When it comes to being healthy, we often initially think about the basics, such as diet and exercise. However, there are other components to good health, and since most of us don't actively think about it, it's always good to know other important tips such as ways to improve your digestion. Since so many people are plagued with stomachaches and other digestive issues, it's essential to know what can help move your body along and what can cause some problems.
Although it may not be the first thing on your mind, proper digestion is important because it's the process by which food is broken down into their smallest parts so our body can probably absorb its nutrients. The digestive process is also how we get rid of waste, and if either of these processes have issues, it can affect the rest of your health, both physically and mentally.
Bad digestion is caused by a number of problems, including a diet high in processed foods, stress, or even your daily coffee habit. The reasons people have digestive problems vary widely from diet and lifestyle consequences to medication side effects to symptoms of a genetic disease," says Dr. Darrell M. Gray III, a gastroenterologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, over email. "However, there several key steps that one can take toward improving their digestive health."
Improving your digestion doesn't take any drastic changes. If you're looking to improve your stomach health, try these six tips for better digestion.
1. Eat Clean Foods
"Eating clean foods your body was designed to process is an easy way to help reduce, or possibly eliminate, digestive issues," says nutritionist Michelle Blum over email. Herbs, spices, and foods with high water content can help promote healthy digestion, while too much sugar, salt, and fatty foods can cause problems with your digestive health.
2. Drink Water
"Water is required to keep your body’s pH levels where they should be," says Blum. "If your pH is too acidic you can experience acid reflux or heartburn. Water also is essential in the elimination process. If your body can’t get rid of waste, it will sit in your large intestine until it can."
3. Remember Probiotics
"Some people choose to take a digestive enzyme supplement orally or a probiotic," says Blum. Probiotics are used to treat cramping, gas, and diarrhea, and in addition to supplements, foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, and miso. "Before trying any of these methods, check with your doctor," says Blum.
4. Increase Your Fiber
Fiber plays a large role in gut health, and it helps to promote good bacteria that aids in digestion, according to the journal Nutrients. "Substitute vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (such brown rice and whole wheat bread) for refined grains (such as white rice and white bread)," says Gray.
5. Cut Down On Caffeine and Alcohol
"Limit caffeine and alcohol intake," says Gray. "These can contribute to reflux symptoms and changes in your bowel habits." Caffeine acts as a laxative and can also cause indigestion, while alcohol damages the liver and increases secretion of acid in the stomach.
6. Manage Stress
According to the journal Gut, stress is associated with the onset of common digestive disorders. "The brain and gut communicate," says Gray. "Anxiety and stress can manifest as symptoms impacting the digestive system." Try picking up some habits that can lower stress, including yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, or extra sleep.