10 Easy Ways to Naturally Improve Your Digestion
Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.
The list of possible digestive ailments is long and extensive—heartburn, upset stomach, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowels, and Crohn's Disease are just a few examples. Anything that goes into the body eventually comes out, and a bumpy journey along the way is a common source of stress, even in mild forms. The good news is that there are plenty of natural methods you can employ at home to better improve your digestive functions and enjoy your meals without worrying about what happens after you swallow.
1. Get the Good Bacteria
Probiotic bacteria live in your intestines and ease the digestive process by battling intruding competitors and producing enzymes that help process food. Sometimes, whether as a result of natural factors or a side effect of medication, the number of gut bacteria can decrease to levels that negatively impact your digestion. Replenishing your gut bacteria levels can be a big help in improving your digestion. Probiotic bacteria can be found in yogurt or as supplements. They are even present in pineapples or papayas.
2. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is not absorbable by the body. It goes in and out, dragging along other waste products on its journey. Fiber has two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps your stool retain water. This makes them softer, larger, and overall easier to pass. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and speeds up its passage through the intestine. Fiber supplements exist, but there are plenty of dietary sources that can also be used. Pears, apples, broccoli, carrots, lentils, peas, whole grains, peanuts, and sunflower seeds all contain large amounts of fiber and this is hardly an exhaustive list.
3. Bone Broth
"Bone broth" is any soup that contains gelatin stock. Gelatin contains a large number of various minerals and amino acids that help the digestive tract. The gelatin itself also has a soothing property for the intestines and helps optimize nutrient absorption. Natural gelatin powders can be purchased at the store, but bone broth can also be made using beef, bison, lamb, or chicken bones either from leftovers or a local butcher. The key part is ensuring the gelatin content is present; once that happens, you are free to customize the soup as you wish with vegetables, meat, fish, or spices.
4. Try Some Fats
Considering how often they are demonized, it may seem odd to be recommending fats as a way to improve digestion. In fact, it's often encouraged that people with constipation avoid fats and protein in place of fiber. This is a perfectly valid strategy, but not everyone can digest fiber easily. For these people, fat can be a good source of something slippery that can help stool glide along. It's important to be reasonable in your fat intake. First, focus on the good fats, like those in coconut oil, fish, or olive oil. Second, maintain some prudence. Excess fat can cause diarrhea and you don't want to replace one problem with another.
Food moves through the body by means of a series of muscle contractions called peristalsis. While capable of guiding food along under almost any condition, it can run into trouble. Being sedentary and immobile slows down the digestive process and places more strain on your gut to get food moving. This can exacerbate indigestion and constipation. On the other hand, movement is an easy fix for such a problem. The combination of gravity and cardio helps improve digestive functions and get things moving.
6. Chew Gum to Ease Reflux
Gastric reflux is when stomach acid makes its way upwards into the esophagus. Chewing gum, interestingly enough, is a known method for easing this digestive issue and helps through two main mechanisms. The first is that gum promotes saliva production and saliva works as a buffer against acids. Secondly, chewing gum makes you swallow more. The swallowing not only helps force acids out of your esophagus and back into the stomach, but the extra saliva helps wash out any acid that remains. Just be sure not to swallow the gum itself and you'll be set.
7. Loosen Up and Straighten Out
Skin-tight jeans, pulled belts and other types of restrictive clothing can put pressure on the abdomen. While it won't cause any serious health problems, this pressure can make digestion more difficult. Additionally, compressing the stomach can end up forcing acid into your throat and create heartburn.
Similarly, poor posture when sitting or lying down can increase abdominal pressure. The compression can also affect your intestines and further indigestion problems. You don't need perfect poise, but try to keep your back straight when sitting and keep the upper body elevated when lying down.
8. Eat More Slowly
Even if the food you're eating is healthy, shoveling it down too quickly can put extra strain on your stomach and intestines and cause cramps or indigestion. This is because of both the extra volume of food and the fact that eating quickly usually means you don't chew as thoroughly. Your stomach has trouble digesting "chunkier" items and this can sometimes result in partially-undigested food getting into the intestines to cause bloating and stomach pain. Additionally, eating quickly can result in "swallowed air," a cause of abdominal bloating, discomfort, and flatulence.
9. Drink More Water (Maybe)
Your body uses water for a number of different things, but in digestion its role is to help move food through the intestinal tract. Too little water can result in indigestion, bloating, and constipation as the body deals with digestive matter and stool that is too dry and firm to move effectively. It's important to keep in mind that water can only improve your digestion if you aren't getting enough of it. Drinking too much water can result in abdominal bloating or diarrhea, so balance is important.
10. Track What You Eat
For some people, digestive troubles are triggered by certain foods. Maybe spicy meals give you heartburn, carbonated sodas make you gassy, or grains make your bowels quiver. If you suspect a certain part of your diet is the cause, start tracking what you eat and comparing it to what problems you experience and when. Should a correlation be found, you can try removing the offending food to see if your symptoms improve.