It's not too late to improve digestion. By changing just a few bad habits you can start feeling better immediately. Below are a number of suggestions that are guaranteed to help your aging digestive system work more efficiently.
Tooth health - Digestion begins in the mouth and that is the first place you can improve digestion. If you're missing teeth or have gum problems, this will have an effect on your digestion. Brush your teeth after meals and floss. Have regular checkups and a professional cleaning every 6 months.
Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly - When food is eaten to quickly without properly chewing, it is only partly digested. This means not only do we get a small percentage of its nutrient value, but undigested food left in the colon rots and ferments resulting in indigestion and gas.
Stop eating when you're satisfied, not full - It takes 20 minutes for your brain to know your stomach is full. This is another good reason to eat slowly.
Eat less at each meal and compensate by eating more meals - If you don't overload your digestive system, it will function much better. Try having 5-6 small portioned meals per day instead of 3 big ones.
Eat the last meal of the day 2-3 hours before you go to sleep - give your food enough time to digest. Going to sleep on a full stomach can have a twofold effect, causing heartburn and restless sleep. If you feel you must eat, have something light.
Listen to your body - Notice what foods cause you heartburn or gas and avoid them. Foods known to be hard to digest for many baby boomers are: spicy foods, fried foods, raw vegetables such as green peppers and onions.
Exercise - A sedentary lifestyle causes a slow-down of the entire digestive process. Regular exercise stimulates peristalsis, the muscular contractions that push its contents through your digestive system. Lack of physical activity is a major cause of constipation .
Quit smoking - Smoking can increase the occurrence of heartburn because it lowers the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter.
Reduce alcohol consumption - Alcohol dehydrates, causing a reduction of saliva. Alcohol is a major cause of heartburn. It relaxes the esophageal sphincter (the circular muscle that keeps acid and food from moving up the esophagus). If this muscle is relaxed, acid flows back to the esophagus causing heartburn.
Begin your meals with fresh fruit or a fresh vegetable salad. They can help supplement the acids our stomach is missing. Fresh papaya and pineapple contain an enzyme which is helpful in the digestion of protein.
Drink lots of water. When we don't drink enough we force the body to absorb more water from the large intestine causing dry, hard stools, in other words – constipation. You should drink 8 glasses a day, but...
Do not drink with your meals. It not only encourages less chewing, and dilutes gastric juices.
Eat foods high in fiber. Fiber adds bulk to stools and softens them because it absorbs water, thus making them easier to pass. Foods high in fiber are beans (including peas, chickpeas, and lentils ), 100% whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, apples and other fresh fruits and vegetable with their skin.
Keep away from processed foods, especially those made with white flour and white sugar. These foods have no nutritional value and among other problems can create high blood sugar and cause constipation.
Take an enzyme product with your meals. Digestive enzymes are designed to help improve digestion. They should be taken during or immediately after eating. Most of the foods we eat are carbohydrates, fats or proteins. So take an enzyme supplement that contains a combination of protease for protein digestion, amylase for carbohydrate digestion, and lipase for fats. Before taking digestive enzyme supplements, check with your doctor regarding compatibility with medications your might already be taking.
Food combining. Food combining can be especially beneficial for those with very sensitive digestive systems. Food combining refers to eating foods that are compatible in terms of digestion. The theory behind it states that different foods require different digestive enzymes to improve digestion, some acid and other alkaline. For example, when a protein, which requires an acidic enzyme, is eaten with a starch which requires a more alkalize enzyme, they are not digested properly and can cause gas, heartburn or stomach pain.
You can click on the chart below to view a full size version of proper food combinations.
The practice of food combining is controversial, many argue that it is ineffective. But if you constantly suffer from bloating and gas and are other wise healthy, why not try it. There is nothing in this concept that can hurt you, and many people find it very effective.