Digestion is a complex, highly evolved system that processes food and liquids to extract the necessary nutrients for growth and development.
Suppose you’re not digesting your food correctly. In that case, you may feel bloated, develop symptoms such as constipation, get diarrhea or feel very uncomfortable. Several factors may affect digestion and your gut health or digestive system. Some include changes in the intestinal microbiome brought about by age, lifestyle, disease and stress.
In this article, we’ll chat about ten ways to improve your digestive health naturally. We’ll cover everything from the benefits of a healthy diet to getting help from natural supplements like CBD products.
But first, let’s chat more about how digestion works.
How Digestion Works
The process begins in the mouth with mastication or the chewing of food by your teeth. Then, saliva starts breaking down starches into simpler sugars before you swallow them.
From there, they enter the esophagus, where they are pushed downward by muscle contractions until they reach the stomach and small intestine. These organs are what do most of the work.
The stomach churns acid-containing gastric juices that break down proteins into amino acids while also churning large amounts of partially digested liquid called chyme through its narrow opening at a speed of up to one quart per minute.
Once in your small intestine, more enzymes from pancreatic juices continue to break down food into its essential components, which are then absorbed through the small intestine wall.
The waste material is then stored in the large intestine until it passes as stool out of your body in what we know commonly as a bowel movement.
As you can see, it’s a pretty involved process. There are many parts of the process where things could go wrong. It’s important to do what you can to minimize issues by trying one, if not a few, of the following tips.
How to Naturally Improve Your Digestive Health
1) Visit Your Doctor
If you have persistent digestive symptoms and are at risk of severe diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes or colon cancer, visit your doctor. This way, you can see if an underlying health condition is causing problems with your digestion. Your doctor will perform a basic physical exam and may also order blood and stool tests to help identify the cause of your symptoms. Once you have a diagnosis, and if allergies or sensitivities are the cause, you can adapt your lifestyle naturally without the need for medications.
2) Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Getting proper nutrition plays a significant role in supporting healthy gut functions. Foods that provide our bodies with enough vitamins and nutrients are vital for healing and repairing damage to cells lining the digestive tract. Make sure you’re getting the fuel your body needs to keep a well-functioning digestive system by including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet. Avoid refined sugar and processed foods that research says worsen digestion symptoms by upsetting the bacterial balance in the GI tract.
3) Consume More Probiotics
Our gut microbiome contains trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that significantly influence our health. To maintain healthy digestion, make sure you eat foods with probiotics or consume them in supplement form. These live microorganisms provide various health benefits by improving gut health, such as normalizing bowel movements and supporting immunity.
Examples often come from fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso and cheese. At the same time, pickled vegetables are another source of probiotics. Be sure to read food labels when you shop to make sure your food contains live bacteria — sometimes, the term “probiotic” is used on packaging without proper research showing a specific type of beneficial microorganism in the product. You can also ask your doctor about taking a probiotic supplement.
4) Try Peppermint Oil Supplements or Tea
Peppermint is known to relax the muscles in your digestive tract and intestines, which can help reduce cramping and bloating you might experience with IBS symptoms. You could try an over-the-counter oral peppermint oil supplement for best results. However, if you get heartburn when consuming it, try drinking soothing peppermint tea instead. If you can’t find organic tea at your local grocery store, purchase online from sites that offer certified organic herbal teas.
Sometimes lack of physical activity slows down peristalsis, which is the muscle contractions within your GI system. This can lead to constipation. So, be sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3-5 days per week. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long, sweaty workout at the gym, either. A quick walk around your neighborhood will get your blood flowing and help improve digestion on its own!
6) Check Your Medicine Cabinet
Certain medications like antacids containing magnesium may cause diarrhea, while another high in aluminum may cause constipation. Painkillers or narcotic-type drugs, for example, may also cause constipation. Be sure to discuss any change in symptoms with your doctor if you’re taking medication that shouldn’t affect your bowel movements.
In addition, keep track of what medications and supplements you’re taking and how they impact your digestion. You can do this by keeping a daily diary of food and any symptoms you experience. This can help you pinpoint whether it’s a medication or food that might be causing problems.
7) Consider a Low FODMAP Diet for IBS
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are types of carbohydrates found in certain foods that can irritate the digestive system. Some examples include onions, garlic, apples, pears and cashews. Gastroenterologists often recommend the low FODMAP diet to help reduce diarrhea and other digestion problems associated with IBS, including bloating.
However, you’ll need to work with your doctor to develop a personalized list of low FODMAP foods that work for your symptoms. Some typical low FODMAP foods include asparagus, avocado, eggs (but no toast), meat or poultry (remove the skin), potatoes, nuts and seeds, most fish and many types of dairy products.
8) Use Essential Oils for Gut Health
Certain essential oils have been shown to help regulate digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas, responsible for breaking down food. They have also been proven to reduce inflammation in the small intestine as well as soothe intestinal spasms. So try adding a drop or two of organic ginger oil to your favorite soothing tea.
9) Use CBD for Digestive Health
CBD or cannabidiol is one of the non-psychoactive compounds found in hemp and plants. It’s completely safe, but, unlike THC, it won’t get you high during use! CBD oil has been shown to help regulate digestive enzymes that promote healthy digestion and reduce inflammation in your intestinal tract. Try adding a couple drops of CBD with MCT oil to your morning smoothie or juice for calming effects on digestive spasms caused by IBS or other GI concerns.
10) Be Mindful of Your Water Intake for Improved Digestion
Your body needs water to break down food into nutrients that cells throughout your body can utilize and help in removing waste. It’s recommended to drink at least eight cups of filtered water daily. You can use an app on your phone to give you regular reminders and track how much you’ve had during the day.
Relief Is Possible
Remember, improving digestive health naturally is as easy as adding these simple healthy habits into your daily routine and diet. It doesn’t have to take long, but the rewards — better health, more energy and improved well-being — will soon be evident!
Be sure to share this article with friends who may want to learn how to improve their gut health naturally, too!