Have you ever heard the saying “you are what you eat“? It sounds catchy, but it’s not very accurate. A lot happens to food after you put it in your mouth. Think of all the things it comes in contact with inside your body; saliva, stomach acid, enzymes, bile, and gut bacteria, just to name a few. We need to consider digestion and nutrient absorption as an important part of the equation as well.
It has been shown in animal studies that an alteration of gut bacteria can result in weight gain without any change in food quantity or quality. Sounds crazy, right? Maybe not so much. You might have noticed similar examples among your friends. Like that type who eats whatever she wants and doesn’t seem to gain any weight, or the one who eats like everyone else but permanently looks like he just finished a 40–day fast. What goes into our bodies doesn’t tell us the whole story. The efficiency of our digestion affects our resulting weight and energy levels greatly.
Now, the question is, how do we extract as many nutrients as we can? What are the important areas to focus on? Amylase content in saliva, the amount of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach, pancreatic enzyme production, and the diversity of our microbiota are the big players.
How to maintain efficient digestion
1. Eat wholesome, real foods like vegetables, quality meat and fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. Almost every process in your body, including digestion, hinges on having enough vitamins and minerals. So give your body something to regularly extract them from.
2. Relax at your meals. Stress automatically reduces digestive function, as it is not a vital thing for immediate survival. Your body has no idea that you are just late for your meeting. It reacts the same as if you were running for your life.
3. Chew thoroughly. This will help release more amylase in saliva and will make the food easier to digest further down.
4. Lemon or apple cider vinegar can temporarily increase the acidity of your stomach.
5. Don’t drink with your meals. Water, or even worse, sweetened drinks dilute HCL in the stomach. Cold drinks are the worst because they slow digestion overall.
6. Take care of your microbiota. More on this point in the next article.