26/01/2022 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

13 Secret Tips to Improve your Digestion Naturally

Majority of people face one digestive problem or the other.This can be due to several factors and often the solutions are simple & practical.Let’s discuss how to improve your digestion naturally.

13 Secret Tips to Improve your Digestion Naturally
Neeraja HNeeraja H

Neeraja H

MBBS, Medical Doctor

Table of Content

Introduction

  • It is not what we eat, but what we actually digest that makes us stronger and healthier.

  • In the fast world of today, people are not finding the time to have a relaxed meal where they can eat mindfully, savoring every bite. And as expected, this has led to plenty of digestive problems where the nourishment from the food we eat is not assimilated properly.

Infographic Nationwide gut health survey

Everyone experiences occasional digestive problems such as :

  1. Nausea & vomiting.

  2. Heartburn or reflux.

  3. Burping.

  4. Bloating.

  5. Constipation.

  6. Gas or flatulence.

  7. Diarrhea.

Occasional Digestive Problems
  • When these digestive issues occur frequently, it could result in significant disruptions in your daily life. So, it’s important to know certain ways to improve digestion naturally. Let's talk about certain tips for digestion improvement.

  • Reasons for indigestion: Before learning how to improve your digestive system’s functioning, it’s necessary to understand the reasons behind indigestion:

Reasons for Indigestion
  1. Over-eating.

  2. Taking heavy meals before sleeping.

  3. Stressful lifestyle.

  4. Lack of physical activity.

  5. Inadequate fiber in food.

  6. Not chewing the food properly before chewing.

  7. Frequent intake of junk food or fatty food.

  8. Food sensitivities or allergies.

  9. Infections due to unhygienic food.

  10. Imbalances in the natural micro-organism population of your intestine.

  11. Smoking and alcohol.

Now let’s look into a few digestion tips on how to improve your digestive system functioning naturally:

How to boost digestion naturally?

1. An organic diet

  • A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and additives , preservatives and synthetic coloring agents can be both dangerous to your health as well as lead to frequent digestive complaints.

  • So try to consume vegetables and fruits that are grown organically. Always check the food labels before consuming any processed or packaged foods.

  • Even if you follow an organic diet, important digestion tips to improve digestion would be to reduce the intake of caffeine, acidic foods like citrus fruits (lemons, oranges) or vinegar and other spices. This would help you to get rid of indigestion and to improve your digestion naturally.

 2. Say hello to a fiber-rich diet

  • These are important digestion tips on how to boost digestion naturally. Most of the plant- based foods are rich in fiber, for example, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, beans etc.

  • Having a fiber rich diet has plenty of advantages.

  • Firstly, they fill you up easily thereby helping you to satisfy your hunger with smaller portions, thereby helping in weight loss.

  • Also, fibers help move your food through your digestive system constantly thereby reducing incidence of constipation and improve your digestive system’s functioning in general.

  • Fibers absorb plenty of water, thereby maintaining hydration and avoiding constipation. This is important to remember because whenever you follow a high fiber diet, make sure to drink plenty of fluids to assist your fibers.

  • A Fiber rich diet makes defecating easier thereby preventing hemorrhoids or piles caused by straining at stools.

Different types of fibers:

  • There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble fibers.

  • Insoluble fibers as their name suggests, cannot be dissolved or digested, rather they help in increasing the bulk of the stools and keep the food moving. They are also called ‘roughage ‘.

  • Soluble fibers absorb plenty of water and give a solid consistency to the stools by preventing too watery stools.

  • Soluble fiber can be found in nuts, legumes, oat bran, and seeds, while wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables are good insoluble fiber sources.

3. How to digest fatty foods?

  • Fats are one of the most important components of our daily diet and let’s see how to optimize fat intake to boost digestion naturally.

  • Lipids in foods are not water-soluble, meaning they cannot be dissolved by the water we take and need special enzymes to improve digestion. These enzymes (called lipases) start the process of digesting fats right in the saliva and continue in the stomach and intestines.

  • Fats that are solid at room temperature like butter are harder for the body to digest. Hence foods rich in such solid fats may lead to more digestive problems. Also fast foods, fried foods, Tran’s fat and saturated fats are difficult to digest, hence causing more indigestion.

  • Few important tips for digestion, especially with respect to fats would be:

  1. try to consume a low-fat diet if you are repeatedly suffering from indigestion

  2. Replace unhealthy fats with healthier fat-rich foods like avocado, eggs, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines ; chia seeds and flax seeds which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids etc.

  • These healthier fats can actually lower your risks of getting inflammatory bowel disease. Remember these digestion tips for better digestion.

4. Stay Hydrated

  • This is one of the most important digestion tips on how to improve digestion naturally at home.

  • Experts propose drinking around 1.5–2 liters of non-caffeinated fluids every day to avoid constipating and to improve digestion. However, you may need to drink more fluids if you exercise vigorously or live in a warm climate.

  • Intake of an adequate amount of water can help to regulate your bowel movements and in breaking down foods into their basic components, thereby serving as the most natural and easiest way to improve digestion.

  • Further, dehydration could worsen peptic ulcers and acid reflux.

Stay Hydrated

 Is water the only solution for my hydration needs?

No! If you find drinking a lot of water uncomfortable, you can try few water-based alternatives:

Fluid rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber, peaches, tomatoes, melons, etc.

1. Organic, preservative-free fruit juices.

2. Decaffeinated drinks like herbal teas in moderation.

Remember these important tips for digestion to refine your metabolism.

5. Stress and Indigestion

  • Often, you must have experienced problems with your digestive system during stressful periods. Although stress may not directly cause stomach ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can worsen these conditions. So trying to evade stress is important to improve the digestive system.

  • During stress, the body’s stress response mechanism in your central nervous system gets activated, thereby releasing the stress hormones like adrenaline, and corticosteroids etc., these hormones cause affect the digestive system indirectly:

  1. They can increase the acid release in your stomach, worsening peptic ulcer.

  2. Can cause diarrhea or constipation.

  3. Can cause spasms of your esophagus, leading to severe pain and heartburn.

  4. During times of stress, your energy and blood are deflected away from your digestive system, thereby worsening digestion.

  • Meditation, regular exercise, stress management, Yoga, relaxation training can be tried to improve digestion. Even though it is easier said than done, remember to manage your stress levels as an essential digestion tip.

6. Eat Mindfully

  • It is easy to eat more than what you need if you are not paying attention to your food; this can lead to gas, bloating, and indigestion.

  • Mindful eating is the process of giving attention to all aspects of your meal and how you are eating. Studies suggest that mindful eating may reduce digestive problems in people with IBS and ulcerative colitis.

  • Tips for better digestion by mindful eating:

  1.  Eat slowly, savoring each bite.

  2. Put away your smartphone and turn off your TV while eating.

  3. Take time to admire how satisfying your food looks and how it smells.

  4. Consciously select each bite of your food.

  5. You must pay attention to your food's texture, temperature, and taste.

  6. Avoid heated conversations at the dining table.

7. Chew Your Food

  • This is one of the most proven ways to improve digestion naturally.

  • The process of digestion starts in the mouth. The food is broken down into smaller pieces by the teeth to help enzymes in the digestive tract break it down quickly. Poor chewing is linked to a lessened nutrient absorption. If you chew your meal thoroughly, your stomach has a lot less work to do in churning the solid food into the liquid form that reaches your small intestine.

  • Chewing your food completely assures that you have plenty of saliva for your digestion. It may help prevent issues such as heartburn and indigestion as saliva actually neutralizes the acid reflux.

8. Get Moving !

  • Exercise is another proven way to improve digestion naturally.

  • Exercising regularly is also one of the best means to boost your digestion. Thus, taking a 20-30 minute light walk after a meal may help your body improve its digestive system.

  • A study on healthy people demonstrated moderate workouts, such as jogging or cycling, increased digestion time by almost 30%. Why is it important to increase the duration of digestion of a meal? It is because, the more time the body takes to digest a meal, the more assimilation of the nutrients that could happen.

Get Moving
  • People suffering from chronic constipation showed that an everyday exercise routine and 30 minutes of walking remarkably improved symptoms. Regular exercise may lessen signs of inflammatory bowel disorders due to its anti-inflammatory effects, such as reducing inflammatory substances in your body.

  • Certain yoga asanas like Vajrasana (the arrow pose) have also been shown to improve digestion, when done after meals by channeling more blood to the intestines.

9. Listen to Your Body !

  • This is an essential thing to remember to improve your digestive system’s functioning.

  • It’s important to pay attention to your hunger cues. The next time your tummy rumbles, take food immediately. Never skip any meals as this can worsen any pre-existing indigestion problems. Further untimely meals mess up your body’s balance and metabolism leading to plenty of digestive problems.

  • Also, always make sure to notice when you feel full while eating a meal as overeating could cause bloating, discomfort and flatulence. An appropriate calorie intake will help improve your digestion.

10. Watch your habits

  • Unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol consumption and even untimely meals can worsen your digestive complaints.

  • Smoking and alcohol worsen acid reflux and peptic ulcer. They have also been linked with stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal cancers, and increased surgeries in people who are already having ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. If you suffer from digestive problems and also are someone who smokes or drinks, then know that quitting smoking and alcohol may help you to improve digestion and protect yourself from gastrointestinal cancers.

  • Late-Night Eating:  Eating meals late at night and then lying down immediately can cause reflux and heartburn. Your body requires proper time to digest, and gravity lets the food items you eat to be moving in the right direction. But, when you lie down right after eating, the contents of your stomach will rise and cause heartburn. So, next time try waiting 3 to 4 hours after having food before going to sleep, it will give food time to transit from your abdomen to your small intestine. Try to avoid eating just before going to bed to improve digestive system.

11. The friendly bacteria

  • Nowadays, you must be commonly hearing these terms ‘probiotics’ and ‘prebiotics ‘with regard to nutrition and diet.

  • Let’s talk about them briefly and how to utilize them to improve digestion.

  • Probiotics are certain living bacteria that are present in certain natural foods and in some supplements whereas prebiotics are the substances derived from certain carbohydrates and fibers which serve as the food for the probiotic bacteria.

Why are the natural gut bacteria important?

These tiny little fellas help the human body in several ways:

  1. They kill and protect you from the other harmful bacteria and fungi.

  2. They can synthesise vitamin K.

  3. They help in improving the local immunity of the gut.

  4. They help in forming short-chain fatty acids from the food we eat. These fatty acids act as nourishment for the cells lining the large intestine thereby helping in its repair and regeneration.

  5. These short -chain fatty acids formed by these natural gut bacteria also offer protection against colon cancer by reducing inflammation.

Probiotics and the healthy bacteria

What harms the natural gut bacteria?

There are certain habits that can destroy these natural bacteria and end up causing complications:

  1. Unnecessary antibiotic usage.

  2. Foods with lots of preservatives and pesticides.

  3. Obesity can alter it negatively.

  4. High sugar and high fat diet.

Try to avoid the above to improve the digestive system.

Natural sources of prebiotics:

Natural sources of prebiotics
  1. Onions.

  2. Bananas.

  3. Legumes and oats.

  4. Beans and peas.

  5. Bread.

Natural sources of probiotics:

Natural sources of probiotics
  1. Dark chocolate.

  2. Curd/ yogurt.

  3. Aged cheese.

  4. Paneer (cottage cheese).

  5. Idli and dosa.

  6. Dhokla.

  7. Achar or traditionally home-made pickles.

  8. Buttermilk.

  9. Apples etc.

  • These are some of the easily available and cheap prebiotic and probiotic sources in Indian cuisine.

  • Also nowadays several supplements are available for renewing your prebiotics and probiotics, both by prescription and over the counter.

12. Avoid fad diets

  • If you are someone who’s constantly bothered by indigestion and are following any fad diets, avoiding them or switching to a more suitable alternative diet plan may be helpful in improving digestion.

  • Fad diets like keto diet (high fat + low carb diet), intermittent fasting etc. may not be suitable for everyone and it’s necessary to receive professional advice before following them. These diets can affect the metabolism of the body and can easily cause indigestion. High fat diets can worsen reflux and peptic ulcer as they take longer to digest and stay in the stomach longer thereby stimulating more acid production. Also fats can make your esophagus open up frequently, worsening reflux.

13. Are you lactose intolerant?

Lactose is the natural sugar present in dairy products. Some people may be naturally intolerant to milk and milk products and may experience indigestion, diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence on consuming them. If you are one such person, you should take precautions to avoid lactose based foods and consult a dietician to advise you on alternative options.

When should you meet a doctor?

  • Since indigestion symptoms are quite common, people tend to ignore them and find some ways to manage them for the time being.

  • However, you should consult a doctor when:

  1. The complaints are persistent.

  2. Early fullness while eating.

  3. Severe pain in the upper abdomen.

  4. Loss of appetite.

  5. Unintentional weight loss.

  6. Tiredness or weakness.

  7. Difficulty in swallowing.

  8. Blood in vomit or stools.

  9. Black, tarry stools.

  10. Chest pain radiating to the jaw and arms (as this could either due to a severe ulcer or due a heart attack).

The above warning signs could point to a serious underlying issue, hence necessitating immediate medical attention.

Take home message

  • The proper functioning of the digestive system depends a lot on what we eat, how we eat and when we eat. It’s important to watch every bite that goes into your body to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

  • Simple diet and lifestyle transitions can effectively improve digestion, especially when you are experiencing digestive issues. Ditch bad habits that can influence your gut health. Try to keep your stress at bay to lower your chances of getting digestive issues due to excessive stress.


    Reference:

  • National Health Service

  • WebMD

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