Digestion issues such as stomach pain, gas, heartburn, nausea, constipation or diarrhea can affect our day to day lives and leave us feeling miserable. Most people will experience these symptoms from time to time, but if you experience any of them frequently, it can be an indication that your body is struggling to perform its digestive functions. Over the counter medications can often work wonders in treating the immediate discomfort, but they don’t provide a long term relief from digestive problems and aches, or a long term solution for the consequences of poor digestion on your overall health.
When it comes to the actions we can take to improve your digestion in simple and natural ways, more and more evidence has been coming to light in recent years, providing sufferers with a way of taking control of their digestion.
Let us take a look at some simple steps that can effectively help improve your digestion.
1. Mind Your Diet
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to most readers, but it is nonetheless important, and oftentimes people are clueless as to what diet aids healthy digestion. New research suggests that the typical Western diet can actually lead to more digestive problems, among many other health issues it brings about. Western diets are often full of refined sugars, processed meats, additives to bring artificial color or flavor, and saturated fats — in other words, junk food!
Not only do many Western foods contain a lot of refined sugar, but they also contain artificial sweeteners, which in high quantities have been known to cause diarrhea. Anyone who has had more than a few “sugar-free” sweet foods or drinks will have experienced this.
Having a diet high in fiber is one of the key tricks for tackling constipation. High fiber foods include whole wheat/grain bread, beans, brown rice, oats, broccoli, and sweet potatoes — just to name a few. Some types of cereals and grains may cause problems for some people, such as bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so if you fall into this category, get your fiber from various fruits and vegetables instead.
Foods high in fat can also bring on heartburn since fats are harder for the body to break down. Eating more fish and lean meat such as turkey and chicken, drinking skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and grilling rather than frying foods help combat this.
2. Keep a Food Diary
Some people will have certain foods that trigger digestion issues. For example, some people are particularly sensitive to spicy food where even a small amount can cause diarrhea. Other people may be fine with spicy food but be sensitive to dairy, gluten, soy or other foods. The best way to determine if you have any triggers to your digestion problems is to keep a food diary.
If you want to keep a food diary, here’s how to do it:
- Keep the diary with you at all times, don’t rely on your memory. Sometimes we forget that piece of chocolate that a coworker gave us.
- Record what you eat straight away.
- Be specific about what you ate and what exactly was in it.
- Estimate how much you consumed.
3. Drink Plenty of The Right Fluids
One of the major causes of constipation is being dehydrated. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. One way to do this is to buy a bottle that can hold a specific quantity of water, that way you can track how much you are drinking by knowing how many bottles you drink. There are now apps you can download on your smartphone to help you track your water intake, if that is necessary.
Drinking fluids helps the continued passage of food through your digestive system, keeping everything moving smoothly.
If you don’t want to drink cups and cups of water, there are alternatives such as many health-boosting herbal teas, milk, coconut water, and natural fruit or vegetable juices.
4. Avoid the Wrong Fluids
Coffee and other drinks high in caffeine have been known to cause heartburn, so if heartburn is something you get often, it is best to avoid caffeine drinks. This is because caffeine boosts the amount of stomach acid in the stomach, which can lead to heartburn. Some popular drinks high in caffeine include coffee in all its forms, tea, colas, certain sodas, and of course energy drinks.
Fizzy soft drinks can also lead to bloating in some people, and they have been shown to cause heartburn. They’ve also been shown to increase the risk of developing dementia and other health problems. In short, you’d be much healthier if you drop soft drinks from your diet.
5. Get More Probiotics
You have probably seen the recent craze for gut-friendly bacteria hidden in yogurts and dairy drinks. These foods and drinks are a great way to introduce beneficial, digestion-aiding bacteria into your gut. They are particularly helpful for people who suffer with bloating or irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics should be taken as an addition to your diet, and require continued use in order to get the most benefit from them — you can normally expect to see results after 2 weeks or so.