Christmas has come and gone – just like a flash. We have eaten too much, had too much to drink and now wish we could be better people. Is this the reason New Year resolutions were invented?
The rich food on Christmas Day, the repeated helpings of left-over turkey and the celebratory drinks for the New Year have given us indigestion – good for sales of heartburn remedies, but not for our digestive systems.
So what New Year resolutions can you have to improve your digestion?
Resolution No. 1 – Put less on your plate
It is great that we have the health to enjoy our food. All the hours spent watching celebrity chefs on television have made us more discerning about food and, in theory, we know how to prepare a wide range of complex meals.
However, no matter how delicious your meal is, a great start to improving your digestion this year is to put less on your plate. A good way to achieve this is simply to use a smaller plate when you eat!
Isn’t it ridiculous that in the developed world, we waste money buying too much food, eating more than we need, putting on weight, then spend more money in gym memberships trying to get the fat off. People in the poorer parts of Africa should be laughing their heads off.
Resolution No. 2 – Eat Slowly
In a way, this is a variation of the slow food movement. Mealtimes are for conversation, to be social – not rushed with food tucked away in the 90 seconds of advertisements during Coronation Street.
The brain takes a bit of time registering the fact that food has entered the body and is filling the stomach. Take your time eating, and chew each mouthful 20 times or more. This will ensure that the nerve signals telling your brain that the stomach is ‘full up’ comes before the end of the meal, not after you have emptied your plate down your gullet.
Too often, highly processed foods can be stuffed unceremoniously into our mouths and as they do not need to be chewed, we can swallow each mouthful very efficiently. Chewing food carefully also makes sure that the digestive process starts properly in your stomach – reducing the chance for symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn and bloating, to develop.
Resolution No. 3 – Eat bitter vegetables
Sadly, these are not readily found in our modern supermarket chains. In days gone by, bitter tasting vegetables were commonly found on dinner tables.
In the West, probably the most bitter-tasting food found readily is rocket. Other bitter leaves such as nasturtium flowers, dandelion leaves or artichoke can be used in salads, but are not so easy to procure. You can of course, pick dandelion leaves from your garden during the summer.
Bitter foods are important for the digestive process. Bitter sensations on the tongue trigger a nerve reflex, starting the secretion of gastric juices before food hits the stomach. In some countries, bitter tasting aperitifs are still popular. They contain medicinal herbs, known as ‘stomach bitters’ such as centaurium, which can start off the digestive process in the same way.
These are known, quite distinctly as ‘digestifs’ – sounds like we need more of these bitter herbs in our modern lives.
Alison lectures & trains on health issues, and is often to be found quoted in health magazines.