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How Regular Exercise Improves Digestion

How Regular Exercise Improves Digestion

Practicing physical exercise is recommended by most doctors and studies. In addition to boosting self-esteem and making most people feel better, long-term exercise can bring benefits such as appetite control, improved mood, and even better sleep quality. Added to this is the reduction of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, dementia, depression, and other types of serious illnesses.

But there are still other benefits to physical exercise, including improving the digestive system. In this blog post, we discuss how and provide tips and exercise suggestions that have the potential to improve your digestion!

How does your digestive system work?

Exercise is good for digestion because it maximizes the blood flow to the digestive tract. If you can maintain regular exercise, you can help your digestive tract work better. Regular exercise may improve the flow of food through your digestive tract, so you won’t suffer as much from abdominal cramps bloating, gas, or constipation.

Your digestive system is made from several components. It starts in the mouth, where amylase begins to digest the food as you chew. Then the food travels through the esophagus and into your stomach, where it is further digested.

Other parts of the digestive system play a role in digestion, including the liver, gallbladder, small intestine, pancreas, and large intestine. Digesting your food properly takes about 24 to 72 hours, and exercise can help speed this process along. That’s why when you exercise, you may sometimes feel the need to defecate soon afterward.

Exercise not only improves the blood flow to the GI (gastrointestinal) tract but it provides the GI tract with the necessary oxygen it needs to digest your food.

Does exercise really help digestion?

Yes! As previously mentioned, the practice of physical exercise can actually help your intestinal tract and your digestion! Here is how:

  • Increased muscle activity

Exercise is the best way to stimulate your body's muscles, including those in your digestive system. It increases muscle movements and the digestion of food more efficiently, reducing the likelihood of blockage, promoting regular bowel movements, and helping your metabolism to work better and process food.

  • Enhanced blood circulation

Exercise increases blood flow to various body parts, including the digestive system. Improved blood circulation means the digestive organs receive a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients, which helps them function optimally. Proper blood flow also aids in absorbing nutrients from the food you consume.

  • Stress reduction

Exercise is known to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. High-stress levels can harm digestion, leading to issues like indigestion, bloating, and stomach discomfort. Regular exercise helps lower stress hormones, such as cortisol, and promotes a more balanced and healthy digestive system.

  • Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise can positively impact digestion. Obesity or being overweight increases the risk of various digestive disorders, including acid reflux, gallstones, and fatty liver disease. Exercise helps manage weight by burning calories, increasing metabolism, and promoting a healthy body composition, thereby reducing the risk of these digestive problems.

  • Improved gut motility

Exercise has been shown to enhance gut motility, which refers to the rhythmic contractions of the intestines that move food along the digestive tract. This increased motility promotes efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients. It can also help prevent conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by regulating bowel movements.

  • Enhanced gut microbiome

Regular exercise positively influences the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome – the community of bacteria and other microorganisms in your digestive system. A healthy and diverse gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as for supporting overall gut health.

Good Exercises For The Digestive System

Just about any exercise that helps your blood flow and maximizes the oxygen to your digestive system will be good for digestion; however, some exercises help the digestive system better than others.

Here are some good ways to improve your digestive system through exercise:

  • Yoga

You can do certain poses during yoga that will maximize the blood flow to the GI tract and aid in digestion. One that works is the “seated spinal twist.”

To do this exercise, just sit on the mat with your leg straight in front of you. Bend the other leg, crossing it over the extended leg. Then twist your body toward the bent leg with your foot flat on the floor. Put your elbow on the outer aspect of the bent leg, twisting further if you are able. Breathe deeply for five breaths, staying with the pose. Switch to the other side so that your abdominal organs are maximally massaged, and digestion will go better.

  • Cardiovascular exercise.

This is also known as aerobic exercise and includes activities like cycling, running, and brisk walking. These exercises help to strengthen your abdominal muscles, massage your intestines and help with digestion. Aerobic exercises increase your respiratory and heart rates so that your intestines will be bathed in oxygen, and you will digest your food better.

  • Tai chi.

Tai chi is a form of Chinese martial arts that has since become Westernized as a form of exercise to maximize health. Not only are you more flexible after doing tai chi, but your digestive system will work better. Tai chi massages the GI tract, relieving constipation and helping your digestive system work better.

  • Bicycle riding.
This form of exercise has been known to improve heartburn. It increases your heart and respiratory rates so that you keep food flowing in the direction it should instead of backing up in your esophagus.
  • Deep breathing.

Deep breathing is an essential part of both yoga and tai chi. However, when performed alone, it also works as a great exercise for digestion. In addition, it will help fill the lungs with oxygen and relieve stress and anxiety. This simple breathing exercise is a good place to start:

- Find a quiet, comfy place to sit or lie down.
- Take in a long, deep breath through your nose. Focus on the feeling of your chest and abdomen expanding as your lungs fill with air.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth or nose. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes every day.
  • Walking

Although exercising can seem boring and time-consuming, especially after a day at work, it doesn't have to be that way. Walking can be a great way to exercise and get moving, especially if you're a beginner or haven't exercised in a long time. In addition, when it comes to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), moderate exercise can ease some symptoms of IBD - strenuous exercise could exacerbate an inflammatory response, making walking a good choice.

Just pay attention to some points in order to improve the experience:

- Be aware of your posture. Keep your back straight and not stiff.
- Set a schedule and plan your route.
- If it's hard to keep motivated, invite someone to walk with you.
- If you miss a day, don't stress out about it. Just start again tomorrow.

And don’t forget: if you eat well, you’ll feel well!

Although exercise plays a very important role in improving the quality of life of the vast majority of people, including how the digestive system works, all of this can become even better when combined with good nutrition! Some foods and tips that you can consider include the following.

  • Eat a high-fiber diet

While soluble fiber helps absorb water, keeping you hydrated and helping your intestines work better, insoluble fiber acts like a giant toothbrush, helping keep your digestive system moving.

Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, and vegetables, while whole grains, nuts, and seeds are good sources of insoluble fiber. Fruits and vegetables can be rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, so eating a variety of these foods will ensure you get plenty of each type.

The daily reference intake (DRI) for fiber is 25 grams for females aged 19 to 50. For males aged 19 to 50, the DRI for fiber is 38 grams. However, most people in the United States consume only half of the daily recommended amount.

Prebiotics are another type of fiber that feed your healthy gut bacteria. Diets high in this fiber have been shown to improve barrier function and reduce inflammation in the gut. Prebiotics are found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains.

  • Yogurt

Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented, typically by lactic acid bacteria.

It contains friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract and can help improve digestion, keeping your gut healthy.

While natural probiotics are in your gut, increasing your intake can aid and ease digestion. Probiotics can help with digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

However, it should be noted that not all yogurts contain probiotics. At the supermarket, look for packages that claim to contain "live and active cultures".

  • Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea.

Your recipe contains specific strains of bacteria, sugar, and yeast, green or black tea, which is usually fermented for a week or more.

Although it may seem strange, this fermentation is essential to the product, as it produces excess probiotic bacteria that improve digestive health!

What's more, research has shown that kombucha may contribute to the healing of stomach ulcers.

  • Papaya

In addition to being very delicious, the luscious tropical fruit papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain, which assists during the digestive process by helping to break down protein fibers. While not required in your diet, it can aid protein digestion.

Papaya may also ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, such as constipation and bloating.

It's commonly used as the main enzyme in digestive supplements due to its gastrointestinal capacities.

  • Dark Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fiber. Furthermore, green vegetables can help relieve constipation by improving muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract because they are a good source of magnesium.

These benefits can be found in vegetables like spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Here are some more tips…

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is essential for proper bodily functioning, not excluding the intestinal tract. Fiber can store water in the colon, facilitating the production of stool and better functioning of the intestine. Also, drinking about 3 to 4 liters of water daily will make you feel less bloated.
  • Skip the bad habits. Smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol: liquor, cigarettes, and too much coffee or other caffeinated beverages can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn.
  • Eat on schedule. Studies show that always having meals at the same time of day helps better function the digestive system. Try to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks of the day around the same time.
  • Manage stress. Anxiety and stress are the greatest enemies of well-being and quality of life. Therefore, when we talk about digestion and the intestinal tract, anxiety, and stress must also be taken into account. Doing relaxing activities that you enjoy can help keep you more relaxed and happy, consequently improving your physical and psychological well-being.

The bottom line

It's important to note that while regular exercise can improve digestion, it's essential to maintain a balanced life. Intense or excessive exercise may have the opposite effect and lead to digestive issues such as acid reflux, diarrhea, or stomach upset. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate exercise regimen for your specific needs and health condition.

Even so, and, again, noting that exercise can be an ally in improving digestive and intestinal health, there are other tips you can also keep in mind, which will certainly lead to a better quality of life, allowing you to live longer and better!


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