Do you struggle to work up an appetite in the morning? Or perhaps you deal with indigestion or wind soon after eating? It all comes down to your digestive system – luckily, we've compiled a few simple hacks to give it a much-needed kickstart in the morning.
The digestive process involves the breakdown of food, while drawing out essential nutrients and eliminating waste. There are 5 areas this process puts to work, including the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Here’s a rundown of exactly what’s happening when you eat:
- The chewing process triggers the release of saliva, which help break down your food, making it easier for you to swallow.
- After swallowing the food, it moves through your oesophagus, where the oesophageal sphincter opens in order to help the food pass into your stomach. Many people with acid reflux struggle with a dysfunctional sphincter that opens and closes at the wrong times, causing stomach acid to come up the oesophagus.
- Once in your stomach, the food continues to be broken down, resulting in a mixture that’s ready to head on down to your small intestine. This is where the liver and pancreas release digestive liquids to break down fats and proteins in the food.
- The undigested remains go to the large intestine, where any remaining nutrients and water are absorbed, leaving stool behind – and you know what happens next; the bowel movement.
Unfortunately for some of us, this process doesn’t always go smoothly. Many people have a harder time getting things going in the morning, from poor appetite to improper digestion. That’s why we’ve collated 5 easy ways to wake your digestive system up.
Drinking a glass of warm water in the morning is a long-favoured digestive practice that dates all the way back to ancient China – and for good reason. Warm water helps to break down foods that are moving through your digestive system, keeping your organs hydrated and helping the intestines to contract. This means they’ll have an easier time getting your digestion working as it should, from eliminating waste to breaking down stubborn food remains. If you want an even bigger boost, add a squeeze of lemon to your glass – you’ll get a hit of vitamin C, along with stimulating your digestion.
Consume probiotic-rich foods in the morning – you might think of kimchi and sauerkraut as lunch or dinner fare, but they’re actually the perfect additions to an energising, gut-boosting brekkie. Yoghurt is another fermented food that is loaded with probiotics to get your day off to a good start, as the healthy bacteria help keep your gut microbiome balanced, along with regulating digestion and bowel movements. With many Aussies eating increasingly high doses of ultra-processed foods and added sugars – coming in at 17 teaspoons a day! – we’re dealing with unbalanced microbiomes and the gut issues, like acid reflux and constipation, that accompany this state. It’s no wonder then that so many of us struggle to get going in the morning, so if all of this is hitting a little too close to home, it’s time to pick up some fermented foods to kickstart your digestive system and lay down the foundations for long-term gut health.
Foods that are high in fibre take longer to digest, usually within a day, while ultra-processed, sugary foods can go through you within a couple of hours. The result? You find yourself hungry again not long after eating and fighting off incessant cravings for junk food. On top of this, the efficiency of your digestive system gets disrupted – this is why it’s best to prioritise the following foods:
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Those with sensitive stomachs early in the morning would be best to stick to low-acid produce. Fruits like watermelon and rockmelon are especially gentle on the stomach. Broccoli and avocado are also good additions for those who struggle to build up an appetite in the early hours.
Plus, high-fibre foods keep your digestive tract hydrated, preventing constipation and bloating, both of which are known digestion disruptors. It’s all about laying down the foundations to break those painful cycles of poor eating habits and poor digestion.
There is another quick fix to getting your digestion up and running – and it doesn’t involve food. A digestive massage is a simple way to help get things moving, especially if you’ve been constipated or bloated. Best of all, you can do it yourself – and in just 2 minutes! Here’s how.
- Lie down stomach up and bend your knees – make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Massage your stomach in a circular motion with your hands, moving clockwise. Then, switch to counter-clockwise and repeat.
- Focus on the areas that feel tender, using light pressure with your palms, and continue until you start to notice it feels less tight.
- Remember to move from the left to right side when massaging, this helps get things moving the right way.
Put the phone away
Make sure you’re focusing on the task at hand – waking up. If the first thing you do is reach for your phone, it might be worth placing it on the other side of the room and stopping yourself from taking in any screen time before you’ve woken up and had brekkie. The stresses – even those that you’re unaware of – that arise from looking at news headlines, messages and emails can impede your digestive system, along with raising blood pressure, neither of which is conducive to robust, properly-functioning digestion. This is because stress can increase our heart rate, breathing rate and muscle tension – the latter can make it harder to swallow and digest foods properly, along with resulting in the following:
- Oesophageal spasms
- Increased stomach acid, leading to indigestion
- Nausea, diarrhoea and constipation
This not only makes the digestive process less efficient, but it might just make your appetite dwindle, which only furthers the problem as you miss out on essential nutrients and hydration.
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