You can support good digestion with what you eat, drink, and do.
Dec 19, 2019
Gut health impacts how well all bodily systems are fueled and a healthy digestive system will effectively rid the body of toxins, promote higher energy levels and help organs function at their optimal levels.
However, most people don’t think about their digestion until something goes wrong, and at that point the tendency is often to reach for over-the-counter pills and potions. Those solutions may provide some degree of temporary relief, but the better solution is to improve the health of the whole digestive system.
Food and Drinks
One obvious contributor to gut health is what you put into your stomach—what you eat and drink. Start with what your mom always told you: eat your vegetables. Fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, contain fiber which encourages regular waste elimination.
Green vegetables also contain significant amounts of magnesium, a mineral that strengthens gastrointestinal muscles. Your diet should include probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and other fermented foods. Kombucha may prove particularly advantageous, as preliminary studies suggest it may aid in healing stomach ulcers.
Fennel has an anti-spasmodic component that helps relieve bloating and reduce flatulence. Ginger and peppermint often alleviate nausea and speed digestion; ginger has the added benefit of being an antibiotic.
Other gut-friendly drinks include prune juice, which is high in fiber and potassium, and perhaps even helpful in the prevention of colon cancer and urinary tract infections. Lemon juice eases bloating and helps rid the stomach of excess gas.
Water is extremely important, as it is a key component in every cell of the body; additionally, fiber-rich foods only work when they are combined with water. Coffee and other sources of caffeine stimulate the digestive tract and are often effective in addressing constipation.
Find supplements whose purity and efficacy you can trust. Avoid ingredients that are unnecessary and potentially harmful such as sugar and artificial sweeteners. Take your own sensitivities into account as well—if you have trouble digesting soy or dairy, read the label carefully to find a formula free of those elements.
Look for powerful and proven active ingredients such as the amino acid L-glutamine which soothes the lining of the stomach, and N-acetyl D-glucosamine which prevents lectins from causing leaky gut syndrome. A good supplement will also contain natural healing substances like licorice root and cinnamon.
You may want to avoid extreme or vigorous exercise, which can actually cause some types of temporary digestive distress. You should, however, regularly engage in moderate physical activity, which can have numerous benefits to the GI system.
In particular, people who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome find that adequate levels of activity lessen symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse over time. Constipation, gas pains and bloating are often relieved by exercise, though gastric reflux may increase if exercise comes too soon after large meals.
Certain workouts may target gut health better than others, especially those that increase core strength. Sit-ups and crunches target abdominal muscles which can help address bloating. Cycling focuses on the hard-to-reach lower abdomen.
Walking is one of the best activities to aid digestion as it can stimulate movement in the intestinal area and won’t cause discomfort even during episodes of gas pain and pressure. Regular yoga sessions help stretch and relax the entire core; certain poses, such as the well-known downward dog, can provide instant relief during bouts of GI trouble.
You may experience digestive problems even if no physical cause is present. This is in part because GI issues are often brought on by psychological factors such as stress. Easing anxiety and tension can alleviate symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.
Meditation, deep breathing and other mindfulness and relaxation exercises may provide immediate relief during distress by suppressing the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response. Meditation can be especially effective at reducing discomfort among those suffering from IBS. Chronic issues may also be relieved by hypnosis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is best known for helping with mental health but it can lead to better digestive health as well. While CBT is unlikely to ease pain during episodes of acute distress, it can help people who suffer from chronic conditions by improving how they manage anxiety and cope with stress on a daily basis.