Digestive problems can lead to bad moods, low energy, hormonal imbalances and poor nutrient absorption.
Good digestive health is not only very satisfying when we manage to achieve it, but it's also crucial for our overall health.
As much as 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, which means that poor digestion leads to weak immunity. If this wasn't concerning enough, problems with digestion could also lead to bad moods, low energy, hormonal imbalances and poor nutrient absorption.
In short, our digestion 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 many simple things we can do to improve our digestive health. 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 that help with 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. What’s less well known, is that there are two different types of fibre. There’s soluble fibre and insoluble fibre, both of which are essential for making top quality poop.
Insoluble fibre plays an important role in moving bulk through the digestive tract, but it also controls 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 come to a complete halt. When it comes to making high-fibre food choices, you can never go wrong with a diet rich in plants.
How long you sleep, how well you sleep, and how regularly you sleep, 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. If you can clean up your sleeping habits, you’ll probably be rewarded every morning.
Drinking plenty of water is excellent for your digestive health, while insufficient water intake (or dehydration) is one of the leading 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, pineapples, watermelons, tomatoes and strawberries.
It also helps to avoid drinking a lot of caffeine and alcohol, as these substances are diuretics, meaning they actually remove water from the body and potentially cause digestive upset. That said, a little coffee and wine here and there won’t do any harm!
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 digestion begins in the mouth, where saliva and enzymes 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 in the stomach is much more difficult, 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 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 strategies regularly 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 commitments, taking a short walk after meals is a great way to stimulate the digestive processes and get things moving right away.
8. Probiotics and prebiotics
Your digestive system contains a very delicate ecosystem of yeast and bacteria that plays a vital role in digestion and immunity. Imbalances in this microflora ecosystem can you unable to properly digest and absorb nutrients from food, weaken your immune system, and lead to an overgrowth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria, which can attack other systems in your body.
Probiotics are the good bacteria, and eating fermented foods like coconut yoghurt or kimchi can restore the balance to transform your digestive and overall health.
Prebiotics are also essential for better digestion, as they are what the good bacteria feed on. Organic, unpasteurised Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural prebiotic, as well as a delicious addition to salad dressings.
9. Switch to a gut-friendly protein
If you're currently using whey protein powder, then you might be already aware of the negative impact it can have 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, which can cause a lot of internal distress and trigger an immune response. Constant inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract leads to increased mucus production, hormonal dysfunction, and an increased risk of chronic illness.
By contrast, Tropeaka Proteins are hypoallergenic and have much better bioavailability. 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 essential 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. Meat can also be difficult for our digestive system to cope with, as it breaks down very slowly and uses 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-rich meals, incorporating fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Eating a plant-rich diet can help reduce the stress on your internal world, leaving you with more energy to enjoy the world around you.
Bonus Tip for Better Digestion: If you need to restore health and happiness to your gut, try Sarah’s Day Body Bloom. With a balanced blend of prebiotics and probiotics, Body Bloom feeds your beneficial bacteria and promotes digestive comfort and ease. It also tastes like berries! Sarah's inspiration for Body Bloom grew from her own struggles with digestion, hormonal acne and gut health; can you relate to her story?
As digestion is such a delicate 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 now and then, so hopefully, this list of 10 tips can help you get back on track.