Don't change what you eat, change how you eat it!

© Catherine MacBride 2008

Digestive complaints and disorders are so common in our busy stressful lives, sometimes it is because of poor diet but very often it's down to poor eating habits. By changing how you eat you can make a big improvement in your general health, try these pointers out and see how you feel!

Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Drink small amounts spread out through the day rather than all in one go. This will keep the body hydrated and improve the functioning of the digestive tract particularly the large intestine.

Eat in a comfortable and quiet atmosphere. It is very important to take your meals during a settled and pleasant time of the day when you are free from distractions.

Always sit down to eat. This relaxes the digestive system and allows you to focus on the process of eating. Even if it’s only a small snack sit down to eat.

Eat your meals at the same time each day. This will allow your body to get into a routine and also reduces the need to eat between meals.

Do not eat when you are upset. If you feel upset at meal times wait a little while until you feel calmer. When you are stressed or upset there is an increase in the production of acid in the stomach (HCL) and a slowing of normal stomach contractions. These acid rich secretions remain in the stomach longer than usual and cause irritation and discomfort.

Avoid overeating. You should eat to about three quarters your stomach capacity (approximately two handfuls). Eating beyond this point prevents normal stomach contractions. Three quarters is also the point that gives us a feeling of satisfaction without the sensation of over eating.

Do not drink while your eating. Many of us are in the habit of washing our food down with a drink before we have chewed it properly. This means we moisten the food with the drink instead of saliva. Therefore the start of the process of chemical digestion is not carried out properly.

Chew your food well. Chewing your food well gives your system a head start and can prevent indigestion and excess wind. Chew with your mouth closed. It is best to avoid talking while chewing.

Eat at a moderate pace. This will allow you to know when you have eaten enough without over eating; it also allows you to chew your food well. If you eat too quickly put your knife and fork down after each mouthful and don’t pick them up until that mouthful has been chewed and swallowed.

Avoid cold foods and iced drinks. Your stomach works best at body temperature. Cold foods slow down digestion. Warm cooked foods are the most readily digested.

Eat meals that are cooked from a variety of fresh ingredients. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Choose unrefined organic produce whenever possible.

Take a few minutes to rest at the end of your meal. This allows the process of digestion to begin in an effortless way and can prevent heartburn and indigestion. Try not to bend over or lie down for an hour after eating, as this can increase the risk of heart burn and acid reflux.

Practise deep breathing. This can reduce stress levels and bring more energy to the digestive system. It also massages the internal organs and can reduce bloating and digestive discomfort.

Don’t eat in the three hours prior to bedtime. This can increase the risk of digestive discomfort and acid reflux; it can also put pressure on the heart.

Let me know how you get on!


I just wanted to say a big HUGE well done to the Walmer College Diet and Nutrition class of 2007/08 who all passed their exams, Congratulations!!!