The 10 Best Ways to Improve Digestion Naturally
Time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but we have to talk about poo. So get your giggles out now and put your browser in the private mode because this is an important conversation.
Digestion is a tricky topic. We’re forever trying to improve the natural order of our bodies; hence why you use google or read articles like this to source out the answers, rather than risk feeling embarrassed with friends.
The fact is, poor digestion causes other health issues like IBS, constipation or heartburn. To prevent these problems, here are 10 top tips to improve your digestion, without a trip to the doctors.
The digestive system is made up of 4 main organs: the digestive tract, the liver, the pancreas and the gallbladder. Connected to this system is the small and large intestines, which play a crucial role in the breakdown of food into nutrients and energy, and water is a necessary component during the whole process. Okay — enough science! The point is, in order for your body to work at its optimum level, avoid being dehydrated. This leads to backlog and causes constipation. All you need is eight glasses of water a day.
If you’re one of those people that just hates drinking water and struggles to hit the daily quota, try some warm fluids like herbal teas, coffee or sugar-free squash. Warm drinks will especially help clear your gut and improve the digestion rate — but be mindful that too much caffeine dehydrates you, as it’s a diuretic. If you need a reminder for agua, then download this app to help you track and set regular timers.
Fuel with fibre
One of the most crucial macronutrients for a healthy digestive flow is fibre, and it loosens the consistency of your stool. In all honesty, we don’t get enough of it. However, you can include some substitutions to get higher fibre into your diet with minimal effort. Try wholegrain alternatives (brown rice, wholemeal bread or pasta), which are approximately 75% higher in fibre! If you’re gluten intolerant, then consider quinoa or lentil pasta which is gluten-free.
You could also try increasing your portions of fruit and veg during the day too. I do appreciate that finance and food-shop anxiety might be affecting some households, so fruit and veg may not seem affordable. But you could buy frozen fruit and veg instead. This is much cheaper than fresh produce and will also have a longer shelf life — waste not, want not!
Try nature’s laxatives
A quick remedy to your digestive trouble is either prune juice or lemon juice. They contain sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that pulls water into the large intestine and loosens stool. You can make this a long-term solution by having a glass every morning with a meal. Strawberries are also a good option to help you stay hydrated, as they are high in water, antioxidants and fibre.
When we’re stressed or anxious, it affects the brain-gut connection; this puts a strain on our digestion, causing bloating, cramps and nausea. Even when you’re not eating, your body is working to digest; so if your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and adrenaline levels are constantly in overdrive, it can lead to diarrhoea or stomach aches. For better digestion, try to manage your stress and look into ways to stay calm. Mindfulness, meditation and even deep breathing can help you regain control.
Furthermore, inhaling your food and not chewing properly during your quick lunch breaks also disrupts a healthy tract. Instead, be mindful of how you eat and talk less during meals. Block out an appropriate amount of time to eat so your body is at peace.
Massage the tubes
A great way to help digestion and constipation is a self-abdominal massage, focusing on the intestines and colon area. This encourages bowel movement and helps to unclog the pipes (so to speak). This massage works by creating small circular motions with your hands around 6–8 times in one area, working clockwise from the outside towards the naval. Watch this quick video demonstrating the best technique.
A nationwide pandemic has meant we’re leading even more sedentary lives than normal, with the average step-count falling from 10,000 to 1,500 — ouch!. One of the side effects of this is a poorly functioning digestive system.
Fear not! You don’t need to start an extensive workout regime, but you should incorporate some light exercise into your daily routine. Walking, yoga, and even house cleaning can help your bowel movements (whilst also giving you a little cardio boost!)
A word of caution: avoid eating and exercising too close together. This also puts stress on the digestive system; so make sure you eat at least 30 minutes before running that marathon.
Better out than in
We can all learn from our friendly green ogre, Shrek. Some foods and drinks can make us a little gassy, and it’s not always a sweet-smelling situation. However, if you are feeling particularly flatulent, excuse yourself or find a private place where you can let it rip — holding it in causes a build-up of intestinal gas, leading to more embarrassing problems.
Similarly, resisting the urge to go can delay and slow digestion — as well as making you miss the opportunity to release toxins. Again, let’s break the stigma and just admit that we all have to poo, fart and burp! It’s natural.
No snooze, you lose
The majority of our digestive work is completed during sleeping hours. However, our sleep patterns are all over the shop! Trying to get into a new routine as well as control our thoughts and worries over lockdown is exhausting work. It’s recommended that you get between 7–9 hours of high-quality sleep to help the body function at its best. If you’re struggling to catch those Z’s, then read our previous article to create your perfect bedtime.
Now that we’re living in a virtual world, we’re spending over half our day using technology. So our screen-time has increased, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that you’re not sleeping well, right? That’s because blue light robs you of sleep, tricking your sleep-wake cycle; so keep your screens tucked away at least one hour before you go to sleep.
Mouthwash got your tongue
This is an odd one, but stop using mouthwash twice a day! It depletes your oral microbiomes which are essential for the production of enzymes and breaking down food.
Keep a food diary
Nutritional therapist Julia Davies advises that we journal and keep track of what we’re eating. She recommends logging this for 2 weeks, including types of foods ingested and any symptoms or weird sensations after eating them.
Some foods can actually cause discomfort, particularly dairy, meat or gluten. High-protein diets, in particular, can affect digestion and cause constipation. Sometimes protein can escape and get stuck in the colon, causing a toxin build-up.
Your daily diet and how you nourish your body plays the biggest role in a healthy digestive process. Over or under-eating, stress and sleep-hygiene are major factors; so it’s important to gain control over these lifestyle elements for successful results.
There’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining a healthy system; it can be quite overwhelming. But don’t worry — implementing these tips and getting friendly with your bowels will make things easier to digest…
Written by Naida Allen
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