I love being efficient. Maximizing time, space and energy is a simple pleasure. We have limited resources, and we want our efforts to count, right?
Your body loves to be efficient too. It’s designed to help you digest the food you eat, assimilate nutrients from those foods, and then send the nutrients throughout your body where they are needed. If your gut health is off balance, sometimes the body is not able to pull the nutrients out of all the good food that you’re eating. If you’re spending time, effort and money on good wholesome food, you want to maximize your body’s ability to absorb and utilize nutrients. You need to be able to breakdown and absorb the foods you eat, so your body can get the nutrients it needs to heal and Supporting your gut health helps the body heal.
Inside your stomach there is Hydrochloric Acid (HCL). This helps trap and eliminate pathogens and is an important part of strengthening your immune system. HCL also helps you activate enzymes that breakdown your food. It’s incredibly important to have enough HCL in your stomach to help you assimilate nutrients. So let’s talk about ways you can make sure you’re being efficient, and getting all the good nutrients out of the food you’re eating.
#1 Smell your food
You may have been told not to play with your food, but interacting with your food through touch, sight and smell actually sends a signal to your body to start producing digestive enzymes. Seeing and smelling your food helps put you in the “rest and digest” side of your nervous system. Pause, take a few deep breaths to regulate your stress response. Stress lowers your HCL, which leads to poor intestinal absorption, so finding ways to feel calm will really help. When you prepare foods at home, you’re in more control of where the food comes from. Having a Rise Garden in the kitchen makes it so easy to interact with food as you prepare it at home. You can interact with your plants as you harvest them from the garden. Stop and smell your herbs, lettuce and produce. You’ll start to produce digestive enzymes in your mouth that will start breaking down the food you eat.
#2 Chew your food
Chewing bitter greens while you’re cooking, boosts digestive function and helps the body start producing the enzymes you need to break down your food. You can grow so many of these in your garden.
Bitter greens include: arugula, swiss chard, broccoli rabe, dandelion greens, collard greens, endive, kale, mustard greens and radicchio. While you’re cooking, simply harvest a little from your garden and chew them as you’re prepping your other food. You may notice saliva increasing as you chew them. Saliva also increases as you breathe deeply. This is a sign you’re moving into parasympathetic dominance, which is the place we want to be as we eat.
Chewing your food a lot also helps your body produce the digestive enzyme amylase. Most people barely chew their food before swallowing, which makes so much more work for the digestive system. Put down your fork between bites and chew properly. I’m talking 25+ times per bite. This may sound like a lot, but it will help you slow down and get your food into pulp which will help your body assimilate the nutrients better.
#3 When and what to drink
Drinking a lot at mealtimes dilutes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. It’s better to drink a lot during the day, and less during meals. Aim for less than 4 oz of water at a meal. Give yourself about 30 minutes before or after meals to drink more.
There are a few drinks that help boost HCL and support digestion. Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning is a great digestive support. Apple cider vinegar is a great way to increase digestive function. Drink 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in 3 tablespoons of water, one time per day, for proper digestive support.
These three simple steps are part of a holistic lifestyle that can dramatically improve your gut health. As you learn to regulate your stress response, prepare and smell your food, you’ll boost digestive enzymes and get the most out of all the good foods you’re eating. Turns out, being wildly nutritious is pretty simple!