If you've been feeling a bit... not yourself lately, then it may be time to look for ways to improve your digestion. I'm talking about constipation, bloating — everything that makes you feel less than amazing. Because, as it turns out, a messed up digestive process can really make you feel bad.
To figure out why, let's take a look at how the whole thing works, as described on WebMD. Digestion begins in your mouth with the first bite of food. That chewed up, mushy food then travels down your throat, down your esophagus (the tube leading to your stomach), and into the stomach. While in the stomach, powerful enzymes, and a muscular churning motion, help break the food down.
From there, the food continues into the small intestine, where more enzymes continue the process of digestion. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are all involved here as well. The nutrients begin to be absorbed as the food makes its way to the colon, or large intestine. Here, the leftover waste (you know what that means) eventually gets sent towards the rectum, and eventually the anus. And ta da — the digestion process is complete.
Nitty gritty details aside, the main thing to remember is that digestion is quite the process. It's how you get your nutrients, and thus your energy. It helps you ward off sickness. And it's how you stay regular. So anything you can do to help it along will be incredibly beneficial to your health, and how well you feel on a regular basis. Here are some simple ways to improve your digestion, and help your body stay working right.
1. Chew Your Food
This one sounds kind of obvious, but so many of us wolf down our food like there's no tomorrow. Sadly, doing so can really mess up your body. That's because good digestion starts in the mouth with proper chewing, noted Katrina Love Senn on MindBodyGreen.com. "When you chew your food well, it eases the work required from your digestive system, so your body can focus on other tasks instead," Senn said. Keep that in mind at your next meal.
2. Make Drinking (Water) Your New Hobby
Not getting enough liquids can slow the digestive system down significantly. When that happens, it can become super difficult to go to the bathroom, according to an article on DrOz.com. Prevent this awfulness by drinking enough water to keep your pee clear — a sign that you're properly hydrated.
3. Be All About That Kefir
Your gut has countless good bacteria that keep your body running smoothly. But when you don't have enough, or too much of the bad kind, things can start to go wrong digestively. So eat some fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kimchi, or kombucha, Senn suggested. And then allow time for your gut to heal and change. (...It may take a while.)"
4. Avoid Too Many Fatty Foods
I know this one is tough, mostly because french fries. But too many bad fats can clog up your digestive system, causing it to not work properly. As noted on DrOz.com, "... fatty and fried foods are hard to digest, slow the process way down, and tax a system that would otherwise run well." Instead, go for lean meats instead of a greasy burger, and think about switching to low-fat dairy products.
5. Get More Fiber
Most of us don't get enough fiber in our diets. We need about 25 grams, but that rarely happens, mostly due to our poor diets. That's why it's so important to make sure you eat more whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits, as suggested by Krisha McCoy on EverydayHealth.com. These will help keep you regular, and that's an important part of the digestive process.
6. Get All That Stress Under Control
Stress can really mess up your guts, so it may be time to pull out that old yoga mat and get to centering. As Chris Iliades, MD, noted on EverydayHealth.com, "When stress activates the 'flight or fight' response in your central nervous system, digestion can shut down because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, affects the contractions of your digestive muscles, and decreases secretions needed for digestion." Deep breathing and relaxation can help calm this down, and keep your body going in the right direction.
7. Stay Away From "Miracle Cures"
I'm always tempted to try the latest and greatest juice cleanses. They promise to "clean you out," and it can sound pretty awesome. But unfortunately, a lot of them can do way more harm than good. According to Kristin Stanberry on WebMD.com, "Although some alternative treatments show promise, many are expensive, ineffective, or downright dangerous." Be sure to do your research, lest you fall for the hype.
8. Eat As Many Real Foods As Possible
I know, snacks are delicious, and are often way more convenient than healthy, homemade meals. But do try to eat as much real food as possible. "Avoid the 'fake' stuff, including processed foods and fast-foods, which are typically high in refined salt, sugar, and processed oils," Senn explained. "Also, they're difficult for your body to digest, and they don't provide any nutritional value." Enough said.
9. Try To Eat On A Schedule
Again, this one is tough. However, do your best to eat your meals at the same time every day. According to McCoy, "... consuming your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape."
10. Think About How You Sit On The Toilet
Good digestion just isn't about food and what you put into your body, but also about how it all comes out. That's why you may want to invest in a Squatty Potty, as suggested on the blog WellnessMama.com. It helps you sit on the toilet in a more, um, natural state, thus helping everything come out properly. You can also just get a bucket, or a stool, and achieve the same results.
11. Improve Your Posture
Sitting all squished up, or hunching over for days, doesn't do the digestive tract many favors. According to WellnessMama.com, "Just as bathroom posture affects digestive health, so does posture when sitting or standing. Optimally, we’d all be walking/moving more and sitting less, but since that isn’t always possible, it is important to have good posture so digestive organs can work optimally." Remember, sit up straight, and put those shoulders back.
Do all of these things as necessary, and hopefully your digestion will stay in perfect working order.
Images: Pexels (12)