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Having good digestion is essential for overall health and well-being. It ensures that the nutrients from the food we eat are properly absorbed by our bodies, while waste is efficiently eliminated.
If you’re looking to improve your digestion naturally, this article provides you with 11 effective ways to optimize your digestive system and promote better gut health.
By incorporating these practices into your lifestyle, you can experience improved digestion and overall vitality.
1. Eat whole foods
Whole foods are minimally processed, rich in nutrients, and linked to a wide range of health benefits.
On the other hand, the highly-processed foods found in a typical Western diet are often high in refined carbs, saturated fat, and food additives. Processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of developing digestive disorders (1).
Food additives, including glucose, salt and other chemicals, have been suggested to contribute to increased gut inflammation.
Some processed foods may contain harmful trans fats. In the past, most of the trans fats found in processed foods came from partially-hydrogenated oils.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned partially-hydrogenated oils in 2018, small amounts of trans fats may still be found in processed foods (3).
It’s important to read the labels on processed foods to be sure they’re free of trans fats. These fats are well-known for their negative effects on heart health but have also been associated with an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (4).
What’s more, processed foods like low-calorie drinks and ice creams often contain low-calorie or no-calorie sugar substititutes. Some of these sweeteners may cause digestive problems.
Sugar alcohols such as xylitol and erythritol are sugar substitutes that can cause bloating and diarrhea. One study found that eating 50 grams of xylitol led to bloating and diarrhea in 70% of people, while 75 grams of erythritol caused the same symptoms in 60% of people
2. Avoid late-night meals
Late-night meals can disrupt your digestive system and lead to discomfort. When you eat close to bedtime, your body’s digestive processes slow down, making it harder for your stomach to properly break down food.
This can result in indigestion, acid reflux, or disrupted sleep. To support healthy digestion, try to finish your last meal or snack at least two to three hours before bedtime(5).
3. Stay hydrated
Your total fluid intake comes from plain water, other beverages, and foods you eat. Experts recommend drinking plenty of water each day to make sure you are getting as much fluid as you need without extra sugar and calories.
You may need more water than usual if you’re in a warm climate or exercise strenuously, and when you’re feeling sick (8).
In addition to water, you can also meet your fluid intake with herbal teas and other non-caffeinated beverages such as seltzer water.
Another way to help meet your fluid intake needs is to include fruits and vegetables that are high in water, such as cucumber, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, apples, and oranges (9).
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise not only benefits your physical fitness but also plays a crucial role in improving digestion.
Exercise helps reduce stress, which can have a negative impact on your digestive system. Additionally, physical activity increases blood flow to the digestive tract, promoting better nutrient absorption and waste elimination.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, most days of the week to support optimal digestion.(10)
5. Eat slowly
When you’re not paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues, it’s easy to overeat and experience gas, bloating and indigestion.
It’s a commonly held belief that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full.
While there’s not a lot of hard science to back up this claim, it does take time for hormones released by your stomach in response to food to reach your brain (11).
Therefore, taking the time to eat slowly and pay attention to how full you’re getting is one way to prevent common digestive problems.
6. Reduce stress
Chronic stress can take a toll on your digestive system, leading to issues such as indigestion, bloating, or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Finding effective ways to manage and reduce stress is crucial for maintaining optimal digestion.
Engaging in activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help relax your body and mind, promoting better digestion.
Prioritize self-care and incorporate stress-reducing practices into your daily routine(12).
7. Consume Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut and play a key role in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
They help break down food, enhance nutrient absorption, and support a balanced gut microbiome. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, can help replenish and diversify the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Alternatively, you can opt for high-quality probiotic supplements to support your digestive health.
8. Take Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes assist in breaking down complex food molecules into smaller, more easily digestible forms.
They can be particularly beneficial if you have a deficiency in natural enzyme production or experience digestive issues.
Digestive enzyme supplements, available in various forms, can help enhance the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, promoting better nutrient absorption and reducing digestive discomfort.
9. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are often laden with unhealthy fats, sugars, and high levels of sodium. These additives can disrupt the natural balance of your digestive system and contribute to digestive issues.
To improve digestion, minimize your consumption of processed foods and opt for whole, unprocessed alternatives. Focus on nutrient-dense options that support optimal gut health.
10. Consume Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber is an essential component for maintaining healthy digestion. It adds bulk to your stool, promotes regular bowel movements, and supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Include fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet.
These foods provide both soluble and insoluble fiber, offering a range of digestive benefits, including improved bowel regularity and enhanced nutrient absorption.
11. Drink Herbal Tea
Certain herbal teas have been used for centuries to support digestion and alleviate digestive discomfort. Ginger tea, for example, has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe the stomach.
Chamomile tea is known for its calming effects and can ease indigestion or bloating. Sipping on these herbal teas after meals can be a pleasant and effective way to support your digestive system naturally.
Taking care of your digestive health is vital for your overall well-being. By implementing these 11 natural strategies, you can significantly improve your digestion and optimize your gut health.
Remember to focus on eating whole foods, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and managing stress effectively.
Additionally, incorporating probiotics, digestive enzymes, and fiber-rich foods into your diet can enhance your digestive processes.
Lastly, enjoy the soothing benefits of herbal teas to support your digestive system naturally. Embrace these practices, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier digestive system.