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Ten ways to improve your digestion

By Nailantei Norari
Thursday, November 5th, 2020
Doctor. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Poor digestion can lead to a host of problems, which include skin rashes, bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, intestinal sounds and fatigue. Your lifestyle and choice of foods can affect the way the body digests what you eat. Nailantei Norari writes on how to keep things running smoothly.

Eat fibre rich food

Fibre ensures food does not move too slowly or too fast in the gut. It also promotes healthy gut bacteria and controls cholesterol levels in the blood.

The correlation between high intake of fibre and improved digestion cannot be overemphasised.

A considerable amount of fibre can be found in fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains and cereals, nuts and beans; consume more of these.

Hydrate

Research shows that low intake of fluids is the major cause of constipation.

One should, therefore, take plenty of water to aid the digestive process. One can supplement water with herbal teas and other non-caffeinated drinks.

To up the water and fluid intake, fleshy vegetables and fruits high in water content such as watermelons and cucumbers can be added to the diet.

Include probiotics in diet

Probiotics are known to boost good gut bacteria production, which are known to improve digestion as they assist in the breaking down of indigestible fibres that may cause gas and bloating. 

Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as yoghurts, sauerkraut and kimchi. One can also consume probiotic supplements.

Have an eating schedule

It is important to have an eating schedule, where you have regular fixed meal times.

This allows the digestive system to have ample time to digest food and rest.

Moreover, having an eating schedule ensures you do not overeat as the meals are evenly spread out and hence one does not feel excessively hungry, which is the major cause of overeating. 

Reduce intake of bad foods

Processed, fatty and high-sugar foods slow down the whole digestive process.

Sugar is, especially bad for the gut because it promotes unhealthy bacteria growth and also draws water into the colon, which can lead to loose stool and discomfort.

Eat real food as much as possible and limit processed foods to just a few days of the week to protect your digestive system from being overwhelmed.

Remember to eat a balanced diet to ensure you get all the nutrients that you need.

Add healthy fats to your diet

While trans-fats and other unhealthy fats slow down digestion, healthy fats improve digestion and even enhance the absorption of nutrients. Good fat also helps you feel satisfied after a meal.

Additionally, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease your risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis.

Foods high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts), as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.

7. Ditch bad lifestyle habits

Bad lifestyle habits such as smoking, late night eating and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your digestive health.

Alcohol consumption can lead to the stomach producing more digestive juices leading to heartburn and acid reflux while smoking doubles the incidence of acid reflux and gastrointestinal cancers.

One should reduce if not completely eliminate these bad lifestyle habits.

8. Get moving

Exercise and gravity has been shown to aid digestion. Scientific studies show that even as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily reduce the transit time of food in the digestive system while reducing incidences of constipation and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

It is important to wait until two hours after eating to exercise as exercising immediately after eating will slow down digestion.

9. Practice mindful eating

Eating too much too quickly can lead to bloating and indigestion. It is, therefore, important to practice mindful eating by eating and chewing slowly, fully focusing on the food and experiencing the different textures and taste of the food, and eating until you are full and stopping immediately you feel you are full.

We often tend to overeat when we are not paying attention to what we are eating, and this often leads to bloating.

10. Manage stress

Ensure you manage stress as it wreaks havoc on the digestive system. Research shows a direct correlation between increased stress levels and digestive disorders such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.

The fight or flight action that is triggered by cortisol- stress hormone, being released due to stress impairs digestion by directing blood and energy away from the digestive system.

Manage stress by directly dealing with the stressful factors and practicing meditation and yoga.

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