Digestion is the way your body breaks down food particles to be absorbed into the blood stream. Unfortunately, there are a number of things which disturb the digestive process, resulting in complications such as excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and constipation. If you would like to minimize these unpleasant symptoms and improve your digestive health and aid digestion, you can easily do so by making a few minor changes to your diet and lifestyle. Read on to learn how to aid digestion naturally.
Improving Your Diet
Avoid fatty foods. Your digestion system finds fatty foods difficult to process, which slows the entire digestive process down. Speed things up by reducing fat in your diet.
- Switch from full fat dairy products to low-fat or non-fat versions of milk, cheese and yogurt. Swap butter and margarine for olive oil when cooking.
- Avoid eating fried, processed and frozen foods which tend to be high in fat.
Avoid sodium, starches and artificial sweeteners. If you regularly suffer from a swollen, bloated stomach, you should cut foods containing high quantities of sodium starch and artificial sweeteners from your diet, as these may be the culprits.
- Bloating occurs when gas particles formed by bacteria in the intestinal tract travel back into the stomach, causing it swell like a balloon.
- You should also avoid overeating at mealtimes, as this also increases the chances of bloating.
- Bloating can also be a symptom of more serious underlying conditions, such as diverticulitis, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine and ovarian cancer, so if you make the changes suggested above but still suffer from bloating, you should consult your doctor.
Eat probiotics. Probiotics are a kind of good bacteria, similar to the microorganisms found naturally in the human body, which help to keep the intestines healthy and the bowels moving.
- Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, miso soup, sauerkraut, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread.
- Simply by introducing more probiotic foods into your system you can prevent excess gas, diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Increase your fiber intake. Fiber is your best friend when it comes to digestion. It increases the size and softness of your stool, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation.
- Fiber also regulates blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion and allowing glucose from food to enter your blood stream at a slower rate.
- Increase your fiber intake by eating high fiber foods such as oatmeal and bran cereal, legumes such as lentils, black beans and pinto beans, and nuts such as peanuts, walnuts and pecans.
- High fiber fruits like berries, prunes, dried apricots, raisins, pears and apples (with the skins on) are also good choices.
- Alternatively (or additionally) you can take a daily fiber supplement to help with digestion.
Choose lean meats. Protein is an essential part of a healthful diet, but fatty cuts of meat can lead to uncomfortable digestion. When you eat meat, select lean cuts, such as pork loin and skinless poultry.
Remove any known or suspected allergens from your diet. Eating foods that you have an unknown allergy or sensitivity to is one of the main culprits behind digestive problems such as bloating, gas, and pain.
- If you suspect you might be sensitive to something, completely remove it from your diet for several days to see if you feel a difference in your digestion.
- Dairy products, strawberries, nuts, chicken, eggs and gluten-products are common allergens to which many people react badly, even though they may not realize it.
- If you cannot pinpoint the exact food that is causing digestive problems, contact your doctor about performing a food allergy test.
Reduce gas. Producing too much gas is a common problem that can cause awkwardness and embarrassment for a lot of people. Luckily, there are several things you can do to control your body’s gas production.
- Avoid foods which contribute to gas production. Examples of such foods include most varieties of beans as well as vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Eat more slowly. When you eat too quickly, you tend to swallow more air, which contributes to gas production.
- Avoid carbonated drinks. Sodas and other carbonated drinks contain a lot of air, which increases the amount of gas your body produces.
Making Simple Lifestyle Changes
Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can assist in benefit digestion.
- Exercise speeds up digestion by increasing blood flow to your organs and stimulating the muscles in the intestines, helping them to process waste more quickly.
- Try cardio exercises such as walking, swimming and jogging, which get the entire body moving. Also, try to make small changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Lose a few pounds. Excess weight can put pressure on the abdominal area and cause a condition whereby the valve between the stomach and the esophagus fails to close properly, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn.
- Relieve the pressure caused by any extra pounds bylosing some weight. You can do this safely and effectively through a combination of healthy diet and exercise.
- Some other handy weight loss tips include controlling portion sizes by eating from smaller plates, drinking a glass of water before meals to fill yourself up, and eating your last meal at least four hours before bed.
Eat on schedule. Consuming your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.
Slow down when you eat. Eating on the go or taking large, hurried bites can cause you to swallow a lot of air. This air turns into gas in your body and may cause severe cramping and discomfort. Eating too fast also causes you to overeat, which puts more pressure on the digestive system, slowing down the process.
- Chew each bite of food at least 20 times before your swallow – this gives your stomach time to prepare for the food it is about to receive and your brain time to register that you’re full.
- Avoid eating while watching TV, or reading a magazine or newspaper, as you tend to eat more when you’re distracted. Eat dinner at the table, and focus on each bite you put into your mouth.
Drink lots of water, at least 8 glasses per day. Water helps your body break down bulk and flush out toxins that can interfere with natural digestion. It also makes your stool softer and easier to pass.
- You will know that your body is adequately hydrated when your urine remains clear throughout the day. The more dehydrated you are, the yellower your urine will be.
- Choose fruits and vegetables that have high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, and oranges.
Apply a warm water bottle on your belly after meals. This simple trick may also improve digestion by helping the muscles of the stomach and intestines to relax.
Try a short belly massage. Press firmly and slowly with your fingers at a 3–5 centimeter (1.2–2.0 in) radius all around your belly button, in a clockwise motion.
- For best results, do for 2 to 5 minutes.
- When practiced after meals or at least once a day — in the evening before going to bed — this simple technique quickly helps your digestion.
Take a break from bad habits. Try a few days with no sugary snacks, processed foods, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. This will give your digestive tract a chance to regain its natural balance.
- After this break, you may want to try a natural detoxifying program for digestive health. These can be found in many health food stores and nutrition centers. Read all directions fully, and follow the program exactly to avoid compounding your digestive problems.
Check the labels on all prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. If any of your medications list gas, bloating, nausea, or other digestive stress as side effects, it may be a good idea to take a break, or ask your doctor about switching to an alternative option.
Using Herbal Remedies to Aid Digestion
Drink Aloe Vera juice. Aloe Vera has unique enzymes that naturally aid digestion and also contains Vitamin C and amino acids that may increase blood flow to your digestive tract.
Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile tea, in addition to its calming and sleep-inducing properties, is believed to be beneficial for digestive issues such as nausea, colic, and stomach pain.
- Chamomile tea can also help to relieve muscle cramps or spasms.
- Try drinking a single cup of homemade or store-bought chamomile tea once a day.
Try fennel. The leaves of this plant are widely used in Mediterranean and mid-Eastern parts of the world, rooted in traditional Ayurveda practices.
- Preparations from fennel seeds and leaves may not only help, but prevent heartburn, gas, bloating, and constipation. It also may promote the secretion of digestive enzymes for diminished appetite.
- It is recognized as safe, and rarely causes side effects or allergic reactions. Also used for infants with colic, it is given in tea in combination with other herbs.
Use ginger. Ginger is a tradition Chinese herbal remedy for stomach aches and pains. It also works to alleviate nausea.
- Consume ginger by making a tea from the fresh root, snacking on candied ginger, or taking supplements, which can be found in capsules, powders, and even beverages.
- For safety reasons, it is best to consume no more than 1 to 3 grams of ginger per day.
Take peppermint oil. In small doses, peppermint oil is reputed to relieve stomach pain and bloating. Take peppermint oil in capsule form, or chew on peppermint leaves for a gentler alternative.
- Taking peppermint oil for at least four weeks has been shown to significantly reduce IBS symptoms. It works as an antispasmodic, which means that the supplement appears to be able to smooth and relax the bowels.
Try dandelion. The dried roots and fresh greens are both used traditionally as an overall digestive and liver tonic.
Try licorice. Licorice is a herbal supplement which can be used to ease stomach cramps and relive symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.
- Licorice can be taken in capsule form, or the root can be boiled in water to make a tea.
- The safest form of licorice to take is DGL – a specific licorice extract that doesn’t have the negative sides effects of regular licorice, such as high blood pressure.
- Prunes aid in digestion, but can cause diarrhea.
- Try squatting in the bathroom instead of sitting down – this is believed to be a more natural and efficient way of eliminating waste. Specialized bathroom furniture is available to help you achieve the squatting position.