16 Apr 10 Natural Ways to Improve Your Digestion: Are You at Risk of Developing Digestive Disorders?
Occasional digestive troubles such as gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea are an inevitable part of life. When these symptoms occur often, they’re quite disruptive, but lifestyle and diet changes can help. Here are ten ways to improve digestion naturally.
Eat More Unprocessed Foods
The average person’s diet is high in additives, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat, all of which are linked to a higher risk of digestive disorders such as the leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, and bloating. Bacterial imbalances are linked to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and Crohn’s disease. Thankfully, research indicates that nutrient-rich diets protect against many of these digestive conditions. Eating a whole-food-based diet, reducing your consumption of processed foods, and using Terra Origin products may improve overall digestion.
Eat More Fiber
Most people already know that fiber improves digestion. Soluble fiber is remarkably absorbent, and it adds bulk to bowel movements, while insoluble fiber scrubs the digestive tract and keeps things moving. This type of fiber is found in seeds, nuts, legumes, and oat bran, while insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables. A fiber-rich diet is linked to a lower risk of digestive disorders such as hemorrhoids, acid reflux, IBS, and ulcers.
Add More Healthy Fats
Proper digestion may require an increase in fat intake. Fat increases feelings of satiety and is needed for the absorption of nutrients. Furthermore, studies show that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Foods rich in omega-3s include chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, sardines, mackerel, and salmon.
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Health and nutrition experts recommend drinking 50 to 66 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid per day to reduce the risk of constipation. However, those who exercise strenuously or live in warm climates may need more.
Along with plain water, it’s possible to meet that fluid intake recommendation with seltzer water, herbal teas, and moisture-rich veggies and fruits like zucchini, tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, peaches, and cucumber.
Manage Stress Effectively
As most of us already know, stress can affect the digestive system. Excess stress has been associated with diarrhea, stomach ulcers, IBS, and constipation, among other problems. Stress-related hormones affect digestion. When the body enters fight-or-flight mode, it believes there’s no time to relax or digest food. During high-stress periods, energy and blood are diverted from the digestive system. Additionally, there’s a strong connection between the brain and the gut, which means things that affect your state of mind will also affect digestion.
Meditation, stress management, and relaxation all work to improve symptoms in those with inflammation-related digestive disorders. Other research shows that yoga, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy can lessen digestive problems. The incorporation of stress management techniques will improve your digestion and your mindset.
Consume Foods Mindfully
It’s easy to eat excessively and quickly if you aren’t paying attention, and overconsumption may lead to indigestion, gas, and bloating. Mindful eating involves paying attention to all aspects of food and its ingestion. Numerous studies show that mindfulness may reduce the severity of symptoms in those with IBS and ulcerative colitis. To become more mindful:
- Eat slowly
- Focus on the meal by putting away electronics and turning off the TV
- Choose bites consciously
- Pay attention to the taste, temperature, and texture of the food
By eating more mindfully, you’ll naturally improve your digestion.
The digestive process starts in the mouth. Your teeth grind food into small pieces so digestive enzymes can break it down more effectively. When food is chewed thoroughly, your stomach will find it easier to turn it into the liquid that works its way into the small intestine.
Chewing creates saliva, and the more food is chewed, the more saliva is available to jump-start the digestive process. In the stomach, saliva mixes with solid foods, allowing them to pass into the intestines more smoothly. Proper chewing may prevent heartburn, indigestion, and other symptoms.
Move More Often
Frequent exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve digestion. Studies indicate that exercise helps to reduce symptoms of IBS and other inflammatory digestive disorders. Gravity and exercise help foods work their way through the digestive tract. Therefore, a gentle after-dinner walk will help the body move things along.
Listen to Your Body and Take Things Slowly
When you don’t pay attention to satiety and hunger cues, it’s easy to overindulge and suffer from symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, and gas. It’s a widely held belief that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to recognize that the stomach is indeed full.
While there’s little evidence to back this claim, it does take some time for the stomach to secrete food-responsive hormones and for those hormones to reach the brain. Therefore, eating slowly and paying attention to how you feel is an easy way to minimize the risk of digestive issues.
Get Rid of Bad Habits
You probably already know that excess alcohol consumption, smoking, and overeating aren’t so good for your health. Unfortunately, these habits are also responsible for some of the most common digestive problems. For instance:
- Smoking increases the risk of acid reflux by almost 100% while making users more susceptible to ulcers and gastrointestinal cancers. Quitting smoking may help to reduce digestive issues.
- Overconsumption of alcohol increases the production of stomach acid, which leads to acid reflux, heartburn, and ulcers. Alcohol is also linked to IBS, leaky gut, and other problems, but cutting back may improve these symptoms.
- Late-night snacking before bed can cause indigestion and heartburn. Digestion takes time, and gravity keeps food moving in the proper direction. If you encounter these issues, try not to eat at least three to four hours before bedtime.
Smoking, drinking, and overindulgence can all lead to digestive issues. To improve them, minimize or eliminate these undesirable habits.
Simple lifestyle and diet changes may improve digestion in those experiencing chronic, frequent, or occasional symptoms. Eating a balanced diet rich in healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients is an important step toward better digestion. Practices such as exercise, stress reduction, and mindful eating may also help. Finally, eliminating bad habits such as overconsumption of alcohol, smoking, and late-night snacking will improve overall health. With these tips, you’ll enjoy better digestion before you know it.
Editors’ note: Please discuss your digestive symptoms and gastrointestinal health with your health care provider.
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Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD