Top 10 Natural Ways To Improve Digestion
The digestive system is one of the most important systems of your body. Its function is directly linked to your health and well-being.
That is why poor digestion affects your body in various ways. It can lead to digestive problems such as bloating, heartburn, constipation, gas, food allergies, and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
Poor digestion is also a cause of many other issues that you probably wouldn’t think of. Asthma, fatigue, eczema, weight gain, and food allergies are a few.
Managing symptoms of poor digestion is crucial to prevent chronic medical conditions.
Thankfully, there are plenty of natural ways to improve digestion. Despite working on your digestion, these will help heal your body, improve your energy, and maximize your quality of life.
After reading this article, you will realize that the good functioning of your digestive system can help you lose weight if that is what you wish for. You can leave behind measures such as drugs, strange diets, or depriving your body of what it needs to stay healthy.
Why is digestion important?
Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair.
This matters because your body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy.
But what are nutrients? You may ask… Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water.
- Proteins break into amino acids.
- Fats break into fatty acids and glycerol.
- Carbohydrates break into simple sugars.
How does your digestive system work?
Your digestive system is composed of many parts. Each one has an important role.
- The mouth. The digestive process starts when you eat. Food moves through your digestive tract when you swallow it and is passed into your esophagus.
- The esophagus. When you swallow, your brain signals the muscles of the esophagus, and peristalsis begins.
- The lower esophageal sphincter. When the food you eat reaches the end of your esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (a ringlike muscle) relaxes and lets it pass into your stomach.
- The stomach. After the food you eat reaches your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and the liquid you ingest with digestive juices. Then, your stomach slowly empties its contents into your small intestine.
- The small intestine. The muscles of your small intestine are responsible for mixing food with digestive juices from your pancreas, liver, and intestine and pushing the mixture for further digestion. Its walls absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. Then, as peristalsis continues, the waste products of the digestive process are moved into the large intestine.
- The large intestine. Waste products that enter your large intestine include undigested parts of food, fluid, and older cells from the lining of your digestive tract. Your large intestine absorbs water and turns the waste from liquid into stool. After that, peristalsis helps move the stool into your rectum.
- The rectum. This is the lower end of your large intestine, and it stores stool until it is pushed out of your anus during a bowel movement.
What about your pancreas, liver, and gallbladder?
As mentioned above, they also contribute to the digestive process.
Your pancreas makes digestive juice with enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also delivers this digestive juice to the small intestine through ducts (small tubes).
Your liver also makes digestive juice. This one is called bile and helps digest fats and some vitamins. Then, the digestive juice is carried through bile ducts to your gallbladder for storage or to your small intestine for use.
At last, your gallbladder stores the digestive juice from the liver between meals. Every time you eat, your gallbladder squeezes bile through the bile ducts into your small intestine for use.
How does your body control the digestive process?
Your hormones and nerves are responsible to help control the digestive process.
Signals flow within your digestive tract and between your digestive tract and your brain.
The cells lining your stomach and small intestine create and release hormones responsible for controlling your digestive system.
The hormones have two functions:
- Telling your body when to make digestive juices.
- And send signals to your brain when you are hungry or full.
Your pancreas is also responsible for making hormones essential to digestion.
Then, your nerves play their part. Some of your nerves connect your central nervous system to your digestive system and control some digestive functions. When you see or smell food, your brain sends a signal that “makes your mouth water” to prepare you to eat, for example.
You also have nerves within the walls of your digestive tract – an enteric nervous system. When food stretches the walls of your digestive tract, the nerves release different substances that speed up or delay the movement of food and the production of digestive juices. These nerves also send signals to control the actions of your gut muscles that contract and relax to push food through your intestines.
Common digestive issues
Are you tired of digestive problems? Poor digestion means that you occasionally might struggle with:
- Heartburn. This issue causes intense pain, burning chest discomfort, and nausea.
- Diarrhea. Diarrhea becomes a problem when you experience it often, especially if it happens right after you eat. Possible causes include food poisoning and parasites.
- Constipation. Possible causes of constipation include a change of eating routine, a lack of water or fiber in your diet, abuse of laxatives, consuming many dairy products, pregnancy, and prescription medications.
- Indigestion. This comes with an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after eating a meal. You might also experience symptoms of some pain in the upper part of your stomach, belching, gas, a growling stomach, and bloating. It can be caused by ulcers or gallbladder disease. People with diabetes might struggle with this use often.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This disorder affects the large intestines and comes with diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. It can be triggered by imbalanced reproductive hormones and tiny intestinal bacteria overgrowth.
- Vertigo. This condition makes you feel like the environment around you is spinning. Symptoms include dizziness, feeling sick, and loss of balance. Vertigo can be caused by labyrinthitis, severe migraines, or inflammation of the vestibular nerve connected to the inner ear.
- Parasites. Intestinal parasites are responsible for significant health issues and are a severe problem. Symptoms of parasites include fatigue, dysentery, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Click here for treatment options for each specific issue.
How can you naturally heal your digestive system?
1. Chew your food carefully. Digestion begins with the saliva in your mouth. When you allow yourself to chew your food carefully, you activate amylase, which starts the digestive process. It helps keep the food partially digested, so your stomach doesn’t have to work so hard to engage in the digestive process.
2. Eat foods that are cultured or fermented. When you eat fermented foods, you take in loads of the “healthy bacteria” your gut needs to maximize digestion. Try eating various fermented foods for healthy digestion, such as Kombucha, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir, and sauerkraut. Unfortunately, you won’t notice improvement overnight. Keep eating these foods for a couple of weeks to see changes and incorporate them into your diet to optimize results.
3. Eat foods that are real. Instead of eating processed foods that are bad for digestion, stick to eating fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Please avoid fast and highly processed foods, as they are high in processed oils, simple sugars, and refined salt. Processed foods are hard to digest and are not very nutritious, either. Fresh, whole foods will improve digestion and will help you feel better.
Add more whole foods into your diet, including:
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits
4. Take care of your liver. Your liver is responsible for much of the digestion, particularly of fats. You can help your liver work better. You can eat foods that are especially good for your liver, including freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juices, leafy green vegetables, beetroots, and carrots. If you can stand the taste of bitter herbs like milk thistle and dandelion, try to supplement your diet with these, as your liver will love you for it.
5. Hydrate yourself. Most people with digestive problems are actually highly dehydrated. Drinking lots of water daily can maximize your digestion and keep you healthy. Drink at least one of the many glasses of water you should drink with fresh lemon juice or a tablespoon of digestion-aiding apple cider vinegar. You can also try herbal teas, as they taste great and are suitable for digestive health. You may wish to try fenugreek tea, fennel tea, rooibos tea, ginger tea, and peppermint tea. Avoid coffee and mix dandelion tea with any milk, including a milk substitute.
- Get enough sleep. This is so important! Sleep helps your brain and body recharge. The amount of quality sleep you get affects your mood, concentration, and overall functioning.
- Get active. Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever. Physical activity pumps your endorphins and several other neural chemicals that help you feel good. Exercise also enables you to improve your mood and reduce irritation. Consider brisk walking, jogging, gardening, biking, or swimming.
- Practice yoga. This is a well-known stress reliever. Yoga helps you achieve peacefulness of body and mind, relax, and manage stress and anxiety. You feel much better and calm after yoga’s slow pace and easy movements.
- Meditate. Meditation helps calm your thoughts which may be causing stress. It will give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance and benefit your emotional and overall well-being.
- Eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming too much caffeine, or using illegal substances.
- Connect with other people. Social contact is good for reducing your stress because it offers distraction, provides support, and helps you tolerate some personal problems. Although your instinct might be isolating yourself, you may find that talking with a friend can help you feel calmer and grounded.
By reducing stress, your digestive system will work better, and you will feel better, too.
7. Try glutamine. Glutamine is good for digestion as it regenerates and repairs the lining of the intestinal tract and eases any inflammation you might have. Glutamine can be found as a supplement on top of whole foods, such as fresh vegetable juices, parsley, spinach, beans, beets, dairy products, eggs, fish, and meat. If you take glutamine as a supplement, ask your doctor if it is okay for you to use it.
8. Detoxify your body. Gentle detoxification routines can reset the digestive system so it will work better. You can detoxify in many ways. Aloe vera juice is especially good for detoxification, and there is research evidence to back this up.
9. Pay attention to your body. Instead of mindlessly dieting or following the latest food trends, listen to what your body likes best and feed your body with that. Experiment with various foods to see how they affect your digestion, and write them down so you can have a good selection of foods.
10. Take probiotics. Probiotics are the “healthy bacteria” in your gut that aid the digestive process. When you take a probiotic, your colon will colonize with these good bacteria and drive out harmful bacteria that worsen your digestive system.
The bottom line:
Poor digestion may be one of the reasons you don’t feel completely healthy and well.
Keep in mind that digestive issues are usually a way of your body trying to tell you something and letting you know that your health is poor.
Listen to your body and try some of these digestive health ideas. If you keep struggling, do not hesitate to seek medical help!