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Improve Your Digestion: 6 Ways

You’ve probably heard the old saying “You are what you eat” at least a thousand times. Every morsel is broken done into it’s smallest parts and becomes part
Apr 26, 2011 | Joy McCarthy

 You’ve probably heard the old saying “You are what you eat” at least a thousand times. Every morsel is broken done into it’s smallest parts and becomes part of you.

When you think of food in very simple terms like this — that it literally turns into you — then food takes on a whole new meaning doesn’t it?

Do you want to turn into a bowl of white pasta and cream sauce or a bowl of vibrantly coloured vegetables with avocado and seeds? Hopefully the latter. Real food is so incredibly beautiful and fresh!

But let’s take it one step further….

You are also what you assimilate or absorb. No matter how nourishing your diet is, if your digestion is not on track then it’s possible that all your best intentions will not be reflected in your skin, energy levels, mental health and so on. Some of the main reasons that you may have digestion problems include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Stress – physical, emotional, mental
  • Lack of good bacteria in the gut
  • Improper food combining
  • Years of an unhealthy lifestyle: alcohol, smoking, drugs, exposure to environment toxins
  • Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
  • Yo-yo dieting, abusing laxatives (herbal teas or over-the-counter meds)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Eating foods you are allergic/sensitive too, regardless if they are healthy for someone else

The list goes on and on of plausible reasons for not feeling like your gut is on track and therefore, not properly absorbing the molecules that are going to become you – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids etc. This lack of proper absorption is going to impact how you feel every day.

Add insult to injury, if you are not excreting your wastes in a timely fashion, then you can easily feel sluggish, bloated and re-absorption of toxins can occur setting off your body’s alarm system and setting the stage for ill health.

Let’s tackle one of these reasons that your gut is not on track: STRESS.

Ugh, stress rears it’s ugly head when you least want it to doesn’t it? Your stomach is literally your second brain. Yes! Your stomach is very intimately connected to your brain and your emotional state. What you manifest in your head, will immediately impact your gut health. When you are stressed and your body is in sympathetic nervous system mode the last thing your body is going to do is allow energy to be used for your digestive processes.

Instead, your body will be focused on making you alert, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and shuttling glucose to the blood stream to be used as energy, aka the stress response. Digestion takes a backseat, stomach acid and digestive secretions are halted and your gut is at a standstill until the stress is gone.

These are some ways to make sure your stress levels are low when it comes to food, to help improve your digestion.

  1. Eat mindfully: Turn of the TV, radio, computer and avoid reading. Instead, light a candle, engage in meaningful conversation (even if it’s with your pet, kidding – well… sort of). Point being, make eating important. Make eating a priority. This is the time when you have a beautiful opportunity to nourish your cells and eat the food that is going to become you.
  2. Do not, repeat, do not, eat at your desk. Leave, even for 20 minutes to a quiet and calm area where you can eat in peace.
  3. Prepare your meals with love and good intention. Meaning, don’t cook while angry and DO send loving positive energy into your food. Cook with music on, make it fun! Try out a new recipe, cook with a friend and put effort into your meal.
  4. Never rush your meals. Chew every morsel until almost liquid. Many people struggle with this. Even I catch myself chewing too quickly sometimes. Think of it this way — chew your food until it no longer resembles the shape or texture it went into your mouth. For example, if you eat an apple, then you shouldn’t be able to feel the difference between the peel and flesh when you swallow.
  5. Take 10 deep belly breaths at three distinct times throughout the day. This literally calms your central nervous system.
  6. Do YOGA! Yoga has changed my life personally. I used to be one of those people who would say “There’s no way I would do yoga over going for a run or an intense workout at the gym”. Now, I enjoy every moment of calm and peace that yoga brings to my heart and soul. I am so thankful for yoga in my life. It has reduced stress, anxiety, helped me to have more nourishing relationships with others and helped me release toxic emotions that were stressing my body. 
Suzanne Williams   •   April 27, 2011

Very informative. Thank you. Yes, stress ruins a lot in your body. You hear it all the time, but I experienced it recently. Stress really can mess you up in a lot of ways. Your health can and will suffer. Suzanne Williams

Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2011

VeggieGirl   •   April 27, 2011

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this!! I'm feeling so much better from yesterday since my stress is gone :)


Tamara   •   April 27, 2011

Thanks for this Joy, for the info and the 'reminders' - always seems timely and helpful when I receive something from you. I do suffer from a bit of a sensitive digestion, and sometimes as a busy Mom - not eating mindfully... just grabbing something or eating something I know will not 'nourish' me. I also know the benefits of Yoga for me, but struggle with making the time to fit it in. I appreciate receiving my 'kindly reminder' from you! :)


Dawn   •   April 27, 2011

Hi, I love this article! I especially like #3 "Prepare your meals with love and intention." The body is designed to absorb the essence of what is being consumed and since everything breaks down into energy, it would make sense to intend good energy to your food! It's like Mamma's 'special ingredient'. Love it!


J.   •   May 3, 2011

I seem to do everything wrong to be honest. I eat very big meals and I eat big snacks (particularly before bed). I know I ought not do this. I need to gain weight and feel quite guilty for this because I am not exercising (combination of low weight, lack of energy, and depression). In addition, I've grown accustomed to eating 30 grams of unsweetened dark bakers chocolate nightly along with a snack. I know I should make things easier on myself. I also have trouble balancing the fact that I need to gain and am currently forcing myself to eat every 2-3 hours, and wanting to eat naturally. I do, however, have a very very low weight. So difficult to navigate this and deal with the guilt (particularly for the chocolate and treats I allow myself, when I virtually sit 24-7). What a bind.


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Jillian   •   October 16, 2011

The tough thing about stress is that it is a sneaky villain. Often things in our lives are causing our bodies to react in a stressful manner, but we are not even aware of it. I'm going through a big life change right now, and although I feel excited on the surface, I have a sneaking suspicion that stress may be rearing it's energy depleting head in the background (judging by my constant exhaustion and sore tummy, despite good sleep and diet). I love your advice for three conscious belly breaths and regular yoga. Working these into your daily routine (regardless of how anxious you actually feel) can help to relieve stress you might not even realize is there. Also, yoga is just the best thing ever ;)


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  •   February 8, 2013

Hi Joy, I just searched out this post to read as I have had a horrible week of shortness of breath and very poor digestion with awful and "I feel fat" kind of bloating despite my chia cereal, greens plus, joyous smoothies, etc. Not feeling hungry or excited to eat at all and have only been once to yoga when normally I'm there at least 3 times a week. I've noticed that for the past month I develop that very annoying shortness of breath Monday morning (combined with the poor digestion) until about Thursday afternoon. After talking to a friend tonight I just realized that all of this is related to my complete and utter dissatisfaction with my job and daily routine and therefore totally stress related. I'm thinking the hard core spin class tonight didn't help either. Anyway, thank you for this post and all around awesomeness. I will try to get on to some meditation now before bed to calm my body and ultimately make huge changes in my life to avoid this very uncomfortable state of being. (Apologies for the super long comment too). Thank you Joy! Lindsay :)


Mary   •   February 28, 2013

My nephew is a chef and when giving advice on a recipe he always says and don't forget the Love, its the most important ingredient


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