Quick Tips for Improving Digestion on AIP
Eating according to the autoimmune protocol (AIP) is great, but it is important to make sure our bodies are actually absorbing the nutrients in the AIP foods we are consuming.
Here are five quick tips for improving digestion on AIP (or any way of eating)!
According to the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food (NTA, 2016).
The Goal of Digestion
Further, the NTA states the goal of digestion is to reduce food to molecules so small that the nutrients can be absorbed and used by the cells (NTA, 2016).
Tips for Improving Digestion: Eat in a Parasympathetic State
The process of digestion is a north to south process that actually begins in the brain.
It is important to relax while you eat because eating in a parasympathetic (or relaxed) state is vital for proper digestion.
We live in a fast-paced world, full of distractions, and endless to do lists. It can be tempting to eat while driving, working, watching TV, checking social media, or standing. However, the more relaxed you are while eating and focused on only eating, the better your digestive system will work.
Tips for Improving Digestion: Chew Your Food Slowly and Completely
Following the digestive process south, we come to the mouth.
In order for the brain to get the memo it needs to cue the digestive processes to start working, food needs to be chewed slowly and completely. Otherwise, the production of saliva is not triggered.
Why is saliva important?
Saliva, which plays an important role in digestion, is a complex mixture of electrolytes, hormones, and enzymes. Aim to chew your food until it is a liquid mixture, or around 30 seconds. Remember to put your fork down in between bites.
Tips for Improving Digestion: Consider Your Stomach Acid Levels
Stomach acid sometimes gets a bad rap. However, sufficient stomach acid levels are vital for proper digestion.
Stomach acid plays an important role in the mechanical breakdown of food and other digestive activities.
If there is too little acid, the normal chemical reactions required to break down and make nutrients ready for absorption may not occur at maximum efficiency. If this condition persists for an extended period of time, a state of selective malnutrition may result that can adversely affect various vital bodily functions, many of them well beyond the digestive system.
(Wright & Lenard, 2001
When we do not produce enough stomach acid, our first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms is gone.
Further, if we are not producing enough stomach acid, we can experience Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is the result of undigested foods (due to insufficient stomach acid) causing a backward flow, or reflux, into the esophagus. The esophagus then burns since it is not designed for the acidic foods from the stomach.
For more information on the important role of stomach acid, I recommend reading Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux, and GERD, by Jonathan V Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D..
Add quote from book
If you suspect you may not be producing sufficient levels of stomach acid, I encourage you to work with your Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), your functional medical doctor, or your naturopath on supplementing for digestive support.
Tips for Improving Digestion on AIP: Eat Plenty of Healthy Fats
Yes, you heard that right.
Consuming healthy fats is important for a variety of reasons, one of which is proper digestion.
Why is consuming healthy fats important for digestion?
Diets low in fat do not trigger the release of bile in the gallbladder.
Without good fats to stimulate the release of bile, the bile gets old and viscous.
Likewise, diets high in bad fats cause the bile to become viscous as well.
Why is viscous bile bad?
Because the gallbladder attempts to contract, but is unable to release the viscous bile.
No bile? No absorption of fats.
Include healthy fats in your diet like avocado, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and tallow.
For more information about the history of the low-fat diet craze, as well as about the effect of fats on health, I recommend reading The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz.
Tips for Improving Digestion on AIP: Drink Bone Broth
Bone broth is very soothing to the digestive tract.
It also supports the integrity of the gut lining, proving very beneficial for leaky gut.
Bonus: it is easy to make! I like to make mine in an Instant Pot to reduce cooking time.
If you prefer to purchase your bone broth already made, I recommend Bonafide Provisions Bone Broth. My local Walmart currently carries it in the freezer section.
Progress, Not Perfection
I encourage you to choose one or two tips for improving digestion to work on in your life.
Remember, it is not a race, and you can take it as slow as you need to!
I am cheering you on!
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2016). Digestion and Elimination Module Student Study Guide.
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2016). Fatty Acids Module Student Study Guide.
Wright, J. & Lenard, L. (2001). Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You. Lanham, Maryland: M. Evans.
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