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Not So Fast, Cowboy

February 28, 2012

Antacids are big business in the U.S. I’ve taken them myself, and, in fact, I used to keep a bottle in my drawer at work. The fact is, we often blame what we eat for our digestive woes, but how we eat is also a big factor in digestive wellness. Eating too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, cramps and other digestive ills. And when digestion isn’t optimal, we endanger our other bodily systems, since the food we eat provides nutrition and energy to keep our bodies running smoothly. Follow five basic steps for good digestion and throw away the antacids.

1. SLOW DOWN

Many of us eat on the run, standing up at the kitchen counter or driving in our cars. Sit down and enjoy your meal. Chew your food thoroughly instead of swallowing it practically whole. This not only improves digestion, but helps you eat less for weight control.

2. TURN OFF THE TV

Watching TV while eating, especially the news programs that commonly air at mealtimes, can lead to anxiety that negatively affects your digestion. Try engaging in some good conversation instead. Listen to music to relax. Pay attention to your meal, how quickly and how much you are eating.

3. EAT REGULAR MEALS

Getting three meals a day at standard times, plus a couple of healthy snacks in between, promotes good digestion. It also helps regulate your blood sugar so you don’t spike and crash in the mid- morning or late afternoon.

4. CHOOSE WHOLE FOODS

Consuming processed and fast foods high in sugar, sodium or unhealthy saturated fats can result in digestive problems, including constipation. These foods also suppress your absorption of vital nutrients. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes contain fiber that smoothes the digestive process, assists with nutrient absorption and promotes healthy elimination.

5. DRINK WATER

Water and beverages such as herbal teas and fresh juices help move food through our digestive systems so we can absorb the necessary nutrients and eliminate waste. Get 6 to 8 cups of these healthy beverages a day, and limit alcohol, sodas and other caffeinated drinks, which can damage your intestinal tract.

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