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 Some 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. Food additives, including glucose, salt, and other chemicals, have been suggested to contribute to increased gut inflammation, leading to a condition called leaky gut 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. 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 Gut bacteria imbalances have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Fortunately, scientific evidence suggests that diets high in nutrients protect against digestive diseases
2. Get Plenty of Fiber
A high-fiber diet has been linked to a reduced risk of digestive conditions, including ulcers, reflux, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and IBS 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 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 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. Summary Adequate fat intake improves the absorption of some fat-soluble nutrients. What’re 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 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. 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 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. 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. Stress management, meditation, and relaxation training have all been shown to improve symptoms in people with IBS.
Other studies have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and yoga have improved digestive symptoms. 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. Studies have shown that mindfulness may reduce digestive symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis and IBS
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
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.