Do you suffer from ongoing digestive issues? The American Gastrointestinal Association found that nearly 40% of Americans have stopped routine activities in the last year due to uncomfortable bowel symptoms. You may find it difficult to pinpoint what is causing your discomfort. The good news is, there are a few simple things you can try to help ease your digestion so you can get back to enjoying life again.
1. Eat Slower and Chew Food Completely
According to Intestinal Labs, it has been found that eating slower and chewing your food more thoroughly can help aid digestion. Since digestion starts in the mouth, we can give our body a greater chance of producing the enzymes needed to break down our food. Chewing food more thoroughly not only helps us digest better, but it may allow for greater nutrient absorption as well as feeling more satiated. Eating slower also gives our body a chance to properly absorb and digest the foods we eat. Eating too fast may cause more air to enter our system, causing bloating and gas. Eating slower can make us more mindful of hunger cues, as well as allow us to chew more thoroughly. Properly breaking down our food before we swallow is key!
2. Get Adequate Hydration
Staying hydrated is also an essential piece to our digestion. Adequate fluid intake can help carry food through our digestive tract to prevent constipation and regulate bowel movements. It also aids in the breaking down of foods that we eat. Staying hydrated allows for adequate production of saliva, a major part of our digestion, as well as increasing the mucus that protects our stomach lining. Coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda can lead to dehydration, so be mindful about the amount of these drinks you consume.
3. Stay Moving and Active
It has also been found that regular exercise can help to stimulate your digestion, as it promotes blood circulation throughout the body and can activate digestive enzymes. Choose low impact exercises, as strenuous exercises after meals may lead to cramping or further discomfort. You may want to try yoga, not only for more movement, but also for its stress relief benefits which can also be causing gut issues. Stretching and walking can also be extremely beneficial for our digestion. It is important to realize that even small movements, like an abdominal massage, can make a big difference for our digestion. Sometimes our gut just needs a bit of help to get things moving!
4. Assess Your Intake
You should also take a look at the foods you are eating and make note of which ones may be causing you discomfort. It may be helpful to start a food log. Include the time, the ingredients in your meal, and how you feel after eating the meal or snack. This may help narrow down what is causing the discomfort.
You also want to take a look at how much fiber you are consuming. Too much or too little fiber may be causing discomfort. If you are consuming adequate fiber, you may want to address your hydration during meals. Fiber and water should be consumed together for maximum benefits, as fiber needs water to be properly digested. You also might find that eating smaller, more frequent meals is better tolerated than eating larger portions. Bigger meals have been shown to cause more discomfort after eating.
Along with food intake, it is important to note that many medications have unwanted side effects, which could be contributing to your digestive issues. Discuss with your doctor before changing or discontinuing any medications.
5. Try Probiotics
You also may want to boost your gut flora by adding probiotics, which introduce good bacteria and promote a healthy microbiome in your intestines, which may help your digestion. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sourdough, sauerkraut, 70%+ dark chocolate, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kefir, and kombucha. If you do not like these foods, you could also consider taking a probiotic supplement for gut health. Consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.
With these 5 simple tricks, you should be on the road to feeling less discomfort throughout your day. Digestive issues are not easy to live with but can be maintained in a holistic manner if not severe.
When Should You Contact Your Doctor?
If you have unusual or severe abdominal pain, blood in your stool, ongoing nausea or vomiting, or unexplained weight loss, you should contact your doctor immediately for further examination.
Learn more about digestive health and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Kylie McLoud, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern