Many of us will be familiar with the discomfort associated with a digestive system that isn’t quite working as well as it could be. From indigestion to excess wind, it is hard to appreciate the seamless job the body does to process food until that process has a few hiccups.
A combination of eating patterns, food choices, and herbal support can help get this back on track.
Rest and digest
It’s common for a meal to take hours to prepare, only to be eaten in ten minutes. In reality, by the time plates are being cleared, the body is just getting ready to tuck in.
Our body wants to treat food like a real experience – it wants the smells, the ambience, the visual appetiser. Each of the senses pair up to stimulate the digestive system, signalling that it’s game time and food is incoming. When this all happens too fast, or steps are missed, the body can’t adequately prepare.
The same principle applies to ‘eating on the run’ – the recipe for a digestive disaster. When the mind is moving rapidly and the blood is pumping, digestion is the last thing being prioritised.
A calm, relaxed environment allows digestion to be prioritised. When a bit of herbal help is needed, Kiwiherb Calm Down uses the strength of withania and L-theanine to regulate the nervous system and supports relaxation within five minutes. For children, Kiwiherb Kid’s Calm can soothe the body and the mind, with chamomile also supporting digestion.
Chewing your food
Taking the time to chew properly is another trick that helps digestion. When food is in the mouth, there is more going on than the mechanical chewing by the teeth. As soon as a bite of the apple is taken, saliva and oral microbes trigger the start of the digestive journey, chemically breaking food down and signalling the stomach to prepare.
Eating and drinking at separate times also ensures the digestive juices are strong enough to break down food effectively. This is ideally spaced by 20 minutes to allow the stomach plenty of time to work. Consuming liquids separately also prevents the stomach from feeling too full prior to receiving food – particularly with smaller tummies.
If food isn’t chewed sufficiently, more pressure is placed on the stomach's digestive juices and churning actions to get it in the position to move through the intestines. The combination of too much food, diluted digestive acids, and poor chewing can contribute to symptoms of reflux, heartburn, and bloating.
If movement slows through the large intestine and food sits too long, fermentation begins. This is where extra wind can creep in, bringing significant discomfort along with it. Ensuring plenty of fibre is consumed, and hydration is maintained can help get the bowels moving again. In many cases, gentle exercise and massage may also be enough to counter constipation.
When food starts moving too quickly, fibre can also help to slow it down again. Nutrient uptake relies on slow but consistent movement of food through the digestive tract, so when everything is moving at double speed, the body doesn’t get a chance to focus on absorption.
When discomfort starts to set in, herbal support can provide relief. Kiwiherb Kawakawa Stomach Calm is the perfect choice to gently support food utilisation and calm symptoms, combining kawakawa and ginger. For children, Kiwiherb ColicComfort pairs chamomile and lemon balm, perfect for nervous tummies, with the digestive aid of ginger and rhubarb.
A happy microbiome is another piece of the digestion puzzle, and microbes also like fibre to feed on.
The billions of microbes residing in the gut influence each stage of digestion. It may be a course of antibiotics, ongoing illness, food intolerances, or a lack of diet variation that can alter the balance of microbes, which then impacts digestion.
Including plenty of fermented foods can help to re-establish bacterial variety, from the likes of kefir, sourdough, probiotic yoghurt, or miso. Including plenty of leafy green vegetables, good variety of foods, and prioritising fresh produce can support microbial reproduction. A quality probiotic supplement may be helpful in cases of illness or depletion.
Consistency is key
When it comes to the body, consistency is always key. It’s not about making drastic changes that last a week, but rather slowly introducing new patterns that can make a big difference over a lifetime.
Switching from black tea to herbal tea is another simple and gentle way to encourage digestion. Peppermint is a firm favourite for calming symptoms of indigestion, including mild reflux and heart burn pain, while chamomile tea can help to relieve bloating and excess wind. Lemon balm is another soothing option that can help with flatulence, indigestion, and stomach pain.
Starting with an effort to simply make the time to really focus on foods may be all it takes to help curb some digestive discomforts.