All the nutrients we ingest on a daily basis constitute nutrition. This ensures the growth and development of our cells by transforming macronutrients. It is essential to take care of your digestive health to prevent discomfort and poor digestion.
- Understanding Digestion
- Foods to eat for good digestion
- Foods to avoid
- Eat at set times
- Food supplements to help digest better
The process of nutrient consumption occurs in 5 stages: ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation and ejection. When we talk about digestion, we are talking about one of these five stages. It is the latter that breaks down food into molecules so that they can access the intestines and then cross the intestinal wall to be released into the blood and feed the cells.
Digestion can be difficult depending on medical history or dietary discrepancies. Some foods promote digestion, others make it more difficult, causing bloating, gas or stomach pain.
Some actions facilitate the work of the organs. Chewing slowly and for a long time saves the stomach unnecessary effort. Indeed, by adopting good chewing, the stomach brews food less and produces less gastric juices, responsible for burning sensations. Drinking enough water (8 glasses of water a day) also aids the digestion process by diluting food.
Foods to eat for digestion
It is possible to facilitate digestion and make it faster through food. Here are some examples of foods to incorporate daily into your diet to make it more digestible:
- Vegetables cooked, but not pureed. Rich in antioxidants, they protect the cells of the digestive system against oxidation.
- Fibers (fruits, legumes, etc.): raw, they prevent constipation and accelerate intestinal transit because they produce a ballast effect. In other words, they remain intact in the digestive tract, increase the frequency of stool production, lower blood sugar and stimulate colonic fermentation. When the fibers are cooked, they are more digestible but lose their vitamins.
- Probiotics (certain dairy products, kefir, kombucha, miso): they promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines and improve transit.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, nuts and seeds): they help reduce inflammation and therefore the pain associated with digestion.
The type of cooking is also to be taken into account. To retain as many nutrients as possible, always favor steam cooking. Cooking the food en papillote or in the form of a poach is also ideal. The oven is less recommended because it tends to dehydrate foods and therefore increase their glycemic index. Frying and wok cooking is also not optimal because the food remains crunchy and disrupts digestion. Frying is the least recommended method of cooking because of its high fat content. Indeed, the body must redouble its efforts to reduce lipids into molecules, which slows down digestion and makes it more painful.
Foods to avoid
- Meats: these take between 2 and 5 hours to be digested. This requires an excessive amount of energy from the organs to dissolve the meat. The toxins present in meat disrupt the proper functioning of digestion and can cause a feeling of heaviness.
- Lactose: in quantity lactose can cause bloating. Indeed, by consuming more lactose than the available reserves of lactase, the lactose ferments in the small intestine and empties the water reserves. Choose products containing probiotics, or consume less lactose.
- Gluten: There are two amino acids that are very difficult to digest in gluten, proline and glutamine. Since their quantity is both very high, this prevents the complete degradation of the gluten protein.
- Alcohol: This product affects all organs, especially those of the digestive system. It causes gas, bloating and stomach ulcers. The pancreas creates toxic substances and the liver shows inflammation following alcohol ingestion.
- Processed products: the presence of excess sugars makes digestion difficult.
Eat at set times
Eating meals at fixed times promotes the activity of the liver and allows it to optimize digestion by avoiding the storage of fat. Meals should be 4 hours apart and the last meal of the day should be taken 3 hours before bedtime. Ideally, breakfast should be taken before 8 a.m., lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. and dinner before 8 p.m.
In addition, the chewing pace should be slow. The brain takes between 15 and 20 minutes to receive signals of satiety. We therefore sometimes eat more than we need, which causes heaviness in the stomach and greater storage of fat mass.
Food supplements to help digestion
Some dietary supplements can help with better digestion. This is the case of digestive enzymes , catalysts found in our body. Supplementing with digestive enzymes aids the absorption and digestion of macronutrients, effectively breaks down fat, minimizes bloating, and reduces the toxic load generated by food materials. As part of sports training, digestive enzymes reduce inflammation which helps recovery. To learn more about digestive enzymes, you can read our blog post: “Digestive enzymes: what you need to know”.
Glutamine helps counter the permeability of the intestines. Nutrients are better absorbed. In addition to protecting immune and digestive cells, glutamine minimizes catabolism (after training, tissues produce energy by breaking down and this hinders muscle development) which makes it an interesting dietary supplement for sports.
It is important to take care of your digestive health at any age, regardless of the type of activity performed daily. A healthy diet, good hydration and suitable supplements will facilitate digestion and your digestive organs will be preserved.