The 6 Best Ways To Improve Your Digestion, From A Functional Medicine Doctor
Frank Lipman, M.D., is an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine and the author of multiple best-selling books. He’s also one of the lauded instructors in our first-of-its-kind Advanced Functional Nutrition Program, where we bring the best minds in nutrition together and dive deep into the healing power of food. You can find out more about Dr. Lipman, the rest of the faculty (including groundbreaking doctors like Mark Hyman and Taz Bhatia), and this revolutionary training here. We asked Dr. Lipman to share his six best tips for optimizing digestion. Here’s what he said.
1. Sit down to eat.
This one is so simple, and yet if you think about it, how many times have you eaten in a rushed state, on the go, in a car, or at your desk? When we eat in a rushed or frantic state, the body goes into "fight/flight" mode, which shuts down digestion. So sit, breath, feel gratitude for your meal, and enjoy it calmly while sitting down. Try to avoid watching TV or looking at your phone or computer too. Your entire body will thank you, and you’ll enjoy your food a lot more.
2. Chew, chew, chew.
Did you know that great digestion starts in the mouth? Your saliva begins the process of breaking down carbohydrates before it even hits your stomach. Not chewing thoroughly causes more work for your stomach, which further impedes the digestive process down the line—it’s a negative ripple effect! So just remember, chew, chew, chew! Aim to chew until your food is liquefied, which is usually about 20 to 30 chews.
3. Don't drink and eat.
This one always surprises people! We've become accustomed to guzzling down an ice-cold beverage with a meal, or some feel that drinking a lot of water with the meal makes them feel fuller and eat less. While drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is hugely important and does affect appetite, drinking while eating actually dilutes your stomach acid, which weakens the body’s ability to break down foods properly. So set down the glass, and have some room temperature water to sip on the side, if needed.
4. Identify and remove food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities are a common cause of bloating and gas. If you haven’t already experimented with removing common food irritants such as gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nightshade vegetables, beans, or grains from your diet, it's definitely worth a try. After two to three weeks of elimination, you can experiment by having each food, one at a time, and noticing if your body responds. Common symptoms include indigestion or heartburn, nausea, gas, bloating, constipation or loose stool, and can also include skin irritations such as hives or acne, along with brain fog or energy crashes.
Another group of common troublemakers is artificial sweeteners and diet soda. If you have not quit these products yet, I'd recommend kicking the habit. Your belly will thank you.
5. Eat to support your gut.
Functional medicine practitioners consider the gut to be the epicenter of health and therefore recommend eating foods that support strong digestion and nourish and replenish the good bacteria that live there. To do this, we recommend regular intake of beneficial bacteria, both in supplementation and foods. This can include a good-quality probiotic supplement along with regular intake of fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, fermented dairy such as unsweetened kefir and yogurt, and pickled vegetables. We also recommend prebiotics, which serve as food for the probiotics. These occur naturally in garlic, onions, leeks, jicama, and Jerusalem artichoke (here's a delicious prebiotic soup recipe).