Improper digestion and stomach pains can really affect our mental and physical wellbeing, especially if these symptoms are chronic over time. A poor gut and bloated stomach can make us tired, cranky, and uncomfortable, and so it's important to keep your digestion smooth and regular with a few simple lifestyle tips.
As a certified health coach, I help my clients discover potential food intolerances or sensitivities that might be disrupting proper digestion, as well as look out for gut conditions, such as leaky gut syndrome or candida, and other lifestyle factors that might be contributing to poor digestive health. Such factors include stress, exercise regimens, nutrient intake, and the behavior patterns of eating. For instance, if you eat slower and more mindfully, you'll probably digest your food better than if you were to finish a meal in a matter of minutes with a fizzy soda to gulp it all down (the bubbles will promote gassiness and bring air into your belly, which can lead to bloating).
By being mindful of your habits and the foods you are eating, you can promote a healthier and easier digestion. Here are thirteen surprising things to do for an enhanced digestion process and both physical and mental wellbeing.
1. Drink A Warm Beverage Post-Meal
"I am a big believer in drinking a warm beverage after I eat, especially if it is a big meal," says running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email correspondence with Bustle. A warm beverage, such as tea, dandelion, ginger or fennel teas in particular, can soothe the belly and promote a calming effect. "Just make sure it isn't caffeinated if you are trying to go to bed," cautions Lemmer.
2. Ditch Anti-Acids For Natural Healers
While many people rely on anti-acids for healing properties, natural remedies are the better route to go. "If your stomach is upset, reach for a ginger chew or peppermint rather than an anti-acid," says Lemmer. "Ginger and peppermint are proven stomach soothers and also will leave you with fresh breath," she says. Plus, ginger can reduce feelings of nausea, which can accompany digestive woes.
3. Be Present While Eating
Sometimes we eat in front of our computers or television, and other times we are just so bombarded with thoughts that our minds stray into a different realm totally outside of our meal, the foods and flavors we are tasting and the current moment. "Set aside 60 to 90 minutes if you can, and use all of your senses to be present," advises Chicago-based therapist Chelsea Hudson, over email with Bustle. Get rid of distractions, and take the time to focus on eating well, without any stress. Cortisol can hurt our digestion, so rid your mind of any work deadlines and relationship problems when dining.
4. Chew Slowly & Take Small Bites
"Eat your meal slowly, savoring all the flavors and reflecting on your hard work that went into creating your delicious meal," says Hudson. Studies show that eating slowly and mindfully can promote optimal digestion, while eating food too quickly can overwhelm the body and hinder its ability to break down food at a fast enough and efficient pace.
5. Eat With Chopsticks
Piggybacking off of the above tip, choosing chopsticks can be a great way to trick yourself into calming your mind and body down, being present, and eating at a slower pace. Another idea is to put the fork down every three bites, and wait a moment or take a sip of water. It's harder to eat with chopsticks, so it'll take more effort to take bites and keep you more aware of just how much you are consuming and your feelings of fullness.
6. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods can have traces of harmful additives, chemicals, fats and sweeteners. Trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, as well as high-sugar content can upset a stomach and lead to bowel complications and bloat. Bad bacteria in the gut feed off of sugar, and many processed products have hidden traces. Stick with whole foods instead, and try and cook more at home to keep your ingredients and cooking methods clean.
7. Go To A Farmers Market
Fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and all-natural dairy products, are teeming with healthy properties and are free of harmful bacteria, chemicals and farming techniques. Plus, studies show that consuming foods that are from fresh soil can boost health. Connect with local businesses and feed your body with reliable, beneficial foods.
8. Consume Coconut Oil
Experts suggest that one of the many benefits of coconut oil is promotion of healthy gut and stomach health. Research shows that coconut oil can smooth digestion and promote good gut flora, which can lead to less inflammation and a stronger stomach lining that can easily break down food and allow nutrients to enter the body. Use it as an oil for cooking, as it's great for high-heat dishes, or drizzle some into coffee, oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt.
9. Take Prebiotics
The benefits of probiotics are well-known, as studies show that probiotics can regulate digestion and reduce inflammation. Such examples include kefir, Greek yogurt, sourdough bread, kimchi, miso and kombucha. You can also ferment your own foods, such as vegetables. However, the benefit of prebiotics are less talked about! Research shows that prebiotics feed good bacteria in the body and probiotics, so eating them is essential for good digestion. Examples include mushrooms, bananas, sunchokes, leeks, garlic and asparagus. Eat raw for greater benefits!
10. Ditch Sodas & Champagne
Carbonated, fizzy drinks can make you bloated and hinder healthy digestion. Stick with water, tea, and flat juices and smoothies for better digestion. Better yet? Drink kombucha, a fermented beverage that will give you the flavor and textures you desire, but with a host of healthy bacterial strains that will provide probiotic relief.
11. Eat Alkaline Foods
Too much stomach acid can lead to enlarged bellies and upset digestion. According to research, our bodies thrive in a slightly alkaline state, so it's important to eat plenty of alkaline food and limit highly acidic ones. Fresh fruits and veggies, as well as lean cuts of poultry and fish are generally lower in acid, while heavy meats, wheat, caffeine and sugary foods are generally higher. However, some fruits and veggies, such as tomatoes, can be more acidic, so be cautious!
12. Eat Healthy Fats
Studies show that consuming healthy, unsaturated fats can reduce inflammation and promote healthy metabolic and digestive functioning. These healthy fats can heal the gut and keep digestion easy and quick. Over email interview with Bustle, Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, who is the former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shared the importance of healthy fats, especially found in walnuts, which are loaded with omega 3 and unsaturated fatty acids. There is a "positive metabolic benefit to using unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats, so choose walnuts, canola oil, fatty fish or flax instead of butter, red meats or other solid fats," she says.
13. Stay Hydrated & Move More
Fitting in exercise and drinking enough fluids throughout the day can help you have proper digestive regulation. Movement helps promote healthy bowel movements and prevents constipation, and drinking water can reduce water retention and bloat and hydrate your organs to functioning properly through the digestive process. Drink lots of fluid during and after exercising, too, to regulate your hormones and inflammation.
Through healthy eating habits, lifestyle adjustments, and the powers of probiotic and prebiotic foods, it's easier to maintain a balance in the body that can lead to a reduction in inflammation, bloating, gas and fatigue. By remembering these little tricks, you'll start feeling healthier, happier and more confident after each meal, and you'll be better able to workout, sleep and enjoy your food without any stress or discomfort.