just that? When we eat too fast we don’t allow for the proper time that’s required for the chewing process (30+ bites before you swallow). This will not only impact the size of the food you are swallowing, making more work further down the line, but it also impacts the release of the amylase which I spoke of earlier. Let me tell you why this matters and why you should chew each bite 30+ times. Once our stomach receives the signal from the vagus nerve and begins to physically expand from the addition of food the process begins where it becomes more acidic (acid is produced to break down food). This is another step in digestion and allows for the food, more specifically the proteins, to be properly broken down before they move further along in the digestive process. If the timing is rushed during chewing and swallowing then the production of acid will also be impaired. As you can imagine, the process will begin to back up and become delayed just like the busy freeways we travel on. This can set the scene for indigestion and improper digestion.

When we have indigestion and improper digestion, the food we eat becomes less of a fuel and more of a hinderance to our health.

Further along in the digestive process the proteins are liberated into amino acids and carbohydrates and fats are further broken down into their building blocks of simple sugars and fatty acids respectively.
When this process is rushed we are making our digestive system work overtime and likely not benefiting from all the nutrients in our food because our bodies are unable to absorb them properly.
Mindfulness is all about being aware. When we slow down our eating we naturally become more mindful of the flavors of our food. We tend to enjoy it more and surprisingly extract more nutrients from it. This can help with our bodies response to satiety as well as nourishment.
Please, slow down, sit and enjoy your meals. Do your best not to eat in a stressful state, remove electronics from the table and don’t eat on the run. Your digestive system will thank you!

3. Supplementing with Digestive Enzymes and Limiting Fluid Intake During a Meal

Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in our bodies. The 3 main ones are as follows:

  • Amylase – Sugar/Starch
  • Pepsin – Protein
  • Lipase – Fat

Enzymes are produced in the stomach and also from the liver and pancreas in addition to the small intestine as things progress thru the digestive tract.
There could be several reasons for low production of enzymes and that can take some investigation. Also, as we age the overall production tends to lessen. A great way to combat this and make sure we are getting the most out of nutrition is to supplement with some additional enzymes. I tend to recommend supplementation after I consult with a client to better asses concerns they are having. However, in general, supplementation is safe and can be done without consulting with a practitioner. If your looking to improve digestion this would be a great place to start. I will recommend, however, that you do not supplement with HCL unless you have ruled out H. Pylori and stomach ulcers.
When we eat a meal or snack it’s best to limit fluid intake. When we drink with our meals we are diluting the stomach acid that we need to break down our foods. This can start to impact the entire digestive process in a similar way to when you don’t chew your food adequately. Keeping fluid intake with the meal to a minimum is another key part to healthy digestion and a healthier you!

4. Fermented Foods and Probiotics

Fermented foods have been part of our natural diet for hundreds if not thousands of years. As foods of convenience slowly took over America, many people stopped making at home ferments. More recently they have seen a resurgence because of all the interest in the Gut Microbiome and the continuing research that is showing the importance of beneficial bacteria for maintaining health. That being said I encourage everyone to start with sauerkraut (raw and organic if possible), just a tablespoon full every day with a meal. Then increase it from there to include a few spoonfuls at every meal. Currently we are seeing a real resurgence in fermented foods and drinks like Kombucha, and Jun, among other trendy drinks in the specialty food markets. I think these can be good options on occasion, but would always suggest a ferment that doesn’t need sugar to grow the yeast or bacteria. Yogurt is another good source for fermented food as long as its grass fed and pastured organic dairy. Also, be sure to avoid the added flavors and fruit mixes as they are laden with sugar and work against health. I personally make my own yogurt and have done so for many years. It’s very inexpensive and easy to do. I also ferment my own sauerkraut, it too is easy and the best way to control the ingredients that go into making the product. After all, if you are going to be buying it the cost may add up quick for good quality so best to learn to make these staples yourself. Fermenting veggies also has the added benefit of making the nutrients in the veggies more bioavailable. In other words, your body can absorb and use all the nutrients much better than if you were to eat the food raw.
Probiotics can also play an important part in digestive health.

Bacteria in the GI system are responsible for not only immune health, but also for digestion.

Certain beneficial bacteria aid in proper digestion and break down of food. They also make sure that the fatty acids are liberated and turned into energy. Probiotics can be a little powerhouse and there are multiple strains so its a good idea to vary which ones you take including a good soil based product like Prescript Assist and a spore based one like MegaSpore. There are also yeast based sources which have their benefits as well.

5. Meal Timing and Fasting

Meal frequency and spacing is the last digestive tip I will focus on. Throughout the years there have been many different recommendations from eating every 2 hours to eating at intervals that don’t allow you to ever get hungry and now fasting seems to be all the rage. Not to get too caught up in the weeds, meals every 2-3 hours was never a recommendation based on science. It was more theory and then food companies jumped on board and turned it into a marketing ploy. Eating “snacks” or small meals every few hours sold more “snack” foods and it also taught people that they could constantly eat and never feel hunger again because they ate based on what time it was, not how hungry they felt.

The digestive system never gets a break when we eat or graze throughout the day.

The only time it has “off” is during sleeping hours and unfortunately that’s just not enough time for it to fully rest. The liver, pancreas and entire GI system is working nonstop with food and then the liver also puts in OT because its working on filtering and metabolizing everything that we eat, drink and breathe including prescription pills and supplements. In addition to that it also handles anything that we absorb through our skin to a degree as well so its definitely in need of a vacation when we are snacking or eating every 2-3 hours.
If we were to look back in history we would see that it wasn’t all that long ago that snacking became popular. Before that it was 3 square meals a day. People still enjoyed their cakes or chips and pretzels, but it was part of the main meal or not as frequently consumed as it is today. Not mini meals in-between the main meals. It would be common to fast from dinner until breakfast the next day. Now most people are taking in the bulk of their calories during late night mindless snacking thats happening because of stress or boredom.
The key takeaway is to focus on eating main meals and to include any indulgences or special treats as part of a meal. Let the digestive system rest and repair between meals and overnight.

I hope you found this quite to be helpful and thought provoking. Please visit my site and blogs and feel free to start a dialogue with any questions you may have.