There is nothing more important than good digestion. If we don’t digest well, we can suffer all kinds of malaise. And especially during this time of year, with the onslaught of holiday parties and family gatherings, the challenge to stay away from gluten and other gut clogging foods may overwhelm us. Here are five super tips to keep your tummy happy during the Holidays.
Tip #1: Use Digestive Bitters
Using bitters before a meal is a tradition that many cultures have used to optimize digestion before a meal.
Actually, one of the reasons why Europeans are slimmer and more healthy than Americans may be in part due to the tradition of having a bitter aperitif (before dinner drink)
which helps metabolize fats and aid digestion. Loaded with antioxidant herbs and spices from elderberry to cinnamon, bitters are gaining popularity in the US as trendy bars and restaurants strive to redefine the Happy Hour with concoctions made from Swedish bitters or Angostura.
However, you need not belly up to a bar to enjoy the benefits of bitters. It’s a lot more healthy to get a bottle of herbal bitters, and have it 15-20 minutes before a meal.
Simply place 40 to 60 drops in a little water and drink. And the bonus is that bitters are also fantastic for detoxing the liver.
The classic bitters was formulated by two Swedish doctors in the 18th century and is known as Swedish Bitters, however, it is well, bitter!
I prefer another blend called Sweetish Bitters Elixir., which is much more palatable, but just as effective.
Tip #2 No Cold Drinks
Drinking ice-cold beverages with a meal will squelch your digestive fire and over-tax your digestion. Think of the cold beverage acting to “freeze” up your digestive capacity, so that when you eat, metabolism is impaired. As a result, your body will not fully to absorb the necessary nutrients from the foods you eat. Another depleting action of chilled drinks is that it requires energy to bring it to body temperature before you can metabolize it. So, instead of guzzling icy liquids with your meals, choose room temperature beverages or even hot herbal teas such as ginger or fennel, or a cup of hot lemon water. Your tummy will thank you.
Tip#3 Go with Probiotics
Fortify yourself with probiotics. It will strengthen your immune system, while keeping
undesirables, such as candida yeast, under control. Probiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut,
and greatly improves assimilation of nutrients from foods.
One of the best ways to ensure a robust colony of good bacteria in our gut is to have lacto-fermented vegetables, such as raw sauerkraut or kim chee daily.
However, if you are on the road for the Holidays, then taking a probiotic supplement with you is indispensable! Personally, I never travel without it.
Not all probiotics are created equal, however. Choose one that contains multiply strains of good bacteria such as this one which is made with 12 different strains of
lactic acid bacteria that are fermented for 3 years to maximize health- giving properties and assure only the strongest bacteria survive.
And it doesn’t need refrigeration.
Tip#4 Massage Your Belly
A little tender loving care works wonders on an upset stomach. Here’s the recipe: warm up 2 Tablespoons of an untoasted, organic Sesame Oil,
find a quiet room, dim the lights, lie down, and slowly rub the oil on your belly in a clockwise motion for up to five minutes, while breathing deeply.
This is incredibly soothing, especially if you are feeling bloated. It will also help to calm frayed nerves and connect you to your prana and innate healing capacity.
Tip #5 Use Your Nose
When it comes to eating, we usually associated it with the mouth and the act of chewing. However, paying attention to your sense of smell, and breathing will not only heighten your sensual pleasure, but aid digestion. Yup, your nose knows.
Did you know that when we breathe, we actually shift nostril dominance in two-hour cycles? When the left nostril is dominant, the right brain is activated; and when the right nostril is dominant, the left-brain is activated. Breathing through the left nostril (right brain) is associated with the moon and “intuitive” actions, including drinking fluids; while breathing through the right nostril (left brain) is associated with the sun and “linear” actions including eating, and digesting.
When mealtime comes around and your right nostril is closed, you are probably not really hungry and not ready to eat. If your left nostril is fully opened, it actually signals thirst,
so drink some water instead. Wait a while until your right nostril opens to fully enjoy the aromas and tastes of food and to ensure proper digestion.
Here are a few easy techniques to shift nostril dominance:
- Using thoughts: think of the hot sun; or a crackling fireplace, to bring the right breath into dominance.
Think of the cool moon, or a quiet pond to open the left nostril.
- Using concentration: simply increase awareness of the nostril you want to open. This takes strong mental control, but is very effective.
- Using posture: sit with the arm of the open side over the back of a chair, or apply pressure to the armpit of the open side to activate the opposite nostril.
To eat is such a pleasure, and to digest well brings the joy of good health.
For love of food and friends,
Ballentine, Rudolph, M.D., “Nostril to Nostril.” Yoga International. Issue 70, (March 2003) : p. 40-44.