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According to Ayurveda, the health and integrity of the digestive process is truly the fulcrum of one’s health. Did you know that 74% of Americans are experiencing some form of digestive distress? With optimal digestion being the driver of a healthy immune system, balanced moods, steady energy, stable blood sugar, and strong vitality, this is a very disturbing statistic! (1)
So… before you:
- Stop eating gluten
- Stop eating dairy
- Stop eating big lunches because they make you sleepy
- Become a Vegan or Raw Foodist
- Start eating Paleo
- Start eating six small meals a day
Consider these 3 simple digestive habits that people with perfect digestion are sure to practice. Today, there is compelling evidence to suggest that these 3 things can boost digestive strength and lower blood sugar. (2-6)
Before I start, let me say that neither gluten nor dairy are required as a part of a healthy diet. Whether or not you become a vegan, raw foodist or paleo eater is not the issue. Changing your diet may help settle down your digestive imbalance, but it will likely not solve the underlying digestive problem.
Now, I am also not naive enough to think that relaxing during a meal and resting and walking after a meal will fix your gluten intolerance, but these changes along with herbs to reset digestion (see my Digestive Health article archives) are part of a comprehensive package to keep your digestion strong.
3 Habits of People with Perfect Digestion
1. Don’t Race Through or Eat a Meal While Angry
Traditional cultures would never consider eating in front of the TV or while driving or stressed. Sayings such as, “Don’t eat standing up or death looks over your shoulder” or “Better not to eat at all than eat while angry” are actually based on some hard simple science.
When you eat stressed or on the run, the sympathetic “fight-or-flight” nervous system engages to address the stress. The fight-or-flight response activates the muscles to “run for your life” and significantly inhibits proper digestion. When you take time to relax during a meal, the parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest-and-digest” nervous system, turns on. This increased parasympathetic activity while relaxing and enjoying a meal encourages your digestion, while stress during a meal literally turns it off. (2)
2. Resting on the Left Side After a Meal
When you take a few minutes to rest after eating a meal or lie or lean on your left side, this allows your stomach to cradle the food and then to move along and empty in a more relaxed fashion. If you were to lie on the right side, gravity would force the food to potentially empty prematurely from the stomach, allowing undigested food to enter the small intestine. Studies suggest that when babies are fed and allowed to rest on the left side, they enjoy better digestion. (3)
3. Take a Walk After Each Meal
Taking a 15-minute walk after breakfast, lunch, and supper has been shown to lower after-meal blood sugar levels. (4-6) In one study with pre-diabetic adults, an after-meal walk lowered blood sugar levels on average from 129mg/dL to 116mg/dL. (6) If you cannot get the walk in right after a meal, a longer 45-minute walk at either 10:30am or 4:30pm was also found to lower the average blood sugar throughout the day. In a culture with epidemic pre-diabetic blood sugar levels, a simple walk can help the muscles use up the excess sugar in the blood before any damage is done.
Studies have also shown that taking a walk shortly after a meal supports healthy weight loss compared to not walking or waiting an hour after the meal. Having to walk to and from your lunch break may make all the difference! (7,8)