Digestive problems can lead to bad moods, low energy, hormonal imbalances and poor nutrient absorption.
Good digestion is not only very satisfying when we manage to achieve it, but it’s also very important for our overall health.
As much as 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, meaning that poor digestion leads to poor immunity. If this wasn’t concerning enough, digestive problems can also lead to bad moods, low energy, hormonal imbalances and poor nutrient absorption.
In short, it affects pretty much everything.
Although it may seem out of our control and even impossible to fix what’s going on inside us, there are actually many easy things we can do to improve our digestion. Here are 10 tips to get you started!
1. Pose for relief
Although it’s not a good idea to practice yoga straight after a meal, there are several yoga postures which can improve digestion. Yoga has so many physical and mental health benefits, so it’s no surprise that it can stimulate and cleanse the digestive system too.
If you’re feeling bloated a few hours after eating, or even the next morning, try these five yoga postures to improve digestion - a few good stretches in the right direction, along with some mindfulness and relaxation could be just what your tummy needs.
2. Focus on Fibre
It’s pretty well known that getting plenty of fibre in your diet is one of the easiest fixes for digestive issues. It’s less well known that there are two types of fibre - soluble fibre and insoluble fibre, and both are essential for making top-quality poop.
Insoluble fibre plays the important role of moving bulk through the digestive tract, while controlling the pH balance in the intestines. Soluble fibre binds with fatty acids and slows the release and absorption of sugar by prolonging the time it takes for your stomach to empty. The bottom line is, fibre is what keeps things moving.
If you’re not eating many whole grains, vegetables, legumes or fruits, then it should come as no surprise if things slow down, or even come to a complete halt. When it comes to making high-fibre food choices, you can never go wrong with plants.
How long you sleep, how well you sleep, and how regularly you sleep, can all have an impact on your digestion. This is because digestion is a highly sensitive process that requires a great deal of energy, and getting a good night’s sleep means your digestive organs have time for rest and repair.
Lack of sleep puts stress on all of the body’s systems, making us more prone to mental stress and anxiety- which is often linked to digestive issues.
The digestive system thrives on regularity and consistency, so aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and strive to sleep at least 8 hours a night - and you’ll likely be rewarded in the morning.
Drinking plenty of water is great for your digestive health, and insufficient water intake (or dehydration) is one of the main causes of constipation. The combination of sufficient fibre and water in the colon creates softer, bulkier stools, which pass through quickly and easily.
For amazing digestion, drink a minimum of 2-3 litres of water each day, and eat plenty of hydrating foods like cucumbers, zucchini’s, pineapples, watermelons, tomatoes and strawberries.
It also helps to avoid drinking a lot of caffeine and alcohol, as these substance are diuretics, meaning they actually remove water from the body and can potentially cause digestive upset.
5. Chew thoroughly
When we think about digestion, we usually think about what’s going on in our belly and coming out the other end, but in fact - digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva and enzymes in our mouths are responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates and keeping bacteria under control.
Unfortunately, many of us are cutting this important process short, as we’re often eating in a hurry, on the run, or when we’re feeling stressed out. Not only does this mean the next stage of digestion is much more difficult when the food reaches the stomach, but eating too fast also activates the ‘flight-or-fight’ response, which further inhibits digestion. Chewing your food well and relaxing to enjoy each meal encourages smooth sailing throughout the rest of the digestive journey, as the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the ‘rest-and-digest’ system) is activated.
If you’re stressed out leading up to a meal, take a few minutes to meditate or do some deep breathing before you eat. This will prepare your nervous system for the process of digestion.
6. Manage Stress
It’s impossible for our bodies to respond to stress and digest food simultaneously, so it’s important to discover the stress management strategies that work for you.
This could be anything from meditation, to jogging, or even singing along to your favourite song. You could even try taking adaptogenic herbs, which enable us to adapt to stress without putting any strain on our bodily systems.
Practice your stress management strategy on a regular basis to keep your digestion flowing smoothly, regardless of the challenging ups and downs we all face throughout our lives.
7. Exercise regularly
Exercise increases blood flow throughout the entire body, including the digestive system. Better blood flow to these organs means you’ll avoid sluggish digestion, bloating, gas and constipation.
Regular exercise will help keep you regular, but better digestion is just one of the countless benefits of incorporating fitness into your lifestyle.
In addition to your usual fitness regime, taking a short walk after meals is a great way to stimulate the digestive processes and get things moving right away.
8. Probiotics and pre-biotics
Your digestive system contains a very delicate ecosystem of yeast and bacteria, which play an important role in digestion and immunity. Imbalances in this microflora ecosystem can lead to an inability to properly digest and absorb nutrients from food, a weakened immune system, and an overgrowth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria, which can attack other systems in the body.
Probiotics are the good bacteria, and eating fermented foods like coconut yoghurt or kimchi can restore the balance and transform your digestive and overall health.
Pre-biotics are also essential to improving digestion, as they are what feeds the good bacteria. Organic, unpasteurised Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural pre-biotic, as well as a delicious addition to salad dressings.
9. Switch to Plant-based Protein
If you’re currently using a whey protein powder, then you’re probably already aware of its potential negative impact on digestive health. Flatulence and painful bloating are caused by the presence of lactose (milk sugar) in whey protein.
Poor digestion is the most common side effect of lactose consumption, and it can cause a lot of internal distress which can potentially trigger an immune response leading to increased mucus production and hormonal dysfunctions.
In contrast, Tropeaka’s plant-based protein powders are hypoallergenic and have much better bioavailability - this is because they are easily digested, absorbed, assimilated and eliminated, and better digestion means faster progress towards your fitness goals!
10. Eat digestion-friendly foods
If you’re suffering from poor digestion, then it’s important to ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to digest?’ Some foods are simply much harder for our bodies to break down and make use of than others. We already know that dairy is one to avoid, due to the presence of lactose and acid-forming animal-derived protein. Meat can also be difficult for our digestive system to cope with, it can metabolise slowly, while using up a lot of our energy.
Highly processed packaged foods with more than 3 or 4 ingredients should also be avoided if you want to avoid painful, poop-related problems.
So, what’s left? Hydrating, high-fibre plant-based whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Basing your diet around these foods will potentially reduce the stress on your internal world, leaving you with more energy to enjoy the world around you.
As digestion is such a sensitive process that can be easily upset by so many factors, achieving good digestive health is a pretty clear indicator that you’re taking really great care of yourself. However, it’s totally normal to experience some less-than-ideal digestion every now and then, so hopefully this list of 10 tips can help you get back on track.