Here in northern, coastal Maine, we are having an unusually warm, dry spring. This just doesn't happen in May. We're usually cool, damp and foggy. Thus, this lovely weather is allowing me to have a jump-start on the growing season. I've been a busy-bee these last few weeks planting my two large gardens. I'm adding "hidcote" lavender and "anise hyssop" and a medicinal "hyssop" plus "lady's mantle" to my herb garden. My "elecampane" has multiplied nicely since last summer and I now have five large plants. The fragrant "white mint" is spreading her wings and going nuts . . . taking over as mints like to do. I've had to cut her back dramatically so she doesn't consume all of my garden space over time! Please plant some medicinal & culinary herbs, even in pots, if you don't have garden space. They're wonderful to add to foods and use in teas. Mints, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and anise hyssop are terrific used as digestive teas . . . which is our subject today: Digestive Bliss.
Guide To Digestive Bliss
Repeatedly reaching for a commercial antacid is not the answer to digestive problems. The answer lies in simply observing the rules of civilized eating and allowing your body's chemistry to do what it's designed to do, ensuring complete comfortable digestion. Below are some tips that I find helpful if suffering from digestive discomforts . . .
1. Always sit when eating - When I'm super busy, I find that I often eat while standing and trying to do other chores - usually gulping my food and swallowing lots of air. This makes for an unsatisfying meal and frequently ends in severe indigestion accompanied by burping and gas. I notice a big difference in the way I feel if I simply take 20 minutes to sit down, relax, and enjoy my meal.
2. Say grace - Offer a few words of reverence or have a moment of silence for the nourishment you are about to consume. This simple act alone causes you to pause before eating, thereby putting your digestive system at ease.
3. Give yourself an enzymatic boost - I find that when I suffer from an occasional bout of indigestion, a couple of plant-based enzyme capsules taken right after my meal really do the trick. Available in health food stores, they assist the digestive system naturally without disrupting the acid/alkaline balance.
Typically, I take one capsule daily of a product called "PB 8" (though, not an enzyme) to ensure that I get the appropriate amount of good flora in my gut. It contains eight different strains of probiotics and I find that I don't get yeast infections, colds, or digestive upsets when I keep up my intake of this wonderful product.
4. Eat raw veggies - Begin your meals with a raw veggie salad or glass of freshly made raw vegetable juice, such as a carrot, celery, and apple blend, Chew or sip very slowly and thoroughly. Raw foods, which happen to be severely lacking in the American diet today, are chock-full of live enzymes that aid in the digestive process. As a bonus, you'll tend to eat less if you fill up on a large, fiber-rich salad first!
5. Eat in a quiet atmosphere - Turn off the TV, silence the cell phone, put away the newspaper, and eliminate other distractions. A little soft music is nice in the background - if you wish.
6. Heed nature's call - Make time to go to the bathroom. Sounds like an odd statement, I realize, but some people will just hold it all in - in an effort to get more work done. By all means, don't do that! You'll just be miserable. Regularity is one of the keys to a happy, proper functioning digestive system and a flat abdomen!
7. Chew, chew, chew! - Digestion begins in the mouth. Chew each bite until it is nearly liquefied, then swallow. That way the enzymes present in your saliva have a chance to initiate the digestive process. Thorough chewing also promotes slower food consumption - thus you eat less.
8. Don't eat when angry, stressed-out, or physically exhausted - Digestive juices are suppressed during emotionally or physically demanding times. Digestion requires lots of energy. Wait until you are relaxed and calm before you eat.
9. Don't drink lots of fluids during your meal - Sipping is okay. A stomach full of liquids slows the digestion of solid foods and dilutes the digestive juices. Also, avoid ice-cold beverages; they interfere with digestion. Think of your stomach as a crock pot. It needs to maintain an even temperature in order to cook or "digest" the food within. If you add cold water to the crock pot, it takes it a while to get back up to temperature and continue cooking the food. If you did this, the crock pot might not even cook your food properly and allow it to sour. Thus with your stomach, if you accompany your food with iced drinks, it lowers the stomach's temperature, and slows digestion. It really is true. The teachings of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine always stress drinking liquids at room temperature or slightly warm.
10. Try to eat at approximately the same times each day - Your body likes rhythm. Mother Nature has her natural rhythms and so does your body. Your digestive system functions better on a regular schedule. You know what happens when you travel and upset your normal eating patterns . . . digestion tends to go awry and stomach / intestinal upsets occur.
11. Leave the table - When you think you could still stomach a little bit more food, stop eating. It takes your brain up to 30 minutes to register that it is full.
NOTE: This article was written by Stephanie Tourles, lic. holistic esthetician, aromatherapist, herbalist, & nutritionist, and adapted from her book, "How To Feel Fabulous Today", copyright 2001, Storey Publishing. The information in this article is true and complete to the best of the author's knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.