Bloating, gas, heartburn, intestinal discomfort—for many of us these post-mealtime troubles are commonplace. Nearly everyone has the occasional digestive problem, but if uncomfortable symptoms seem to be your new normal, your gut health may need a tune-up.
A healthy gut allows you to digest your food efficiently, absorb more nutrients, and sidestep discomfort. But before you turn to acid blockers or anti-bloating medications for relief, try making a few small changes to naturally improve your regular digestive health.
We’re all guilty of taking our meals on the go or gobbling mindlessly during a Netflix binge. But being present for your meal can make a digestive difference. Digestion starts in your mouth. By simply chewing thoroughly, you break down your food as much as possible before stomach acid and digestive enzymes take over—so get chomping. Slow down and enjoy your meal. Start by chewing each bite of food 5–10 times and work up to 30 chews before swallowing. It sounds laborious, but it can ease the stress on your digestive system. And your waistline may thank you, too.
Try Fermented Foods
Traditional cuisine in every culture boasts some form of fermented food. Pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all delicious examples of foods with natural probiotic bacteria cultures that feed your gut’s microbiome and help to create a balanced environment. It may take time for your internal environment to positively respond to these gut-healthy additions. So listen to your body and introduce these foods at your pace.
Supplement Your Gut
Our bodies are full of both good and bad bacteria. The lining of your gut alone houses billions of microbiotas that are crucial for optimal digestion. Certain strains of microorganisms promote a healthy microbiome that assists the breakdown of food to release energy and allow your body to absorb more nutrients. Maintain healthy gut flora by adding probiotics to your daily lineup of healthy habits.
Love Your Liver
The body’s main filtration system—your liver—sorts toxins, redistributes nutrients into your bloodstream, and helps manage blood sugar. Supporting this hard-working organ can improve its function and positively impact your digestive health.
Your liver produces bile. And similar to digestive enzymes assisting the digestive process, bile plays a crucial role in allowing your gastrointestinal system to turn fats and fat-soluble vitamins into energy. Limit your alcohol consumption and add more liver-loving foods—carrots, beetroot, and green leafy veggies—to your diet to help this mighty organ efficiently process nutrients.
Tame Your Sweet Tooth
A healthy gut is the best environment for optimal digestion. And a sweet snack obsession is one of the main culprits throwing gut bacteria off balance. Sugar—including glucose, fructose, or any other form—is derived from carbohydrates in our food. It’s like rocket fuel for potentially harmful bacteria that live in your gut. Reducing sugar intake restricts fuel these microbes need to cultivate in your microbiome. Cutting the sugar can also help support beneficial bacteria and improve your overall digestive system.
Skip Snack Time
It’s easy to indulge in mindless snacking throughout the day. Cravings can stem from a stressful schedule or hunger attack from poorly planned meals. Whatever your reason for reaching for that tasty treat, this bad habit can negatively affect your digestive health. Frequent feeding means your body never has a chance to fully digest. Allowing your digestive system to take a break and rest allows for healing and repair. Try sticking to full meals a few times a day instead of grazing or snacking, or maybe try intermittent fasting to improve the efficiency of your daily digestion watch2stream.
Go For H2O
Drinking the water you need may seem like a no-brainer—we’ve all heard the eight glasses of water a day rule. But most of us don’t really know why hydration is so important. Hydration plays a serious role in optimal digestion. Drinking enough fluid each day helps to produce saliva to start the digestive process, and it also helps your body flush toxins through regular bowel movements.
Stay hydrated throughout the day, but resist drinking large amounts of water around mealtimes. Too much H2O can dilute your stomach acid and interfere with the fluids and enzymes that aid digestion—basically, it makes it harder to break down your food. Save chugging water for in between meals and opt for smaller sips while you eat.
Your autonomic nervous system and your digestion coexist. As food enters your gut, neurons lining your digestive tract signal intestinal cells to contract. This moves your food along, while also breaking down nutrients for energy. During times of high stress, your digestion takes a back seat to your sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight or flight” response. This can impact your digestion and cause minor gastrointestinal distress. The secret is to find ways to reduce stress. Introduce breathing exercises, practice mindfulness, or take long walks to calm your mind—and your belly.
Digestive problems may be common, but they don’t need to be an everyday occurrence. Frequent digestive discomfort may be a sign that your gut needs care and attention. With small changes to your daily habits, you can give your gut all the love it deserves—it works hard to keep you happy.