The 7 Best Ways to Improve Your Digestion Naturally

Everyone experiences occasional digestive symptoms such as upset stomach, gas, heartburn, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.

However, when these symptoms occur frequently, they can cause major disruptions to your life.

Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your gut health.

Here are 11 evidence-based ways to improve your digestion naturally.

1. Eat Real Fo

Everyone experiences occasional digestive symptoms such as upset stomach, gas, heartburn, nausea, constipation or diarrhea.

However, when these symptoms occur frequently, they can cause major disruptions to your life.

Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your gut health.

Here are 11 evidence-based ways to improve your digestion naturally.

1. Eat Real Food


The typical Western diet — high in refined carbs, saturated fat, and food additives — has been linked to an increased risk of developing digestive disorders (1Trusted Source).

Food additives, including glucose, salt, and other chemicals, have been suggested to contribute to increased gut inflammation, leading to a condition called leaky gut (2Trusted Source).

Trans fats are found in many processed foods. They’re well-known for their negative effects on heart health but have also been associated with an increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (3Trusted Source).

What’s more, processed foods like low-calorie drinks and ice creams often contain artificial sweeteners, which may cause digestive problems.

One study found that eating 50 grams of the artificial sweetener xylitol led to bloating and diarrhea in 70% of people, while 75 grams of the sweetener erythritol caused the same symptoms in 60% of people (4Trusted Source).

Studies also suggest that artificial sweeteners may increase your number of harmful gut bacteria (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Gut bacteria imbalances have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (7Trusted Source).

Fortunately, scientific evidence suggests that diets high in nutrients protect against digestive diseases (8Trusted Source).

Therefore, eating a diet based on whole foods and limiting the intake of processed foods may be best for optimal digestion.

Summary Diets high in
processed foods have been linked to a higher risk of digestive disorders.
Eating a diet low in food additives, trans fats and artificial sweeteners may
improve your digestion and protect against digestive diseases.

2. Get Plenty of Fiber

It’s common knowledge that fiber is beneficial for good digestion.

Soluble fiber absorbs water and helps add bulk to your stool. Insoluble fiber acts like a giant toothbrush, helping your digestive tract keep everything moving along (9Trusted Source).

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

A high-fiber diet has been linked to a reduced risk of digestive conditions, including ulcers, reflux, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and IBS (10Trusted Source).

Prebiotics are another type of fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Diets high in this fiber have been shown to reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel conditions (8Trusted Source).

Prebiotics are found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Summary A high-fiber diet
promotes regular bowel movements and may protect against many digestive
disorders. Three common types of fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber, as well
as prebiotics.

3. Add Healthy Fats to Your Diet

Good digestion may require eating enough fat. Fat helps you feel satisfied after a meal and is often needed for proper nutrient absorption.

Additionally, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease your risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis (3Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

Foods high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts), as well as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Summary Adequate fat intake improves the absorption of some fat-soluble nutrients. What’s more, omega-3 fatty acids reduce
inflammation, which may prevent inflammatory bowel diseases.

4. Stay Hydrated

Low fluid intake is a common cause of constipation (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

Experts recommend drinking 50–66 ounces (1.5–2 liters) of non-caffeinated fluids per day to prevent constipation. However, you may need more if you live in a warm climate or exercise strenuously (15Trusted Source).

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, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, melons, strawberries, grapefruit and peaches (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Summary Insufficient fluid
intake is a common cause of constipation. Increase your water intake by
drinking non-caffeinated beverages and eating fruits and vegetables that have a
high water content.

5. Manage Your Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

It has been associated with stomach ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, and IBS (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

Stress hormones directly affect your digestion. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it thinks you don’t have time to rest and digest. During periods of stress, blood and energy are diverted away from your digestive system.

Additionally, your gut and brain are intricately connected — what affects your brain may also impact your digestion (20Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

Stress management, meditation, and relaxation training have all been shown to improve symptoms in people with IBS (24Trusted Source).

Other studies have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and yoga have improved digestive symptoms (25Trusted Source).

Therefore, incorporating stress management techniques, such as deep belly breathing, meditation, or yoga, may improve not only your mindset but also your digestion.

Summary Stress negatively impacts your digestion and has
been linked to IBS, ulcers, constipation and diarrhea. Reducing stress can
improve digestive symptoms.

6. Eat Mindfully

It’s easy to eat too much too quickly if you’re not paying attention, which can lead to bloating, gas and indigestion.

Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to all aspects of your food and the process of eating (26).

Studies have shown that mindfulness may reduce digestive symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis and IBS (27Trusted Source).

To eat mindfully:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Focus on your food by turning off your TV and putting away your
    phone.
  • Notice how your food looks on your plate and how it smells.
  • Select each bite of food consciously.
  • Pay attention to the texture, temperature, and taste of your
    food.

Summary Eating slowly and
mindfully and paying attention to every aspect of your food, such as texture,
temperature and taste, may help prevent common digestive issues such as
indigestion, bloating and gas.

7. Chew Your Food

Digestion starts in your mouth. Your teeth break down the food into smaller pieces so that the enzymes in your digestive tract are better able to break it down.

Poor chewing has been linked to decreased nutrient absorption (28Trusted Source).

When you chew your food thoroughly, your stomach has to do less work to turn the solid food into the liquid mixture that enters your small intestine.

Chewing produces saliva, and the longer you chew, the more saliva is made. Saliva helps start the digestive process in your mouth by breaking down some of the carbs and fats in your meal.

In your stomach, saliva acts as a fluid, which is mixed with solid food so that it smoothly passes into your intestines.

Chewing your food thoroughly ensures that you have plenty of saliva for digestion. This may help prevent symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn.

What’s more, the act of chewing has even been shown to reduce stress, which may also improve digestion (29Trusted Source).

Summary Chewing food
thoroughly breaks it down so that it can be digested more easily. The act also
produces saliva, which is needed for proper mixing of food in your stomach.

8. Get Moving

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve your digestion.

Exercise and gravity help food travel through your digestive system. Therefore, taking a walk after a meal may assist your body in moving things along.

One study in healthy people showed that moderate exercise, such as cycling and jogging, increased gut transit time by nearly 30% (30Trusted Source).

In another study in people with chronic constipation, a daily exercise regimen including 30 minutes of walking significantly improved symptoms (31Trusted Source).

Additionally, studies suggest that exercise may reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases due to anti-inflammatory effects, such as decreasing inflammatory compounds in your body (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

Summary Exercise may improve
your digestion and reduce symptoms of constipation. It can also help reduce
inflammation, which may be beneficial in preventing inflammatory bowel
conditions.

9. Slow Down and Listen to Your Body

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 (33).

Therefore, taking the time to eat slowly and pay attention to how full you’re getting is one way to prevent common digestive problems.

Additionally, emotional eating negatively impacts your digestion. In one study, people who ate when they were anxious experienced higher levels of indigestion and bloating (34Trusted Source).

Taking the time to relax before a meal may improve your digestive symptoms.

Summary Not paying attention
to your hunger and fullness cues and eating when you’re emotional or anxious
can negatively impact digestion. Taking time to relax and pay attention to your
body’s cues may help reduce digestive symptoms after a meal.

best way to improve your digestion naturally

 

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