Improve Digestion Naturally – A Quick and Easy Guide!
We all face some sort of digestive issues every now and then. Unfortunately, we have come to assume heartburn, nausea, gas or constipation as a modern lifestyle hazard. But, if these symptoms occur frequently, then it can start affecting the quality of our life. Digestive problems are preventable and can be easily relieved by modifying our diet and lifestyle. Read on to know how to improve digestion!
Why Healthy Digestion is Important?
Digestive problems usually occur with pain, heartburn, heaviness, early satiety and swelling. Some incorrect lifestyle habits such as insufficient chewing, eating hastily, lack of exercise, stress and eating junk food cause a greater difficulty for our digestive health.
Without a healthy, well-functioning digestive tract, your body is unable to absorb the nutrients from the food you are eating. Without sufficient nutrition, you will invariably experience diseases. The digestive system not only processes all your food, but also all of your daily emotions and thoughts. In fact, our gut produces more than 90% of the body’s serotonin as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine. Furthermore, our intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters identical to those found in the brain. These neurotransmitters regulate mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, mental functioning, and other essential body processes. Thus, maintaining a healthy and well-functioning digestive system is extremely important.
How to Improve Digestion Naturally?
Follow these dietary and lifestyle habits to improve your digestion:
Chew Food Thoroughly and Listen to your Body
The process of digestion begins in the mouth. The act of chewing food mixes it with our saliva. The saliva contains several digestive enzymes that break down the food even before it reaches our stomach. Therefore, chewing your foods thoroughly aids in better digestion and prevents digestive issues.
Moreover, it takes roughly 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you have eaten enough. Though there is no hard science behind this, it does take for hormones released during food consumption to reach the brain.
Additionally, binge eating does negatively impact your digestion. Studies suggest that when people eat under anxiety, they experienced higher levels of indigestion and bloating.
Maintain Body Weight
Eating the right foods makes it easier for your body to digest meals and absorb nutrients. It also helps you achieve a healthy body weight, which is essential for maintaining good digestive health. Excess abdominal fat puts pressure on your stomach and can cause heartburn. Losing weight may relieve digestive symptoms such as heartburn and other acid-related stomach disorders. Additionally, obesity has been linked to a number of digestive problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hemorrhoids, and even esophageal cancer.
We are 70% water. Water is the elixir of life. Hydrating allows our body to flush out harmful bacteria and toxins in the gut through urine and stool. Less fluid in the body affects waste elimination and the proper functioning of the gut.
Water is the driving force that expels wastes from the body, keeping the gut clean and healthy. Try to develop the habit of drinking plenty of water for a well-functioning gut.
Stress hormones directly affect your digestion. Stress can slow down digestion causing bloating, pain and constipation in some people, whereas in others it may cause diarrhea. Some people might lose their appetite completely. When the body is under stress, blood and energy are diverted away from the digestive system.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, your gut and brain are intricately connected. What affects your brain may also impact your digestion. Thus, managing stress is important for good digestive health. Try deep belly breathing, meditation or yoga, to improve not only your mindset but also your digestion.
Regular exercise helps improve your digestion. Getting regular exercise can keep your digestive tract healthy. Resultingly, your body is better equipped to ward off constipation, irritable bowel diseases and other problems such as weight gain and stress.
A study conducted on 10 healthy individuals showed that cycling or jogging increased gut transit time by nearly 30%. Thus, try to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity for most days of the week.
When you eat sweet foods, the sugar present in it reaches into your bloodstream. This can spike your blood sugar levels. In order to maintain normal blood sugar levels, the pancreas secretes insulin, which transports the excess sugar out of your bloodstream.
But, excess consumption of sugars can stress the pancreas. The pancreas is critical for healthy digestion as it releases a number of vital digestive enzymes that break down foods as they enter the intestines. Consistently eating sugary or sweet foods can greatly diminish its ability to produce enzymes and cause digestive issues.
Eat Enough Fiber
Foods high in fiber improves digestion by keeping your bowel movements soft and regular. As a result, it helps prevent constipation. Examples of fiber-rich foods are whole-wheat bread, brown rice, beans, oats, and certain fruits and vegetables.
Cut Down on Fat
Fatty foods stimulate contractions in the digestive tract, which can either slow down bowel movements and worsen constipation, or speed up movement, leading to diarrhea. Unhealthy fatty foods, such as chips, burgers and other fried foods can cause stomach pain and heartburn.
However, it is important to include healthy fats in your diet. Foods rich in omega-3 enhances the absorption of certain nutrients as well as reduces inflammation of the intestine and colon. Foods high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines and seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds as well as nuts.
Develop a sleep routine!
Sleep is of prime importance to be able to function properly. A person can live without food for one week but not even 2 days without sleep! Our body functions to the rhythm of a clock inside us called the circadian rhythm. Therefore, disrupting this rhythm can have a serious impact on our gut.
Studies have shown that less sleep can lead to a decrease in beneficial gut bacteria and a significant decrease in insulin sensitivity. Try to prioritize getting at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep for a healthy gut.
Improve your bathroom posture
The way we sit to attend nature’s call may be causing way more problems than we realize. Turns out that the old ways of the humble “Indian toilet” had a lot of science behind it. Increasingly, research (and age-old evidence) point out that squatting while using the bathroom is not only natural and efficient, but it may also help us in avoiding common digestive issues (and even bigger health hazards in the long run).
Interestingly, the solution is merely to squat rather than to sit like many of us do today. Word of caution for pregnant women and for folks who aren’t strong natural squatters. Being comfortable is the key here. To effectively do so, either you can use a Squatty Potty or simply use a small stool or an upside-down bucket
What are some foods that can improve digestion?
Here we list out some foods that can improve digestion.
- Gentian root: It stimulates the secretion of bile and stomach acids that promote digestion.
- Licorice Root: It has remarkable digestive, anti-inflammatory and protective properties for the intestinal mucosa.
- Aniseed: Aniseeds retain the ability to inhibit fermentation processes and reduce contractions of the smooth muscles of the intestine, enhancing digestive functions. Fennel and coriander seeds are also good for digestion.
- Yogurt: It is one of the best sources of probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that can improve your gut health. Probiotics ease digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
- Peppermint: Peppermint contains a compound called menthol, which may ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating, stomach discomfort and bowel movement problems.
- Banana: Banana is a rich source of fiber that aids in digestion. It also restores normal bowel movements especially if you’re suffering from diarrhea.
- Artichoke: Artichokes contain the phytochemical cynarin, which aids in digestion by stimulating bile production and also has detoxifying properties.
Additionally, it is important to pay attention to certain food combinations. To avoid problems after meals it would be advisable not to combine meat, fish and eggs, or even cheese and meat. This is because one single concentrated protein per meal is easier to digest and won’t require as much energy compared to protein combinations. Even cereals or other starchy foods should never be accompanied by tomatoes or fruit juices. Tomatoes or any other acidic fruits can destroy the enzyme that is responsible for digesting starches present in cereal.
Digestive problems can be embarrassing to talk about but are absolutely natural and almost everyone suffers through it at some point. Simple dietary and lifestyle modifications may help you improve digestion. Mindful eating, stress reduction and sufficient physical activity are not only essential for maintaining good digestive health but also overall well-being.