How To Improve Digestion Naturally
Have you ever considered the work your digestive system does on a daily basis? It’s responsible for breaking down the food you eat into usable subunits that can be absorbed and used by your body’s cells. When things get out of balance, it can be difficult to get your digestive system back on track.
Let’s dive into some common digestive issues and explore some tips to help improve your gut health through diet, lifestyle changes and supplements.
Common Digestive Issues
Many of us have experienced digestive discomfort at some point in our lives. In fact, a representative survey found that roughly 60 percent of respondents reported experiencing at least one GI related problem including symptoms such as bloating, constipation and heartburn. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your digestive health and alleviate these issues.
Let’s take a closer look at the most common digestive issues and discuss actionable tips to support your digestive health.
Constipation is a condition in which food travels through your digestive tract at a slowed rate, specifically in your colon. One of the colon's main functions is to reabsorb water from your stool.
When it takes longer to pass through the colon, it can cause the stool to become dehydrated, hard, clumpy and difficult to pass. This can lead to less frequent bowel movements, cramping, abdominal discomfort or even pain.
A wide variety of things, including a diet low in soluble fiber, dehydration and underlying health conditions, can cause constipation.
Bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels full and tight. Bloat tends to be caused by excessive air in the digestive tract, and it can cause a significant amount of discomfort. Gas is a byproduct of healthy digestion, but bloating occurs when gas gets stuck in the GI tract.
Bloating can be caused by swallowing too much air when eating quickly, indigestion, an imbalance of gut bacteria in the microbiome of the GI tract or even underlying health conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Diarrhea is a condition characterized by loose, watery stools that occur more frequently. Essentially, diarrhea is the inverse of constipation, in which the stool is not kept in the colon long enough to help reabsorb water.
Diarrhea can significantly impact your ability to perform day-to-day tasks and can predispose you to dehydration if you are not constantly drinking water to replace lost fluids in your stool.
Ways To Improve Digestion Through Diet
If you’re experiencing digestive symptoms, it’s a sign that your gut needs some TLC. Here are some dietary tweaks you can make to promote healthy digestion.
Consume More Fiber
Fiber is a crucial component of promoting a healthy digestive process. There are two main forms of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both forms of fiber play an important role in supporting optimal digestion, but they do different things in the GI tract.
Soluble fiber is a form of fiber that the digestive tract can break down. Soluble fiber can help lessen blood sugar spikes, help lower cholesterol and act as a source of nutrition for the bacteria that inhabit your gut.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber remains intact through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber acts as a roughage and can help to prevent constipation and certain gastrointestinal disorders. This form of fiber helps retain water in stool which can help mitigate symptoms of constipation.
Making decisions like choosing whole grains over highly refined options can help increase your fiber intake, which can benefit your digestion.
Increase Your Consumption of Water
Water is more than just a thirst quencher. It’s a vital component in supporting your overall wellness. Our bodies are made up of mostly water, and it plays a crucial role in keeping our GI tract and other organ systems healthy and functioning optimally.
Drinking plenty of water is important for your GI tract as it helps to lubricate the movement of digested material through the digestive tract.
Avoid Foods You Are Sensitive To
Another strategy you can try in your diet is to avoid foods you may be sensitive to. Every person's digestive system responds slightly differently to certain foods. If you constantly deal with digestive problems, it may be a good idea to take a closer look at the foods you eat to determine if you have a food intolerance or sensitivity.
One common scenario is lactose intolerance. If your body cannot digest lactose, attempt to steer clear of products containing dairy. Instead, try an enzyme supplement such as lactase to avoid any GI upset. Similarly, eating too many fried foods can be hard on your stomach, so opting for healthier alternatives can benefit your digestive system.
Consume Probiotic Foods
The field of gastroenterology is continuously growing, and a more recent field of study has been geared toward investigating the beneficial relationship that the gut has with bacteria. The intestines are home to trillions of bacteria of all different species. The microbes that inhabit your GI tract may make a real difference in your gastrointestinal health and overall health.
From a dietary perspective, there are several foods you can consume with live cultures that may help support healthy gut health and flora. Some of these fermented foods or foods with live cultures include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi.
Additionally, probiotic supplements can also provide these essential healthy bacteria. Of course, it’s always wise to consult your doctor (as well as a dietitian or nutritionist) before implementing any supplement.
Limit Consumption of Red Meat
Red meat has traditionally been a part of the American western diet, but overconsumption of red meat may not be ideal for your overall health. General World Cancer Research guidelines state you should limit your consumption to three 12-ounce portions of red meat or less a week.
A great way to help you with this transition is to eat more lean meat and other protein sources or dedicate one day a week as a vegetarian day.
Ways To Improve Digestion Through Lifestyle Changes
Many people solely focus on their diet to support their digestive health. Still, there are also several lifestyle modifications you can do to help support your overall health and digestive health.
Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can harm the body and your digestive health. If you are a smoker, you may want to consider quitting to better support your overall health. Drinking in moderation can help your GI tract by not placing it under as much stress.
Chronic mismanaged stress can contribute to digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation. Learning effective coping strategies and minimizing your stress level may allow you to lower your elevated cortisol levels, which can help your overall health and digestive health.
The digestive system works to fuel your body, and staying active ensures your body puts all of those nutrients to good work. Physical activity may help to reduce the risk of diverticulitis, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Supplements That Can Help Improve Digestion Naturally
Taking care of your overall health is a tried and true method for improving digestion, and many people opt to take supplements on their health and wellness journey.
Give your digestive system the boost it needs with these supplement formulas to support your gut health.
This supplement contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria that can help to support healthy digestion, the immune system, and more regular bowel movements. Taking a probiotic like Probiotic+ from JSHealth Vitamins may reestablish a good balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which can benefit your GI tract and overall health.
Detox + Debloat
This supplement contains natural ingredients such as milk thistle, fennel seed, and dandelion root that can help calm bloating while also acting as a natural detoxifier. The Detox + Debloat formulation also contains several other ingredients that can help support your digestive health and comfort.
Skin + Digestion
This supplement contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant powerhouses like ginger and turmeric that can help support healthy digestion and skin. Ginger can have a stomach-settling effect on the digestive tract to help soothe digestive discomfort.
The Bottom Line
Digestive issues can be uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily routine. Fortunately, there are natural ways to help your digestion through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation changes.
These can be great initial steps to help occasional gastrointestinal upset. Still, it is important to seek professional medical care if your GI problems are severely impacting your life or are happening on a recurrent basis, as it could indicate a potential underlying condition.
Burden of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in the United States: Results of a Nationally Representative Survey of Over 71,000 Americans | NCBI
Limit red and processed meat | WCRF International
Potential benefits and hazards of physical activity and exercise on the gastrointestinal tract | NCBI