The good news is that there's something you can do before you even get out of bed to help soothe your tum and get the day, and your digestive system, rolling. The trick? Taking some long, thorough deep breaths can support digestion and reduce symptoms of indigestion, says Jack Baron, RD, BSc, a dietitian specializing in gastroenterology.
Why does indigestion happen in the morning
We'll lay out a simple deep-breathing strategy in a minute, but first, let's look at why you might wake up feeling less than stellar. Baron explains that your digestion slows when you're asleep. Feeling gassy, uncomfortable or bloated when you wake up might be because you consumed food that wasn't digestible the day or night before, he says. This includes high amounts of insoluble fiber, which is the firm plant structure in plants your body can't digest, like strong fibers in kale, sunflower seed shells, broccoli, or fruit skins. It can also result from consuming too high of one particular food group, whether fats, sugars, or alcohol. Eating foods that typically don't 'agree' with your system can result in symptoms like this, especially for people with lactose intolerance.
There are also some medicines (like blood pressure medication) or conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that can cause symptoms like this. GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back and up into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. This is often caused by heartburn, but the chronic incidence of this is a condition that often requires treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. To get these symptoms under control, according to Baron, you should try to reduce them from a few angles.
How can deep breathing help indigestion
There are a few ways that deep breathing can help indigestion. First of all, Baron explains that it can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of your brain and nervous system responsible for calming and relaxing you. It's sometimes referred to as the 'rest and digest system, as it stimulates action in your gut. This induces digestive tract muscle contractions and the release of gastric juices, which help better digest the food you've eaten.
Additionally, stress and anxiety can cause indigestion, Baron says. There's a reason they call it a "nervous tummy." If you are super stressed and in fight or flight mode, your digestive system slows until you feel safe. Delayed indigestion can cause a build of gas from the bacteria in your gut, giving you a tummy ache from the pressure, he says. This can happen in the morning when you get that weird tummy sensation from something that might be stressing you out. Deep breathing can be a fast track to returning to a relaxed state and jumpstarting your gut's digestive work.
How can you practice deep breathing
So, what's the best way to practice deep breathing? Baron suggests breathing in for four counts and out for four counts for anywhere from three to five minutes. If you're not used to deep-breathing as a practice, you can look up beginner meditation sessions or just start very slow with a few minutes of concerted breathing. You can take a break and repeat this two to three times, he adds.
Besides deep-breathing, Baron recommends eating dinner 2 to 3 hours before going to bed, consuming smaller portions, lowering your alcohol intake, avoiding drinking any beverages within 2-3 hours of going to bed, and sleeping with an elevated head. Additionally, Baron says if indigestion is interfering with your life significantly, consider avoiding particularly acidic drinks such as sodas, beer, and fruit juices and seeking the advice of a provider.
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