Best Sitting Position for Digestion
By improving your posture, you can improve digestion because it maintains a healthy digestive system. Sitting or standing up requires your muscles and bones to adjust quickly to new positions. It takes longer for some parts of our body to do their job if we don’t maintain good posture while standing or sitting, such as digestion when we slouch.
As a general rule, the best sitting position for digestion is to sit as far back as possible on your seat. Make sure your feet are flat against the floor and that you are sitting up high enough so that you are not slouching. Your legs should not be crossed.
Not sitting in a healthy posture when eating can really slow your digestion down. Since I have worked as a chiropractor, ergonomic advisor, and ergonomic designer, I have encountered ways to help patients find comfortable eating and drinking positions.
Working professionals tend to spend most of their week sitting down. During a typical day, you spend about 13 hours sitting down. In other words, your intestines are in a constricted space for about half of the time every day. My goal is to review some research-based best practices on how to sit to make eating more comfortable.
Why Posture Is Important for Digestion
Sitting up straight is the easiest way to keep your digestion healthy and operating optimally. Your stomach and intestinal walls should contract through a series of coordinated movements called peristalsis, but when you slouch or take any other position that isn’t sitting up straight it nearly grinds to a complete halt.
When you slouch, the food in your digestive system can’t circulate properly. This means that it will start to decompose and those acids will become more concentrated which causes a lot of pain for people with acid reflux or ulcers. We are all experiencing this when there is not much room left in our abdominal area due to too much pressure.
In addition, your nervous system is accountable for regulating every aspect of your body, including your digestive system. Your stomach and intestines are in communication by a series of nerves that branch off the bottom of your spinal cord. Signals are sent between parts of the body by nerves, which are also essential for digestion, the passage of food through the intestinal tract, and the digestion of food.
Poor posture when eating can put pressure on your spine, which may affect how nerves function. A misaligned spine can result in bones pressing against nerves and pinching them. This will cause organs in your body to malfunction because of heartburn, digestive problems, and gas pains. The bottom line is that a poor diet combined with improper sitting habits could make you sick!
Is Sitting Bad for Digestion?
In order to function optimally, the human body needs to be on the move. I highlighted in my book Rethinking Posture in the Modern World that sitting too long can cause a wide range of health problems but its impact on gut health is more subtle.
The causes are quite straightforward- blood flow reduction and an increase in pressure on your digestive system- but the effects can be devastating:
- constipation which may lead to hemorrhoids
- After prolonged periods of sitting, stomach acid leaks into the intestines, causing diarrhea
- Eating is painful due to food not being moved far enough down the esophagus before being swallowed since the diaphragm is not pushing it down as efficiently as before.
Blood Flow Decreased
We experience slowed blood flow when we sit improperly for long periods of time, and the gut is just one of many affected systems. Sitting squeezes the organs and inhibits blood flow, as well as hindering bowel movement.
Several digestive health conditions have been associated with inactive behavior, including digestive disease. Inactivity can also cause constipation, which can lead to a number of problems if left untreated. I’ve written a complete hands-on review about why your stomach is flat until you sit down and here are some of the shocking issues that I ran into in this post!
Digestive Pressure Increased
If you are seated incorrectly when eating, you may experience heartburn as pressure on your abdomen will cause your stomach acid to flow into your esophagus. As well as this, the movement of the digestive tract is slowed when you slouch.
Which Posture Should You Do After Eating?
You should refrain from sitting for too long after eating too much food. This is as bad as eating too much. Sitting has the effect of compressing your abdomen which reduces digestion. It is believed that inadequate digestion of food is one leading cause of bloating, gas, and heartburn after eating.
The Best Sitting Position to Eat Food
Thankfully, poor or slouched posture is easily corrected. In this case, we want to reduce abdominal pressure.
Start with your seat angle. For most people, the front of the hips should be higher relative to the knees. Otherwise, it could result in elevated abdominal pressure as well as reduced circulation. Now, think about bending your knees at the right angle. The knees should be directly over the ankles to help alleviate nerves or circulation problems.
In spite of what you may have heard, abdominal pressure actually increases when you sit straight. Sound crazy, right? Let me explain how abdominal pressures are reduced. As you can see from the diagram below, spine and abdominal pressure decrease when your trunk-to-thigh ratio increases. As a result, your pelvis tilts forward, pushing down on your pelvic floor muscles, which leads to comparative negative pressure in your back and abdomen. I explain this concept on a TV show HERE!
When my patients have digestive problems while seated, a seat wedge cushion generally solves their problems. An ergonomically designed seat pillow can help relieve abdominal pressure, improving digestion by providing comfort and support. I was surprised how similar cheap memory foam seat cushions were on Aliexpress from the listing on Amazon!
If you want to improve digestion, maintaining good posture is a great place to start. The next time you have an important meeting or presentation and don’t feel like sitting at the conference table all day, try using one of these standing desks instead.
If you are into super easy and inexpensive alternatives to office chairs, I wrote a fantastic article on how and why you should consider these options for back pain and I encourage you to read it!
It’s also possible that your office chair isn’t ergonomically correct – which could be affecting how well your digestive system functions. I’ve compiled some helpful information on different types of chairs available as well as what makes them better than others in terms of supporting healthy digestion. For more useful guidance about ergonomic products visit my blog today!
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- Fowkes, F.G.R., Lee, A.J., Evans, C.J., Allan, P.L., Bradbury, A.W. and Ruckley, C.V., 2001. Lifestyle risk factors for lower limb venous reflux in the general population: Edinburgh Vein Study. International journal of epidemiology, 30(4), pp.846-852.