Five Simple Ways: To Improve Digestion In The Winter
For those of you (like me), with rather sensitive digestive systems, the winter can be a challenging time and can leave me feeling bloated, constipated and feeling as if I am not obtaining the nourishment from my food.
In Ayurvedic medicine the months between November and February are considered Vata season, reflecting the characteristics of the dosha (type): cold, dry and light. To balance this in terms of our health and our digestive systems we need to eat foods and implement dietary habits that enhance the opposite of these properties: warm, soft, and rich.
The simple tips below work wonderfully for me and my clients, and are super easy to implement in your daily holistic health routine.
1) Eliminate raw foods: this is number one for me in the winter. Salad based meals are out, and I limit raw foods to some baby spinach (which I usually wilt by placing underneath cooked foods when serving), or leafy greens in a Superfood Smoothie or Green Veggie Smoothie, where they will be blended, broken down, and easier for me to digest.
2) Add more fat: eating a higher fat, lower carb diet has worked wonders for me, and I see huge improvements in my gut health also when I cycle in time on a keto diet. Ensure all of your meals contain some fat, it will enable food to move through the digestive tract easily and smoothly and will help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) from your food.
I will always add some avocado, coconut milk or nut milk to my smoothies at this time of year, and my favourite fat to cook with is grass-fed ghee. Ghee is so nutrient dense, can be tolerated by those who are sensitive to dairy, contains butyrate, a short chain fatty acid beneficial to gut health and is a great source of CLA, a type of fat that has been shown to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve body composition.
3) Eat food that is warm and moist: dry, cold, hard foods are almost impossible for me to eat at this time of year, so I love to blend veggies and fats into a soup with some bone broth, and if I am in a rush and grabbing something from the fridge that has been cooked in advance rather than heating it in a microwave (we don't own one) I will warm some bone broth and pour it over the meal.
Even my smoothies get a winter makeover, and right now I am obsessed with Warm Smoothie Bowls which are so easy to make and so nourishing! You can check out my recipe here:
4) Drink warm water and herbal tea: I cannot tolerate any cold drinks at this time of year, so will usually always have some hot herbal tea or warm water to hand at all times. As a Brit one of the first purchase I made when moving here was an electric kettle, and it is probably the best $20 I ever spent! My favourite herbal teas in the winter are all warming and nourishing, and I love anything with ginger, chai, cinnamon, turmeric or tulsi. Another favourite of mine that I love in the morning is warm water, apple cider vinegar and fresh ginger.
5) Practice hands-on belly breathing: if I do find myself with cramping, bloating or gas at this time of year either due to something I've eaten, or stress (gut health is hugely affected by stress), then hands on belly breathing is a lifesaver for me. Simply lie down and place your hands very gently on your abdomen, inhaling and exhaling slowly through the nose. Close your eyes and breathe into your hands for at least 2 minutes.
The combination of the warmth of your hands, the deep breathing (which calms the central nervous system and relieves cramping) and taking a few moments to soothe and comfort yourself can work wonders.
Want to learn more about optimizing your gut health in the winter? Here is some more information on how to boost your immune system via the gut at this time of year: