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.
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!
- Reference: The American Journal of Gastroenterology 100, 2633-2636 (December 2005) | doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.
2005.00354.x Study can be found here.
- Reference: Kondo, T (2001). Exercise-Induced Nausea is Exaggerated by Eating. Appetite, 36(2), 119-125. Study from the Appetite journal here.
- Reference: NDTV Food (2018, July 24) Eating Fruits Right After Lunch? You Should Read This [Web log post]. Retrieved (10/11/19), from here.
- Reference: Sun WM, Houghton LA, Read NW, Grundy DG, Johnson AG (1988). Effect of Meal Temperature on Gastric Empying of Liquids in Man. Gut, 29(3), 302-5. Study here.
- Reference: (2019, Sept 18). The Real Reason Why You Should Never Take a Bath After Eating. India Times. Retrieved from here.