How to Improve Digestion Naturally at Home
How we feel and how our body functions are largely determined by our gut. Give your digestive system a helping hand with these simple and effective ways to boost your gut health. From new habits, healthy food, hydration, mindfulness, exercise and staying regular. We guarantee you’ll soon be on your way to looking and feeling your best.
Why you should improve your digestive system
The digestive system is the foundation of the house we build our health on. It’s our body’s first line of defense and works overtime to make sure we perform at our best. Seeing as most health conditions can be linked to the gut, we’re truly only as healthy as our gut.
The gut is your second brain. They’re so connected that there’s a live chat open 24/7 between your brain and your digestive tract that’s referred to as the gut-brain axis. Where signals are fired telling each other what next move to make. So, it’s important it works for you and not against you.
How does the digestive system work?
Digestion begins much before we even taste food. Our saliva and chewing teeth first break down our food before it’s swallowed down our throat and into our stomach. From there it enters the powerhouse of our digestive system, our intestines or bowels, and then ends at our anus.
As your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat, it extracts nutrients and sends them to the bloodstream to fuel your body’s energy, growth and healing abilities. Then discards the waste at the porcelain throne, a.k.a. the toilet.
What causes poor digestion?
What happens both inside and outside of your body affects your digestion. Stress, insufficient nutrition, harmful bacteria in food, unhealthy lifestyle choices, some medications, viral or gut infections, chronic inflammation and digestive conditions can all negatively affect your gut. The same goes for how well your digestive system can break down and absorb everything you consume.
Occasional poor digestive symptoms commonly come and go. However, poor gut health poses ongoing daily challenges for people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which includes both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), celiac disease, food allergies and sensitivities.
Symptoms of poor digestion
Signs of gut imbalance or issues breaking down and absorbing food usually come with digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, acid reflux, fluctuating moods, fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, food cravings, feeling full quickly, abdominal cramps and a low immune system.
10 actionable ways of how to improve your digestion naturally at home
- Foods to help digestion
- Reduce inflammatory foods and lifestyle choices
- Change your eating habits
- Keep a food diary
- Exercise and move your body
- Stay hydrated
- Poop regularly
- Manage your stress
- Support your gut with supplements
The full breakdown of how to improve your digestion naturally
1. Foods to help digestion
Eat to feed your gut and boost your digestion with these natural remedies Though they offer wide variety of health benefits, but they may not work for everyone. So, choose the one that works best for you:
- Fermented foods and drinks - add good bacteria into your gut and boost your immune system. Feed your gut daily with sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, apple cider vinegar (ACV), kefir, probiotic yoghurt and coconut yoghurt with live active cultures.
- High fibre foods - keep things moving and speed up waste and toxin removal. Try to include both soluble fiber (beans, lentils, oats, fruits, vegetables, psyllium husk) and insoluble fibre (whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, potatoes, fruit skins). Women should aim to have 25g, and men 38g of fiber
- Herbal teas - hydrate your body, reduce bloating and nausea, and stimulate digestion. Brew ideally with fresh ingredients or teas bags containing ginger, mint, peppermint, fennel, dandelion, fenugreek, turmeric, chamomile and green tea. Warm water and lemon can also boost stomach acid which is vital in breaking down proteins and helps digestion.
- Herbs and spices - stimulate healthy digestion with ginger, pepper, cayenne pepper, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, peppermint oil and aloe vera juice.
2. Reduce inflammatory foods and lifestyle choices
Whether we like it or not, our habits define our lives. Therefore, the performance of our digestive system is a direct result of the choices we make in diet and lifestyle (excluding digestive diseases). Improve your digestion with healthier choices with nourishing, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, whole foods and freshly cooked home meals.
Reduce inflammation by limiting or eliminating smoking, alcohol, caffeine, soft drink, certain medications and foods that cause you digestive problems. This may include gluten, dairy products, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, fatty foods, acidic foods, spicy food, soy, corn, eggs, sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined oils, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. Everybody is different and whole food groups shouldn’t be eliminated. Work with a nutritionist for expert advice.
3. Change your eating habits
Set yourself up for digestive success by adapting your eating habits and listening to your body's cues. As a bonus you’ll soothe or eliminate digestive symptoms like gas, bloating and indigestion:
- Eat mindfully - take in the tastes, smells, textures and focus on savoring what you're consuming. Eat in a relaxed environment, while sitting down and only until ⅓
- Chew your food - digestion starts in the mouth so chew your food until it’s almost liquid before swallowing (your gut doesn’t have teeth). This allows the digestive enzymes in your saliva to break down your food and signal to your gut that food is incoming to be digested.
- Eat slowly - it takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize your stomach is full. By eating slower, over time you’ll get more cued into your body’s needs and reduce overeating.
- Eat small meals on a schedule - facilitate ease of digestion by eating small meals and snacks at regular intervals, only when hungry. Make lunch your biggest meal and stop eating 3 hours before sleep to ease added digestive stress while you sleep.
4. Keep a food diary
Tracking what you eat and drink in a food diary is helpful in pinpointing any digestive issues. You’ll get clarity on your eating habits and identify any food sensitivities or triggers negatively affecting you. Then begin reducing or removing problematic foods and drinks one at a time to see if your symptoms and digestive health improve.
Food diaries are a simple tool for people wanting to lose weight or with digestive problems like IBS, IBD or acid reflux. Plus, you can take this data to a doctor or nutritionist for specific medical advice. So, get honest with your gut by writing a dear food diary daily for a few weeks to a month. Note down what you’ve consumed right after, so you don’t forget and make sure to describe how you felt before, during and after each drink, meal or snack.
Moving your body to keep things moving, literally! Physical activities increase blood flow throughout your entire body and help the muscles in your digestive tract work their magic. So, get physical in a way that suits you best because consistency reaps the highest benefits. You could bust out some moves in a dance class, hit the gym, do yoga twists to encourage digestion or simply go for a walk after eating.
Keep exercise moderate. Staying upright also helps gravity do some of the digestive lifting for you. Exercise is great for people experiencing constipation, bloating or an upset stomach. It can also help reduce inflammation in the body, which is beneficial in preventing and helping people with digestive diseases.
6. Stay hydrated
Many digestive issues are caused by dehydration, especially constipation. For our digestive tract to help it break down solids and absorb the nutrients from our food it needs and craves water. Aim to drink plenty of water, up to 2 litres over the course of the day. Sip only on drinks while eating and hydrate in between meals so you don’t dilute your stomach acid which is vital for the digestive process.
Hydrate with plain water, warm or room temperature and a squeeze of lemon or sliced fruit and herbs for more flavor. You can also increase your water intake with non-caffeinated fluids like herbal teas and coconut water, as well as fruits and vegetables.
7. Poop regularly
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Poop may be “gross”, but everybody does it and if we want a healthy digestive system then we need proper and regular waste elimination. What goes in must come out! Without evacuating the tank fully, you may experience digestive issues like constipation, fatigue and mood swings.
Everybody poops differently. Some poop daily or several times daily while others stay regular with bowel movements 3-5 times a week. Whichever way you drop the kids off at the pool, try to get yourself on a daily schedule by starting your morning with a trip to the toilet and taking your time. With practice, your digestive system will get the clue that wake-up time means poop time.
Gently detoxing regularly is beneficial to reset your system and support your body's natural digestive process so it can perform at its best. While your body is designed to naturally detox through the liver, kidneys, colon, skin, urine and lungs, sometimes it needs some extra help. Especially when you’ve got digestive problems, skin issues, a slow metabolism, are exposed to toxic environments or have an unhealthy diet.
Cleanse your gut by eliminating inflammatory and processed foods, drinks and lifestyle choices. Replacing with a clean diet of healing, detoxifying, gut-friendly foods, drinks and supplements. A detox doesn’t need to be extreme or expensive. Think of it like servicing your car. You may choose to detox your body for a month, a week or a few days every week. The choice is yours!
9. Manage stress
The brain impacts the gut and vice versa. Take time to slow down, relax and listen to your body. Nourish it with a healthy diet, exercise, connect with others, relax, meditate, listen to music, have fun and make sure you get enough sleep. Your digestive system will reward you for reducing stress.
Stress can cause ongoing digestive problems if left unchecked. It’s linked to diarrhoea, constipation, and stomach ulcers and can also worsen IBS and IBD symptoms. Bodies with elevated stress hormones naturally react by diverting energy and blood flow away from digestion. So, if something is affecting your mind and mental health, it’s also likely to be negatively impacting your digestion.
10. Support your gut with supplements
Amp up your digestive system from the inside out with gut-supporting supplements that provide nutrients and helpful bacteria directly where it needs it most, but they may not work for everyone. So, choose the one that works best for you. Choose supplements in capsule, powder or liquid formulas that don’t contain any chemicals, which only upset the stomach, such as:
- Probiotic supplements - support existing probiotic strains of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and add to healthy gut flora with probiotic supplements containing at least 15 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU). CFU refers to the number of live bacteria that are capable of setting up healthy colonies in your gut. Probiotics help boost digestion and your immune system while reducing inflammation and symptoms including bloating, gas and stomach pain.
- Digestive support supplements - look for formulas that include ingredients such as:
How long does it take for the digestive system to improve?
Improve weak digestion by nourishing your body with foods, hydration, exercise, lifestyle changes and supplements that heal your gut. Depending on your starting stage and overall health, most people’s digestion can be improved within 2 to 12 weeks. However, you may start to notice differences within a few days. By following our tips above, you’ll be able to speed up digestion and improve the health of your microbiome faster and more sustainably.
The takeaway of having better digestion
We’ve all experienced digestive problems that make us feel blah. However, that should only be a temporary state. Don't let bad habits move in and wreak havoc on your digestive health. Kick digestive issues to the curb by inviting in healthy gut bacteria with a nourishing diet and supplements. Then go full steam ahead towards optimal digestion by moving your body, hydrating with water, managing stress, going regularly, and ditching trigger foods and inflammatory behaviors.