by: John Maroussas

Most of us have experienced symptoms of indigestion from time to time.  It may be just an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen after a heavy meal, or malodorous gas, or problems with evacuation.  Digestion is a complex process of converting food into fuel: good digestion is one of the keys to optimal health, well being and staying fit and healthy.  Indigestion can leave you feeling lethargic and generally under par.

A sleepless night due to a burning chest or constant belching is an uncomfortable experience.  Spicy or even unfamiliar party food, or too much alcohol can often be the cause.  Sometimes poor digestion can lead to headaches.

“Indigestion” covers a variety of issues: bloating, belching, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, uncomfortable fullness, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn are amongst them.  For some people, the cause can be certain foods – commonly spicy foods, rich fatty foods, processed or fermented foods, or items containing either very low or very high amounts of fiber.

Here are some hints on keeping your digestive system fit:

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables – fruit eaten an hour or two before main meals can help digestion work more efficiently.
  • Meals should be eaten at room temperature – neither too cold nor too hot.
  • Try to eat sufficient fiber – whole wheat and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources.
  • Know when to stop eating – do not overeat.  If your digestive system is challenged, wait 4-5 hours before you have another meal.
  • Do not eat in a hurry, avoid multitasking while eating, and try to relax.  Be comfortable and pay attention to chewing, as digestion begins with the saliva in the mouth, especially for carbs.
  • Include natural products in your diet, like ginger, fresh coconut water, papaya, and fresh mint, all of which improve digestion.
  • Avoid exercising immediately after a meal – the blood is needed in your digestive system and should not be diverted to your muscles.
  • Switch to lean proteins, like fish and tofu, if you are facing indigestion on a regular basis.
  • Avoid foods that you are allergic to.  This sounds obvious, but when you eat in restaurants, they may use ingredients that upset your digestion, items that you would not normally use at home.  An example is garlic powder, which some people are allergic to.
  • Eat meals at regular intervals. This will help you to avoid unhealthy snacking. Snacks immediately prior to meals can overload your digestive system.
  • Soak your beans!  Soaking beans or lentils for a couple of hours before cooking will make them easy to digest.  Try to avoid eating these late at night when your digestive system is shutting down for the night.
  • Include natural yogurt and buttermilk in your diet, as they contain natural probiotics that are known to promote digestion.
  • Avoid sleeping or lying down immediately after a meal.
  • Keep hydrating, as water is essential for digestion.  Drink throughout the day and especially about an hour after meals.
  • Reduce your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.  OK, these are tough ones but they slow down digestion, so if you are experiencing digestive problems, switch to herbal tea or green tea until you feel better.