The basic rules of a healthy gut diet are not complicated: eat more vegetables, reduce red meat, and avoid heavily processed foods.
But it’s not just what you eat; How you eat is vital, too.
You might assume that if you eat the same meal, in the same amounts, day in and day out, it will have the same effect.
In fact, where you eat, how you eat, how often, with whom and what your mood is can all affect how you feel after a meal – quite literally – and the health benefits.
Here are six simple rules I use with my clients to help improve their digestion…
Everywhere you flip these days, it seems like you can’t avoid fermented foods—these are very popular in the nutrition and diet world, and for good reason, writes Dr. Megan Rossi (pictured)
1. Chew your food
This may be something your parents told you to do to improve table manners, but chewing is a very important part of digestion. Stimulates digestion by stimulating saliva production. This contains the enzyme amylase, which breaks down the starch found in foods like bread and pasta.
Research shows that up to 30 percent of starches are digested in your mouth. So if you discourage your food, you will miss this key stage.
(Try the amylase at work right off the bat by chewing on a piece of white bread until it’s liquid: It gets sweeter the more you chew it, a sign that your salivary enzymes are starting to break down the starch in the bread into sugar.)
This also gives the rest of your digestive chain an alert that food is on the way, alerting your gut to start releasing the right mix of digestive acids and enzymes. You also swallow less air, which is another advantage that means smoother digestion with less discomfort.
But it’s not just about avoiding stomach ache. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 found that people absorb about 15 percent more nutrients when they chew almonds 40 times, compared to chewing almonds just ten times.
And if weight management is your goal, another study from Harbin Medical University in China showed that people took in 12 percent fewer calories when they chewed each dose 40 times compared to 15. Levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) were significantly lower 90 minutes after the meal.
2. The right time
“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” won’t suit everyone – some people just can’t eat a big breakfast. But I still think it’s helpful to follow this principle, especially if you have problems with your blood sugar levels. This is because our bodies are better equipped to metabolize carbohydrates in the morning – for example, insulin secretion is more efficient – than in the evening, which is linked to our circadian rhythm.
This was seen in a study conducted by Tel Aviv University in Israel, where researchers compared the effect of eating the same amount of calories, but eating them differently.
One group of participants ate a large breakfast (700 calories, with a 500-calorie lunch and a 200-calorie dinner); Another had a large dinner (700 calories, with a 500-calorie lunch and a 200-calorie breakfast).
Those who ate the big breakfast had blood sugar levels 20 percent higher throughout the day, and higher insulin levels despite eating the exact same food.
“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” won’t suit everyone – some people just can’t eat a big breakfast. But I still think it’s helpful to follow this principle, especially if you have problems with blood sugar levels
3. Don’t eat too late
This is partly for the simple reason that if you eat a lot and then lie down, you are likely to develop heartburn and indigestion. But most importantly, by avoiding eating late (stop at least two hours before going to bed) you are increasing your overnight fast.
There is some evidence that this disruption to digestion means gut microbes can work on other essential tasks, such as helping the immune system get rid of old cells to make room and stimulating the production of new cells.
A 12-hour break is optimal. While some fasting protocols suggest a break of 14, 16, or even 18 hours, there is not enough strong evidence to suggest increased benefits for longer fasting.
The exception to the nocturnal eating rule is if sleeping hungry interferes with your sleep. Then a small, fiber-packed snack like a handful of nuts and seeds or my favorite Dorito popcorn (see recipe) before you hit the bag won’t do any harm.
4. De-stressing your gut
As I said before, a stressed intestine does not digest food well or absorb nutrients fully.
Of course, de-stressing is easier said than done. But when you are relaxed, more blood can flow into the gut and this is more effective fuel for the digestion process.
I often recommend my clients practice three minutes of diaphragmatic breathing (also known as abdominal breathing) before each meal as this can significantly reduce intestinal distress, ranging from reflux to indigestion.
Step 1: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Take a deep, relaxing breath through your nose, then gently release the air through your nose. This is diaphragmatic breathing, and making a conscious note of switching to it can have a powerful calming effect.
Step 2: With the next breath, allow your abdomen and rib cage to expand, feeling your lower hand rise while your pectoral hand remains stationary. Then exhale – then your pectoral hand moves the most (known as thoracic breathing).
And try not to eat while jogging – something I’m also guilty of doing, but you probably eat more than you need, don’t enjoy food much and don’t chew properly. The perfect storm for indigestion.
5. Three meals a day
If you’re prone to constipation, science has shown that fasting periods between meals — that is, no snacking — can help keep you regular.
This is due to the “migrating kinetochore,” which begins about 90 minutes after a meal. Basically, it pushes food into the intestines.
Now, I’m not anti-snacks. Personally, I struggle with snacking, especially those high in fiber that help stave off hunger. But if you suffer from constipation, sticking to three meals a day is worth a try.
6. Make it social
When was the last time you had a meal with friends or family? I’m willing to bet it’s a cure, not a habit.
However, studies show that friends and families who eat together are generally happier and satisfied with their lives with a greater sense of community, compared to those who always eat separately.
And one study published earlier this year in Frontiers in Nutrition of more than 40,000 teens found that those who ate with their parents reported better performance in school.
Practice these 6 steps and you will definitely notice a difference!
Did you know?
Some phytochemicals (phytochemicals) are actually hormones. For example, melatonin – also known as the sleep hormone – which our bodies produce naturally, is also found in black rice (a type grown mainly in Asia), pistachios and peppers.
Try This: Dorito Popcorn
Replace your low-fiber, heavy-added potato chips with this delicious, high-fiber popcorn to quench afternoon cravings in minutes.
50g popcorn kernels
1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (from most supermarkets and health food stores)
- Pinch of garlic powder, onion granules, smoked paprika, cumin and salt
- Chili powder, optional
- brown paper bag
Place the corn kernels in a brown paper bag and fold the top twice to seal. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until you hear a pause of about three seconds between pops.
Leave to stand for 20 seconds, then carefully open the bag. Drizzle with oil, followed by flavor. Close the bag and shake it.
Is there any way to stimulate a metabolism that declines rapidly after menopause? I lost 7 through slimming club and exercise. But since the menopause is reached, it is getting more and more difficult to shed pounds. And I still need to lose another 2 st.
Weight management can certainly be a challenge for many women going through menopause. This is due to a number of factors, including hormone-related changes in the gut microbiome.
Evidence for calorie counting is limited for long-term weight management, not least because calorie information is not as accurate as we thought. But also because the amount of calories our bodies burn during digestion varies based on how the food is processed. Calorie counting also ignores your gut microbes, which play a key role in your metabolism. Instead, try these three scientifically backed principles:
- Make plants the basis of your diet (and add eggs, fermented dairy products, fish, etc. of your choice).
- Aim for 30 different plants per week — mostly vegetables, followed by whole grains, fruits, legumes (beans and legumes), nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
- Choose whole plants that have been minimally processed (so a homemade hummus burger rather than a highly processed veggie burger).
Connect with Dr. Megan Rossi
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Good Health, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT – please include contact details. Dr. Megan Rossi cannot enter into personal correspondence. Responses should be taken in a general context; Always consult your doctor about your health concerns.
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