Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Overeating puts too much of a burden on the digestive system and unfortunately many of us overeat. Consuming meals to about 80% fullness allows the remaining 20% space for efficient digestion.
Eating too much food at one sitting is easy to do. A lot of us are either on-the-go or pre-occupied with other tasks at hand to even notice when we've reached fullness, so we continue to eat and as a result often overeat. When we consume too much food at one sitting our stomachs expand to hold all that food leaving little to no room for adequate digestion to occur.
Imagine filling a cup to the top with fruit, now put a lid on the top of the cup and shake. There isn't much change in movement for a majority of that fruit. Even with peristalsis (a churning action) in the stomach occurring a lot of the movement is inhibited from being too full. When digestion is slowed down fermentation occurs and causes indigestion. We experience this fermentation as gas in the form of burping. We burp and move on, sometimes we have that burning sensation in our throats afterwards. That's our very acidic stomach juices splashing up into our esophagus and burning the sensitive tissue. This is what one would call 'acid reflux' or 'heartburn'. The stomach acid plays an important role for digestion as it contains important digestive enzymes, like hydrochloric acid (HCl), which are secreted in the stomach and work to break down the food into chyme (a liquid mixture) before it continues through the digestive tract. These gastric juices also serve an important purpose in nutrient absorption and plays a vital role in immune system function as it is an important line of defense against foreign pathogens like bacteria and parasites. Now, let's take that same cup of fruit and this time we are going to fill it up 80% of the way, leaving 20% empty. Now shake the cup and watch as the contents easily mix throughout the cup. Now, if we add some lemon and sugar, you'll be able to watch as all the contents become coated as we shake. This begins the natural breakdown of the sugars found in the fruit and the natural breakdown of the sugars from the acidic compound added works to 'digest' the food, similarly to how gastric juices work to break down food in a partially full stomach.
If we continue to overeat our food daily we will begin to experience a series of digestive issues with symptoms like: acid-reflux/heartburn, yeast overgrowth (candidiasis), leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, weakened immune system, stomach cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. Over the years, this prolonged neglect can lead to more permanent damage resulting in stomach/peptic ulcers, esophageal damage, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), food sensitivities and allergies, auto-immune disease, Chron's Disease, stomach cancer, etc.
While we are definitely fortunate that our body works hard to repair itself, this is something we cannot take for granted as our digestive system is imperative to our survival and well-being on this planet. There are many things we can do to reduce and even eliminate much of our digestive ailments.
Below is a list of six things we can do to benefit our digestive system processes
Eat consciously What does this mean? Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and put away anything that might distract us from your meal. Use our six senses while we eat. Take in our meal by looking at the food we're about to eat, smelling all the delightful subtleties, tasting all the flavors, feeling the textures on our tongue, hearing the sounds as we chew, and enjoying every morsel we take in. Remember, this food is about to become part of us, consciously decide that we accept this food as a gift of delight.
Eat smaller portioned meals Instead of having a heaping portion of food on our plate choose to put less on the plate and go back for seconds if necessary. When we eat consciously it will be easy to decide if we are actually hungry or feeling satiated. Awareness is key. Chewing and taking our time by being conscious of each bite allows our body to recognize the food we are eating. When our attention is entirely focused on eating, we allow our senses to fully concentrate in the moment and our appetite is capable of being satiated.
Eat meals with a larger portion of alkaline forming foods It would be most beneficial to consume a meal that contains mostly plant/land/sea -based foods with a smaller percentage of animal proteins, grains, and starches. Meats and starches are more acid-forming and if we are consuming meals with mostly meat and potatoes or chicken and rice, we don't have enough vegetables to reduce the acid-load in our stomachs. When we consume a meal that's heavily acidic in combination with our naturally acidic digestive enzymes, the contents of the stomach become overly acidic and eat away at the stomach lining. An overly acidic stomach also induces fermentation gases resulting in that undesirable burning sensation in our throat otherwise known as acid-reflux.
Eat fermented foods with every meal Fermented foods include: coconut kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, sourdough, kimchi, natto, miso, pickles, and kombucha beer. There are other fermented foods that are also great choices, but if you are having difficulties digesting, it may help to exclude these: yogurt, dairy kefir, cheese, beer, and wine.
Avoid gluten (wheat protein) Most people do have difficulties with digesting wheat gluten proteins gliadin and glutenin. Gluten protein sensitivities further complicate the digestive process, so when we are trying to clear up any digestive issues and work on repairing the digestive tract we do so by removing these obstacles. Gluten is an obstacle for many reasons, one of those reasons is how it interacts with the intestines and causes reactions that impact other digestive and nutritional elements involved with digesting. Remove this obstacle to help clear the air and then after months of allowing repair, try adding it back in and notice if you have any reactions. WARNING: When eliminating gluten from the diet, a person may begin to notice symptoms or worsening of symptoms before they begin to heal. This is a normal part of the detoxification process and is partly due to die off and chemical withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal/die-off can take days to weeks before symptoms reduce. The chemical withdrawal of gluten and dairy is due to their proteins, gluteomorpin and casomorphin that mimic the effects of heroin and morphin in the body once they pass through the gut into the bloodstream.
Quit Dairy (even just for a little while) Whey and casein are two main proteins found in dairy and most of us also have problems digesting these proteins. This can be for a variety of reasons. We may not have the digestive enzymes lactase to break down lactose which is mainly comprised of casein. Whey is a biproduct of dairy and does contain some lactose and cause similar digestive issues experienced with casein allergies/sensitivites such as: bloating, gas, constipation, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. When we remove this, similarly to removing gluten, there is a period of time where symptoms or reactions occur before being eliminated. This is a normal part of the healing process and jointly works towards the efforts of reducing and eliminating candidiasis.
What Is Leaky Gut?
When the stomach is too full and gastric juices are unable to mix properly throughout the digestive process, parts of the stomach wall are exposed to these concentrated digestive enzymes. Even though the stomach wall has a protective mucosal coating, repeated exposure to the acidic nature of the enzymes begin to eat away at the mucus exposing the stomach lining to the highly acidic compounds. As we eat meal after meal, the stomach lining becomes more and more vulnerable to the gastric juices. The mucus lining doesn't have the ability to repair itself and gastric juices begin to eat away at the unprotected stomach wall creating small holes in the stomach. Undigested food particles slip out of the stomach and into our blood stream causing a series of inflammatory problems. Damage done at this level is usually seen as a multitude of inflammatory reactions from increased food sensitivities and intolerances to severe food allergies. Small holes in the stomach wall is referred to as leaky gut and becomes the root of many inflammatory responses. Unfortunately, this root problem becomes overly complicated when we cover it up with medications like antacids and H2-Blockers like pepsid AC that act to neutralize the acidic contents of our stomach. We reduce or even eliminate much of the acid reflux but at a cost of further reducing our digestive capabilities with each meal. Food doesn't break down i.e. the nutrients in our food don't break down for absorption and because the environment was altered from acidic to alkaline we are now the perfect host for disease causing pathogens i.e our immune system is significantly compromised.