It seems there’s less and less time to enjoy lunch nowadays. There’s no such thing as the phrase “lunch hour”, even in France, where the traditional three-course meal is being replaced with sandwiches and fast food. If you are in a rush and you grab something quick, there’s a tendency to think that you must at least sit down to eat it, even if that means sitting on the bus while you go to your next appointment. Otherwise surely you’ll get indigestion.
But is this true? When you look at the causes of indigestion or functional dyspepsia, as it’s called in the medical literature, eating standing up doesn’t feature on the list. When likely causes such as stomach ulcers and gastritis have been ruled out, the management of dyspepsia can include changes to lifestyle, but this means eating a healthy diet, giving up smoking and reducing alcohol and coffee consumption. It doesn’t mean sitting down when you eat.
In fact doctors even recommend the opposite, if the pain is caused by acid reflux, when acid from the stomach comes back up into the oesophagus. This is where gravity can help; remaining upright during and after eating can keep the acid down in the stomach where it belongs. For the same reason, patients with reflux are advised to tip the head of their bed up, so that they sleep on a slant.
But there could be another problem with standing up to eat. When we’re standing up we do things faster, hence the brief craze amongst “trendy” companies for installing bar-height tables for standing meetings after a study found that sitting meetings lasted 34% longer. So perhaps the risk of standing to eat is the temptation to gobble your food down – the speed of eating leading to indigestion, rather than the position.
There are very few studies comparing fast and slow eaters, partly because it wouldn’t be easy to randomise people into eating at a particular speed and then to enforce that at every meal. A study from 1994 did include questions about eating speed in a survey of dietary habits. They found the speed at which you believed you ate had no relationship with the frequency of indigestion. Research conducted in 2010 found the same, but these two studies rely on our ability both to judge our eating speed accurately, and to report it honestly.
This problem was overcome in a South Korean study, which timed how long a group of cadets training at the Armed Forces Nursing Academy actually took to finish their meals. With their regimented life where they all woke, ate and exercised at the same time, they were the ideal group of people to study. The one difference in their daily routines was the speed at which they chose to eat. But yet again, if you examine the study in detail, speed of eating seemed to have little effect on indigestion.
So how about the real masters of fast eating, the competitive speed-eaters? An American known as Furious Pete eats quickly for a living and holds four Guinness World Records, the most recent of which involved devouring a twelve inch pizza in 41.31 seconds. Another record holder, this time from Japan, Takeru Kobayashi, can eat fifty-eight Bratwurst sausages in ten minutes. Surely that’s fast enough to give anyone indigestion, but apparently not. Professor Marc Levine, a radiologist at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania x-rayed the stomach of a speed-eating champion after eating 36 hot dogs in ten minutes. The participant was happy to continue after eating 36, but the decision was made to terminate the study for his own safety. He didn’t have indigestion, while the unlucky man who’d volunteered to act as a control, felt sick after seven hot dogs and had to stop. The x-ray showed that the speed-eater had trained his stomach to expand to such an extent that he no longer felt full when he’d eaten.
And this brings us to what could be the problem with eating fast – it’s not indigestion, but the disruption of the usual mechanism that makes you feel full. But even here the evidence is inconsistent. Some studies found that eating fast leaves you feeling hungrier, causing you to eat more. Other studies have shown the opposite.
So next time you don’t have time to sit down for lunch, then don’t feel too bad if you think you are wolfing down your meal too fast. As long as it doesn’t make you feel ill at the time, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in it.
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You can hear more Medical Myths on Health Check on the BBC World Service.
All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.
- Can Standing Desks Aid in Digestion?
- Standing Desks Aid in Digestion
- Other Recommendations for Better Digestive Health
- Boosted Metabolism Equals Weight Loss
- Does eating standing up help you lose weight?
- Do you digest food better sitting or standing?
- Lying down (or not)
- Taking a walk
- Water (room temperature, maybe with peppermint)
- 4 Exercises for Better Digestive Health
- The Best Sleeping Position to Aid Digestion
- 3 Simple Yoga Poses After Dinner That Can Boost Digestion
- Improve your digestion with the right posture
- The poor vs right posture
- If you suffer from occasional unpleasant digestive symptoms, there are numerous remedies that can help ease discomfort:
- 5 Ways You Are Ruining Your Digestive Health in the Hour After You Eat
- What Can Ruin Your Digestive Health an Hour After You Eat
- Maximize Your Digestion
- Sitting v standing – the pros and cons
Can Standing Desks Aid in Digestion?
Have you experienced digestive issues and are wondering where they are stemming from? There can be many causes, from diet, to illness, to lifestyle. However, diet is of course one of the most impactful factors to a healthy environment in the digestive tract. However, a sedentary lifestyle, or allowing yourself to get too stressed, can also create stomach issues. What’s sort of startling is that almost everyone in this day and age is creating a poor situation for their stomach…
If you are sitting all day at a stressful job, eating low fiber foods and drinking coffee, then you may be setting yourself up for problems in the future. How can you make changes to improve digestion?
Standing Desks Aid in Digestion
An active lifestyle is one great way to keep your stomach happy and healthy. People who sit all day are creating a very dangerous condition for their heart, their metabolism and for their digestion. You should make it a point to take breaks and move throughout the day. Having a standing desk allows for that to be done simply and easily.
Moreover, standing desks allow you to keep good posture which opens up the internal organs and allows food to pass through the intestines more easily. Sitting all day forces your gut and all of your organs into a cramped position, which is very detrimental to stomach health. This will lead to less stomach aches and cramps, as well as a smaller waistline and more calories burned throughout the day.
Other Recommendations for Better Digestive Health
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking water is probably the single most important thing you can do for your overall health and wellness. It will help your digestive tract to run smoothly and, when issues do arise, will keep you hydrated.
- Manage Stress. Just as drinking water is one of the best ways to improve health, getting stressed and allowing anxiety to rule your life is of the worst possible things you can do for your health. You will absolutely get sick if you get too stressed. This may surface as stomach issues, headaches, back problems, muscle or joint problems or hormonal issues. Whatever the case may be, you will pay the price. That said, stress will arise. There is no way to create a stress-free life. The only thing that you can do is learn to manage your stress. Some ways to do that are meditation, yoga, therapy, exercise, sleep and finding hobbies that interest you.
- Practice yoga. Yoga has a wide array of benefits. It decreases stress, increases flexibility, opens up the internal organs and relaxes the body. It also burns calories and gives the practitioner a sense of peace and relaxation. All of these things can aid in digestion and create a better life, in general.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and coffee. If you are a coffee addict, or a regular smoker or drinker, then quitting cold turkey may not be practical or possible. However, if you can limit your intake and learn to use in moderation, then you may see great results in all aspects of your health. Your digestion can be greatly affected by alcohol, coffee and smoking, as can your heart, lungs, weight and mental health. An alternative for coffee might be green tea, and you may want to replace your daily cocktail with a “mocktail” of fruit juice or some other tasty treat.
Boosted Metabolism Equals Weight Loss
Better digestion results in weight loss, a faster metabolism and a general sense of well-being. The result is desirable for most of us, so even if you aren’t as interested in your health as you possibly should be, you are probably intrigued by the idea of weight loss. Try out a standing desk, along with these other tips, to improve digestion and overall health.
According to a 2013 BBC article, most people sit more than 12 hours a day. If you factor in another 7-8 hours for sleep, most people are sedentary for 19-20 hours per day. It seems our modern society is wiring us to be so sedentary.
We sit during transportation; many people sit all day for work and most people sit at home in the evenings watching TV or being on a computer.
A 2012 article (1) from Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice suggests too much sitting is associated with increasing risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors and premature morality.
Therefore, many health experts suggest we try to stand more throughout the day or break up long periods of sitting.
Something most people do sitting down is eat. During the day, it can be common to sit and eat at your work station, eat in the car, etc.
However, if you eat standing up, do you burn more calories? You may burn more calories standing up compared to sitting, but there are other ways standing up when eating may impact your food intake.
Does eating standing up help you lose weight?
A 170-pound adult burns about 139 calories for 1 hour of sitting and about 186 calories for 1 hour of standing.
So, for one hour a day, if you weigh 170 pounds, you can burn about an extra 47 calories for every hour you stand instead of sit.
Data from the University of Chester (2) suggests standing increases heart rate compared to sitting of about 10 beats per minute.
This could translate to an increase of about 0.7 calories per minute more you burn standing compared to sitting.
This translates to a difference of about 40-50 calories per hour. Therefore, even standing 3-4 hours a day instead of sitting could help you potentially burn an extra 120-200 per day.
Do you digest food better sitting or standing?
After chewing food, saliva mixed with food travels down the esophagus and into the stomach. While in the stomach, food essentially gets pulverized from stomach acid and the churning of the stomach into tiny molecules.
These tiny molecules then travel to the small intestine where nutrients can get absorbed across the intestinal wall.
The type of food you eat can impact your rate of digestion. For example, fiber and protein can delay gastric emptying. This can help increase satiety and can help keep appetite low hours after eating.
However, if you eat primarily simple carbohydrates, these nutrients enter the blood stream relatively quick. Hunger can quickly return after eating.
Another impact on digestion is your body posture. When you are sitting or lying down, food leaves the stomach slower compared to standing.
A 1988 study (3) compared the effects of body posture on gastric emptying. Researchers found the lying position significantly slowed gastric emptying compared to other body postures.
The standing position increased rate of gastric emptying.
If gastric emptying takes less time, hunger onset may be quicker. Therefore, eating while standing may increase gastric emptying which may actually increase your food intake over time.
Calorie expenditure is high when standing, but the difference in calorie amount is minimal because most people eat quickly.
Yes, calorie burn when standing can be about 50 calories higher per hour, but most people eat a meal standing rather quickly.
Compared to sitting, you can eat more slowly which may help your body register time to signal fullness. It may also help slow rate of gastric emptying.
If you are standing and eating quickly, this could hinder proper digestion. You may be more likely to inhale air when eating hastily and standing compared to eating slowly and sitting.
If you do tend to eat when standing, make sure you take your time and don’t rush through the meal. Whether you are sitting or standing, this is the more important factor.
Meal or snack?
A 2010 study (4) surveyed 122 people about food and environment cues. Most people associate eating a meal with sitting down when eating. Therefore, if you are standing while you eat, your brain may register food intake as a “snack” even if you are eating a meal.
Therefore, no matter if you are sitting or standing, it is important to practice mindfulness when you are eating. If you are eating a meal standing up, recognize it as a meal and not a snack.
One instance where increasing gastric emptying may be beneficial is if you have heart burn. Heart burn can happen when the stomach acid leaks out into the esophagus.
The harsh acid burns the esophagus which does not have the same protective layer that the stomach has to buffer the acid level. If you have heart burn, it is often recommended to avoid lying down hours after eating.
Lying down can increase the possibility of stomach acid leaking into the esophagus because gravity is working with acid flowing towards the esophagus.
Standing while eating can help gravity work against acid reflux and can be advantageous to avoid heart burn. If you have acid reflux, speak with your doctor about what is best for your treatment plan.
Most Americans sit too much during the day. This can be harmful to health because too much sitting is associated with increasing risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even premature death. Breaking up periods of sitting with movement is recommended.
However, if you eat standing up instead of sitting make sure you are registering your food intake. It may be easy to overdue your food intake if you are not registering it as a “meal”.
Also note gastric emptying may be speeded up which could alter your sense of feeling full. If you have heart burn, eating standing up could help lower risk for acid reflux.
The bottom line is whether you eat standing up or sitting, be mindful of your food intake and eat slowly to allow your body be able to register when you are full (not stuffed).
It’s not fun to talk about it, but we’ve all experienced it before–enjoying a nice meal only to regret it later when our stomachs hurt due to indigestion. Some of the symptoms of indigestion include: bloating, belching, gas, burning or pain in the stomach or abdomen, and even nausea. None of these are pleasant, but the good news is that they often can be prevented by taking some simple steps toward better digestion. Here are the top 7 things you can do:
Eat foods containing probiotics, which are good bacteria that can be found in some foods as well as in your digestive tract, where they promote digestive health. Look for yogurts, such as Activa, that are labeled as containing live active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Other foods that contain probiotics include kefir, buttermilk, and probiotic drinks, such as GoodBelly, which is a line of non-dairy, non-soy and vegan probiotic juice drinks. I recently tried a sample of the GoodBelly Probiotic Coconut Water and loved the flavor.
Do not lie down right after eating. Our bodies are made to digest food in an upright position and lying down while your body is trying to digest food can lead to indigestion. Wait 2-3 hours after a meal before going to bed.
Eat slowly. When you eat too quickly, you actually swallow a good deal of air, which can upset the digestive process.
Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber in your diet, but don’t go from eating very little fiber to lots of fiber overnight as that can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Instead, add more high-fiber foods into your diet slowly and drink plenty of water with them.
Keep a food journal to identify foods that trigger indigestion for you personally. Often foods or beverages that are high in acid, caffeine, or alcohol or that are spicy are trigger foods.
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes or belts while eating as this can compress the stomach and make heartburn more likely.
Try chewing gum after your meals. It will help to stimulate the production of saliva, which helps to neutralize stomach acid and decreases the likelihood of experiencing indigestion.
If you make these changes, but are still experiencing the symptoms of indigestion, make sure to see your doctor. This could be a sign that the indigestion is a symptom of another problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, or gallbladder disease.
Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
The holiday season is upon us, and maybe you’re wondering, “How am I going to digest all this wonderful food?” My colleague Emilia Petrarca, for instance, says that she and her family traditionally lie on the floor after finishing their Thanksgiving dinner. (Petrarca notes that back when her parents were dating, however, and her mother was first exposed to this tradition, “she thought it was really weird and definitely wrong.”) Is anyone else doing this?
Complete digestion — from when the food is consumed to when it leaves the body as waste — normally takes about 53 hours, but it depends on the person and the food and can range from 24 to 72 hours. It takes longer for women than it does for men (47 versus 33 hours in the large intestine), and protein-rich food takes longer than fiber-rich food does. Also, for women in the luteal phase (the second half) of their menstrual cycle, large-intestine digestion can take twice as long as it does otherwise.
Here are some suggestions I like for enhancing this digestive arc.
A digestif is technically any alcoholic drink served after a meal in the name of digestion (e.g., cognac, grappa, sherry, vermouth, sambuca, Jägermeister). Bitter herbal-liqueur digestifs (amaros) contain specifically carminative (i.e., anti-gas) herbs, such as basil, cardamon, fennel, and licorice. Fernet-Branca is a popular brand. Do they work? Sure — anything that tastes bitter is believed to encourage the body to get things moving. (Bitters in sparkling or flat water can also be useful.)
Lying down (or not)
It’s probably best not to lie down immediately after eating (unless it’s a beloved and time-honored family tradition, in which case it’s totally fine). When you do lie down, though (ideally at least three hours after a meal), consider lying on your left side, since that position promotes better digestion by protecting against heartburn and allowing gravity to more efficiently pull waste down through the colon. This is due to the asymmetry of our internal organs.
Taking a walk
There is a general consensus on the value of going for a walk, ideally two hours after finishing a large meal, despite how generally cold and unpleasant it always seems. I wonder if a holiday tradition could be the “group silent walk,” where everyone just enjoys everyone else’s company — in silence. I feel like that could be an asset.
Ginger in all forms (including tea) is always helpful, digestion-wise: it encourages saliva flow, stimulates stomach contractions, and promotes gastric emptying.
Water (room temperature, maybe with peppermint)
Green tea and plain old (room temperature) water are also good, in particular for preventing constipation. (Cold and ice water may slow things down a bit, according to Ayurvedic medicine.) Regardless, you might consider adding some peppermint oil to whatever you’re drinking, as it’s also considered a digestive aid, specifically for irritable bowel syndrome.
I like these two yoga exercises that I keep seeing mentioned in digestive contexts:
The vajrasana pose (or, the diamond/thunderbolt pose — essentially, kneeling on the ground and sitting upright), which can be done as soon as 5 to 15 minutes after a meal, and which is thought to aid digestion by stimulating the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. As one video guide notes, “It is the only pose that can be done on a full stomach.” Following my Friendsgiving meal this past weekend, I can confirm that this pose is pleasant and feels good. Here’s another video on how to do it.
Also, this hand-yoga position: the pushan mudra (“the gesture of digestion”), which is thought to be associated with the stomach, liver, and gallbladder. According to one nice guide, there are a couple variations on the pushan mudra you may want to try, depending on what you’re trying to prevent (one is for acid reflux and burping, and another is for gas, bloating, and constipation). The gesture can even be done while a meal is happening, and throughout the day, whenever you feel like it. (You could also combine it with the vajrasana.) Here’s a quick video guide, too.
The bhadrasana (“butterfly”) pose is also believed to be good for digestion. It could be useful to cycle through all three of these poses. Or if not strictly useful, then at least a fun conversation starter (or ender).
Well, good luck.
Want a “recipe” for smoother digestion? Start with these nine tips. They’ll help you prevent symptoms such as bloating, belches, or heartburn.
Of course, if you have any digestive symptoms that are severe or won’t go away, see your doctor.
1. Tap Into Plant Power
Plant foods have fiber. This helps you stay regular. Bonus: It fills you up, which is a plus if you want to lose weight.
Go for high-fiber foods, such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Beans and lentils
Start slowly. As you gradually add fiber to your diet, also increase the amount of water you drink. Water is fiber’s best friend. Fiber soaks it up, and this will help you avoid cramping or gas.
2. Have a Side of Soup
Water and other fluids such as soup, broth, and juice can ease things through your system.
Not a soup fan? Try herbal tea or water with a slice of cucumber, lemon, or lime. Or anything, really, as long as it doesn’t have alcohol (which dehydrates you) or too much caffeine (which can stimulate your intestines too much).
If you favor fizzy drinks, keep in mind that they increase stomach acid, which gives some people heartburn.
3. Break It Down
Eat smaller amounts more slowly. Chew your food thoroughly to make your digestive system’s job a little easier.
4. Keep Moving
Is there anything exercise can’t do for you? The list of benefits just keeps growing. You already know it’s good for your heart and your waistline. Turns out that active people also have smoother digestion.
Watch the timing. For some people, exercise right after a meal can cause indigestion. So schedule your workouts before meals or wait at least an hour after eating.
5. Bring on the “Good” Bugs
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are in your gut. They are in some yogurts and fermented foods. They help with your digestion. You can also add them to your diet with supplements.
6. Outsmart Fatty Fare
Fats tend to stay in your system the longest, making them harder to digest. You may have even noticed a feeling of fullness or burning after a rich meal.
We spoke to the yoga master at The Reynolds Retreat to get some expert advice on how we can use stretching to help our food go down.
1. TWIST (Matsyendrasana in yoga talk)
This move stimulates the digestive fire of the belly and is good for excessive stomach fat.
How to do it…
– Start in a seated position – extend right leg and bend left leg, sole of foot to mat.
– Keeping your back straight, support your body with a straight left arm, and place your palm on the mat, close to your bottom.
– Inhale and raise right arm.
– Exhale and take a twist to the left leading with chin to look over left shoulder bringing right arm to rest on the outside of left leg.
– Hold for three breaths
– With each inhale, lift to find space and with each exhale, move slowly deeper into the twist.
– With a final inhale raise your arm and release the twist. Remember to repeat on the opposte side.
RELATED: 9 WAYS TO HELP EASE IBS
2. SEATED FORWARD BEND (Utkata Pashcimottasana)
Both Seated Forward Fold benefits the digestive system by massaging the abdominal organs and stimulating the entire abdominal and pelvic area, including the liver, pancreas and spleen.
How to do it…
– In seated position, inhale and lift both arms above head.
– Exhale and forward fold, nose to knees. Hold for three breaths.
– Inhale and unfold, stretch arms above head.
– Exhale and release arms back down by sides. Repeat three times.
RELATED: HOW TO STRETCH YOURSELF YOUNGER
3. HEAD TO KNEE POSTURE (Janushirasana)
Benfits your digestions in the same way as above.
How to do it…
– In a seated position, draw in left foot to groin and extend right leg to your side flexing toes towards you.
– Inhale, lift arms above head and rotate from waist towards extended leg.
– Exhale, forward fold and take your nose to the knee of extended leg. Hold for eight seconds.
– Inhale and unfold stretching arms above head and rotate back to centre.
– Exhale and lower arms to side. Repeat on the other side
RELATED: YOGA FOR CARERS
4. BELLOWS POSE (Bhastrikasana)
This pose helps ease constipation, indigestion and rid excess fat.
How to do it…
– In reclined position lying on your back, raise your arms above head on an inhale.
– Exhale and raise your right knee to chest, interlace your fingers together around your shin and hold for three breaths hugging your knee to your chest.
– Exhale and release arms above head and release leg. Repeat three times on both sides.
Our digestive system is responsible for much more than just processing food and absorbing nutrients. It hosts about 100 trillion bacteria that regulate our immune system and hormones. A poor elimination system and unhealthy gut flora can lead to disease, fatigue, skin problems, allergies, and even cancer. Along with taking a probiotic supplement and eating a diet low in sugar and processed foods, exercise is also an important part in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Many Pilates and Yoga exercises are great for moving things along in the digestive tract as they massage the internal organs, create length in the abdomen and help eliminate toxins with deep breathing.
4 Exercises for Better Digestive Health
Windshield Wipers– This spinal twist exercise will eliminate toxins while strengthening your abdominals. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Your arms are out to the side like a “T.” Pull your navel into your spine by engaging your abdominals. Using your abs, bring your knees up towards your chest, stopping you’re your shins are parallel to the ceiling. Breathe deeply in and out in this position. After you exhale, keep your abs engaged as you slowly lower your knees to one side of the ground. Take another deep breath in and exhale in this position. Make sure to engage the abs again before bringing the knees back up to center. Repeat the breathing patter to the other side. Joseph Pilates used to use the phrase, “Wring your torso out like a towel.” Imagine you are doing just that as you twist and keep the opposite shoulder down to the ground. Thus wringing of the torso along with a deep cleansing breath lengthens the spine, massages the intestines and eliminates toxins. Do at least three to each side.
Rolling Like a Ball– Joseph Pilates created this exercise to help massage the bowels to relieve constipation while strengthening the abs and creating symmetry in the back. Curl up into a ball by bringing your chin to your chest, hugging your knees and rounding your back. Make sure the rounding of your back comes from scooping your abdominals into your spine and not by collapsing your back. Hands should be around your ankles or for a modified version, behind your thighs. Balance on your tailbone as you lift your feet off the ground. Using your abdominals, inhale to roll back and exhale to roll forward onto your tailbone again without letting your feet touch the ground. This requires a lot of scooping of the lower abs, which, along with the pressure from the floor, helps to massage deep into the internal organs. Try to roll evenly on both sides of your back so that you return to the same position each time you roll back up. Inhale as you roll back and exhale as you roll up. Repeat 5 times.
Swan Dive-Massage your entire abdomen to get your digestion going. This exercise also strengthens the posterior side of your body. Lie face down with your arms stretched overhead. Inhale as you lift your arms and legs off the mat, stretching the front of your abdomen. Pull your navel in to protect your lower back and start rocking back and forth. Squeezing your glutes and back muscles create the momentum you need for the rocking motion. Do this several times and finish with a child’s pose to release the back.
Shoulder Bridge– Lengthen compacted intestines, relieve compression on internal organs and deliver blood to the heart with this move. Lie on your back and bend your legs with your feet on the ground close to your hips. Lengthen your arms by your side reaching your fingertips towards your heels. Inhale as you lift your hips into the air, balancing on your shoulder blades. Exhale as you lower down articulating through your spine. Repeat several times and then try to hold your bridge up for a few deep breaths to decompress the intestines and organs even more. You may intensify this exercise by placing your feet on blocks to lift the hips even higher.
Do you have occasional bloating or constipation? Try these exercises when you do!
More videos by Crystal: 5 Balance Training Pilates Exercises
4 Best Thigh Slimming Pilates Exercises
2 Minute Routine That Will Tighten and Tone Your Abs
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Video: Crystal Ann Chin
The Best Sleeping Position to Aid Digestion
Digestion problems are a pain to deal with. Who’d want to wake up to constipation, heartburn, or even acid reflux?
There’s a simpler remedy to try if you really want to improve irregular sleeping patterns due to indigestion – adjust your sleeping position!
Sleep on Your Left Side
To the left, to the left! Did you know that sleeping on your left side can promote better coordination between your digestive system and GRAVITY?
That’s correct – the small intestine moves waste to your right side to make its way to the large intestine and then to the lower colon on the left side. This increases the likelihood of having your bowel movement first thing in the morning.
How To Sleep for Proper Digestion
1. Elevate your head
Elevating your head while sleeping on your left side can improve nighttime digestion. Studies show that this position helps ease heartburn as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle ring/flap valve that controls the stomach’s intake of food from the oesophagus – is kept above the level of gastric acid. In the event of reflux, the acid should go back quickly to the stomach because of gravity’s pull.
Remember that whatever the case may be, it’s a must to keep your neck and spine in a neutral position. Ideally, you’d want a plush and supportive pillow that can give you comfort and support simultaneously.
IMAGE: Proper spine alignment on a supportive pillow
2. Add a pillow in between the knees to prevent your midsection from sinking
If #1 still doesn’t do the trick, try sandwiching a pillow with your knees. Any discomfort felt may be coming from a misaligned spine or a strained neck when you bend your knees in this position. Placing a pillow in between them could prevent discomfort and keep the spine in a neutral position.
IMAGE: Placing a pillow in between the knees for better spine alignment
3. Don’t eat large meals THREE hours before sleeping
Familiarise yourself with the three-hour rule. This allows your body to digest the food with ample time, so you don’t wake up to a rumbling and painful stomach. We’re also certain no one wants to feel nauseous late at night anyway. Give your digestive system time to do its job of absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste.
So when it’s time to get some snooze, go on and try facing left – it might just make your sleep a little more special tonight.
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3 Simple Yoga Poses After Dinner That Can Boost Digestion
Who hasn’t heard of the far spreading glory of yoga? This ancient form of exercise, which focuses a lot on breathing, is known to bring about various health benefits if performed regularly. It comes equipped with all kinds of asanas for all kinds of issues. There’s something for everyone. Of course the best time to perform these exercises is early morning, but not all of us can stick by it. So then we resort to alternate means. There are also yoga asanas that you can perform at other times of the day, including after dinner.
Yoga poses after dinner are said to help one digest the food better, making it less heavy for the stomach. It empowers your body’s digestion and improves the health of your organs. When we eat, the food goes down into the stomach, wherein digestive enzymes are secreted that help in the breakdown of the food. While performing yoga, there are poses that focus on stretching, strength and flexibility that can be quite strenuous. Now if you perform such exercises post dinner, they can end up hampering your digestion process. So one therefore needs to be careful.According to Zubin Atre, the founder at AtreYoga, “there are a bunch of micro asanas we can do when it comes to our lower body because after dinner the food is still there in our torso.”
- You can do some hand rotations, stretching of fingers and arms, ankle rotation as well.
- You can also do some swift basic movements of the neck, sit on a chair facing the wall and imagine that there is a ball between your chin and the chest and squeeze the ball as much as you can. This is to stretch the muscles of your back and the neck along the spine.
- Another movement of the neck involves moving it in all the directions north, south, east and west, and stretch the muscles.
Yoga Asanas Post Dinner
Gomukhasana or cow face pose is an asana which “helps in stretching the spine and the stomach muscles which helps in making the digestion process easy,” says Abhishek, a yoga expert at Mystic Yoga Café.
How to do: Fold your left leg and place your ankle near to the left hip, now place your right leg on the left leg such that both the knees touch each other after this take both the hands at the back such that the right-hand holds the left hand. Keep your spine straight and take deep breaths for about 1 minute. Repeat the same process after changing the position as well.
Also known as Adamintine Pose, Vajraasana is the most beneficial yoga pose after dinner. Experts suggest that any movement which helps in stretching the upper body and abdomen and relaxes your breathing is a good posture after dinner. It is often advised to practice yoga with an empty stomach but this is one such exceptional asana which is more beneficial when practiced after a meal because it promotes digestion.
How to do: Sit by folding both the legs and placing them on your hips, now keep your palm on the knees. Keep your spine straight and take deep breaths and concentrate fully on the breath. Stay in the same position for about 10 minutes.
3. Ardha Chandraasana
Ardha Chandrasana or half-moon pose is another good yoga pose to try after dinner as standing and side stretching (to stretch the stomach and abdomen) help in digestion, suggests Abhishek.
How to do: Stand straight on your yoga mat; lift your right hand to bend side ways to your left side and try to touch the ground from your left hand. Repeat the same by changing the hand position for about 10 minutes.
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Improve your digestion with the right posture
The poor vs right posture
This phenomenon has been found especially true if you assume a head-forward, slouched position while eating.
In a study published by the journal Nutrients, consuming food in an upright body position was found to be the best posture with the most positive impact on gastric emptying rate and post-meal rise in blood amino acid concentrations. In other words, when eating meals that contain protein, enjoying them seated with your shoulders down and back while maintaining a neutral neck can benefit the digestive process.
Digestive symptoms that may arise from poor posture can include gas, bloating, and even mild abdominal pain. In fact, one study analyzed the influence of body posture on intestinal transit of gas, finding that maintaining an upright posture favours gas evacuation in individuals with gas retention – such as those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While food can be consumed in any postural position – such as eating a snack while casually lying on the couch, scarfing down a salad at work with one hand typing on the computer, or eating breakfast standing while making coffee – assuming an upright seated position in a stress-free environment seems to be the most conducive for allowing the flow of digestive juices and blood to the digestive tract.
If you suffer from occasional unpleasant digestive symptoms, there are numerous remedies that can help ease discomfort:
- Try therapeutic tea. Peppermint and chamomile tea are effective and affordable herbs that have been used for centuries to promote better digestion. They both have anti-spasmodic, carminative, and relaxing properties which promote good digestion.
- Support your stomach acid. Having inadequate digestive enzymes is common especially as we age. Luckily, there are a few key foods that can help promote the release of enzymes from digestive organs for the breakdown of meals. Consuming a small amount of organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar prior to a meal is a natural way to stimulate pancreatic juices.
- Love your liver and gallbladder. The liver and gallbladder are the two organs that make or store bile – the substance our body uses to digest fats. Herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion, boldo, and artichoke found in Boldocynara stimulate the liver and gallbladder to support digestion, and may help relieve adverse gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Start your day with warm lemon water. Drinking a glass of warm lemon water not only provides a flavourful punch compared to plain water, but it also stimulates the release of liver enzymes to break down proteins and flush out toxins.
- Spice up your life with ginger. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can expedite stomach emptying in individuals who suffer from indigestion. It can be enjoyed in many forms – in culinary dishes, warming tea, or in a refreshing carbonated beverage.
If you experience chronic digestive issues, it is important to work with your primary healthcare provider for a treatment plan that optimizes your health and to ensure your symptoms are not associated with a more serious underlying cause.
5 Ways You Are Ruining Your Digestive Health in the Hour After You Eat
Even if you’re enjoying a much healthier diet these days, you could still be hindering your digestion in ways you’re not aware of. Today’s post discusses five ways you’re ruining your digestive health in the hour after you eat, so you can make the appropriate changes to your habits and boost your energy even more.
What Can Ruin Your Digestive Health an Hour After You Eat
Lying Down & Sleeping
No more lying down after eating a filling meal, or taking the odd post-lunch nap on a lazy weekend if you want to keep your digestive system chugging along at top speed without any complications.
Lying down after eating increases your chances of your digestive juices creeping back up into your esophagus causing heartburn. When you stay awake and upright, the digestive juices are more likely to stay where they need to be and efficiently break down your food.
Sleeping causes your digestive system to slow down, so having a heavy meal right before bed could cause you to feel bloated, uncomfortable, and full even the next morning. While you should eat light to heavy throughout the day and dinner should be your heaviest meal, giving yourself some time to remain awake and upright before slipping between the sheets promotes optimal digestion. Study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that people who eat close to bedtime were likely to develop acid reflux symptoms that cause heartburn and indigestion.(1)
Learn more about The Sleep Gut Connection.
It may be tempting to work out after eating if you’re not stuffed, but strenuous exercise can use up some of the resources your body needs to digest your food. The easiest answer to why you shouldn’t work out right after you eat: you can make yourself sick. When you engage in strenuous exercise after eating, you could experience nausea, cramps, or even diarrhea.
When you attempt to work out after a meal, your blood starts to circulate in a way that gets blood—and oxygen—to all those hard-working muscles. That means blood flow to your stomach is drastically reduced and food can’t be properly digested. It just sits there, waiting for you to slow down again so your body can finish the job. Think of what might happen if you tried to paint a picture and read a book at the same time. That level of multi-tasking is nearly impossible, and if nothing else, it’ll be a long, slow process. It’s best to do one thing and then move on to the next. Eat, digest, and then exercise (or just exercise first). A study conducted in Japan found that subjects who ate a meal immediately before high-intensity exercise experienced greater levels of nausea than those who didn’t eat. Study from the Appetite journal.(2)
Even though you’re waiting an hour to work out after eating, remember to fuel your body with the appropriate foods before and after you exercise.
You may have seen this tip on the blog before, but just in case you haven’t, don’t eat fruit after a meal. Experts say that eating fruit after meals tends to cause digestive distress. (3) Fruit digests the fastest of any type of food, and when you toss it down shortly after a meal, it just sits on top of it and ferments there, creating gas, discomfort, and possibly even weight gain. When you eat fruit alone and well before anything else (or two to three hours after your last meal), your body can digest it and utilize it for fuel without the gas, bloating, and other discomfort.
Check out 6 Easy Tips to Reduce Bloating This Summer!
Drinking Too Much Water
It’s fine to sip a little water with your meals if you feel it’s necessary, but don’t gulp down a big glass of it during or right after your meals or you may dilute the digestive juices so much, it makes it harder for them to do their job.
Also, steer clear of ice water. It can be refreshing on a hot day, but when you’re drinking even a little water with your meals, the ice could cool the digestive fire and do more damage to the digestive process than hot, warm, or room temperature water would. Hot herbal tea is another alternative if you feel like you want to drink something with your meal, but you should still limit your intake of liquids while you eat.
Thrive has an article that explains the ice water vs. warm water topic in more detail and provides additional self-care tips for city-dwellers. One study found that digestion was impaired in participants who drank cold liquids with their meals. (4)
Taking a Shower or Bath
This is one that may really disrupt your routine, but once you make the change, you may find that you feel much better all day. If you frequently eat breakfast and then take a shower, or you eat dinner and take your shower to wind down after your day, your digestive health may be suffering.
When you step into the shower, your body temperature increases and the blood is pulled toward the surface of the skin, the hands, and the feet. It’s pulled everywhere it doesn’t need to be for digestion, like the stomach area, in order to regulate your core temperature. Instead of your body jumping on the task of digesting the meal you just ate and doing it efficiently, it suddenly becomes distracted. The warmth encourages your body to regulate its temperature by allowing blood to flow away from the vital organs, and digestion is slowed down.
When it is time to take a relaxing bath, consider making it even better with some DIY bath salts. DIY Natural can teach you how. Ayurvedic medicine teaches that bathing, which interferes with body temperature, right after a meal weakens digestion, leading to digestive distress. (5)
Maximize Your Digestion
Now that you know 5 ways you are ruining your digestive health in the hour after you eat, what about some things you can do to help boost your digestion?
- Eat salad or raw celery sticks before each cooked meal to add enzymes that will assist in breaking down your food. Try one of my simple and delicious salad recipes!
- Take digestive enzymes with your cooked meals or food pairings that you know are not ideal. My Feel Good Digestive Enzymes will help reduce gas & bloating while also helping you absorb more nutrients!
- Try to avoid drinking a lot of water right before your meals.
- Avoid stressful topics while eating or right after eating because stress can disrupt digestion.
- Incorporate plant-based prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics to balance your digestive flora and improve your gut health. Take a look at my Feel Good SBO + Probiotics!
These days, many of us are flooded with advice on what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Alongside this calorie and nutrient-based advice you may even have heard that you should avoid eating while standing up or lying down, as was common in Ancient Greece or Rome. It may seem to make sense, but how much scientific evidence is there to back this advice?
If we consider these three eating positions: lying down, sitting and standing, what challenges do they present the body with and which should we choose as our standard eating position?
The first of these positions, eating lying down, was fashionable to the ancients. This may not solely have been through laziness or a show of wealth and power – as some researchers have suggested, lying down on your left side reduces the pressure on the antrum or lower portion of the stomach, thus relieving discomfort during a feast. As few of us truly feast nowadays – at least in the Roman sense – this might not be so important.
There is some evidence that we absorb carbohydrates at a slower rate when eating lying down compared to sitting, and this is likely due to the rate of gastric emptying. Slower absorption of carbohydrates is generally considered to be healthy as it avoids large spikes in insulin.
Alternatively, eating lying down may increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), a condition where the stomach’s contents return back up into the oesophagus through the cardiac or oesophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that controls the passage of food from the throat to the stomach. This condition is found with increasing prevalence worldwide, and can cause significant discomfort, often being mistaken for a heart attack.
Although there is almost no published research specifically investigating the effect of eating lying down on the symptoms of GORD, the American College of Gastroenterology advises avoiding lying down for two hours after eating, which would suggest that eating lying down itself is probably unwise. As GORD slightly increases the risk of developing more serious conditions including Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer, this is probably bad news for those of us who want to adopt the Roman banqueting lifestyle.
Banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti, Pompeii.WolfgangRieger/Wikimedia Commons
Sitting v standing – the pros and cons
Whether we sit down or stand up for a range of activities throughout the day is a topical issue. Sitting down, which alongside lying down makes up our sedentary behaviour, is increasingly linked to poor health, although there is some contention around this. But when it comes to eating our meals, it seems for once sitting down might be the preferable choice. People might be more likely to take their time over a meal if seated, although this has not been seriously studied. Eating more slowly is considered to be healthy as it more rapidly increases fullness and decreases appetite, leading to a potential reduction in calorie intake.
As for eating while standing up, there is no real evidence that it has any negative effects on digestion and it isn’t included on any lists of prohibited activity by healthcare professionals. Although gravity isn’t needed for most of the function of the gut, it does help with preventing GORD, which is why many sufferers raise the head of their bed at night.
Standing during eating does have the benefit of promoting more energy expenditure, with estimates of around 50 extra calories an hour burned by standing compared with sitting down. Over an extended period this would add up.
So is it better to eat sitting, standing or lying down? While there is not enough scientific evidence to confidently state that eating in either position is more appropriate, it’s likely that as long as you take your time and eat mindfully, either standing or sitting to eat your meals should be absolutely fine and a healthier alternative to eating lying down.