Digestion isn't the kind of thing you have to think about much. You eat, and well, digestion just happens. Usually we're more concerned with what we're eating (Is it delicious? Does it meet our nutritional needs?) than what happens after we eat it--because those bodily processes are automatic. And if we're lucky, everything goes smoothly.|
But when things aren't going smoothly, we take notice--and others do, too! When digestion is disrupted and we feel discomfort, bloating, gas or other distressing symptoms, it can be embarrassing to talk about.
Whether you have a chronic condition that affects normal digestion (such as heartburn, ulcerative colitis or irritible bowel syndrome) or have some unexplained symptoms that come and go, you may wonder what's "normal" when it comes to the digestive process?
Here's a general picture of what digestive wellness really looks and feels like. As you read, think about your own symptoms and how frequent they are as a comparison.
After you eat you should feel comfortably satisfied but not bloated, stuffed or gassy. If you frequently feel extremely full after meals, you might be eating too quickly or eating too much during one meal (learn how to gauge your true hunger and fullness signals here). Taking the time to chew your food slowly will help your body tell your brain when you've had enough. Eating quickly can also force air into your stomach, which can lead to uncomfortable gas.
Food should help you feel good. It's not normal to experience burning in your chest or abdomen (a sign of heartburn or GERD, a hiatal hernia or an ulcer) or any kind of nausea. Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as certain medications can cause food to stay in your stomach too long, which can make you feel queasy; food intolerances can cause similar symptoms.
Eating makes you feel energetic, not sluggish or lethargic. If you feel more tired after meals that you're eating too much food in general, as a big meal diverts a lot of energy from other bodily processes in order to digest it. Feeling sluggish, unable to concentrate, and experiencing headaches can also occur because of an unhealthy balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates in your diet.
When you lie down, you should be able to relax easily. It is not normal for food or stomach acid to leave your stomach or cause a burning sensation in the back of your throat just because you're lying down. This can be a sign of acid reflux.