Are digestive issues running your life? If you suffer from digestive problems, simple lifestyle modifications may be useful for improving your digestion.
Here are 5 evidence-based changes you can make to help improve your digestion naturally.
1. Introduce a probiotic supplement
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed in sufficient amounts are beneficial for health (1).
Shown to be particularly beneficial for digestion, the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum 299V has been investigated in numerous studies and clinical trials to improve symptoms associated with uncomfortably common digestive symptoms such as gas and bloating.
Of particular interest for those with more than one digestive symptom, Lactobacillus plantarum 299V may also be beneficial if you suffer from IBS (2). In one placebo controlled study, 78% of patients on Lactobacillus plantarum 299V experienced welcomed relief of their digestive symptoms (abdominal pain and bloating) compared with only 8.1% of those patients taking the placebo (3).
2. Ditch processed foods!
Did you know that eating too many processed foods can have an effect on your digestive health?
Not only are processed foods commonly stripped of important nutrients during their manufacturing processes, but they often also contain food additives including artificial colours, preservatives and sweeteners – the latter of which research has shown can lead to a an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut known as dysbiosis.
Long term dysbiosis can contribute to an increased risk of developing digestive problems such as IBS and IBD (irritable bowel disease) (4). Interestingly, artificial sweetener-related gut dysbiosis has been specifically linked, through research, to an increased risk of developing glucose intolerance (an inability of your body to process glucose or sugar properly that can increase your risk for the development of adult onset diabetes if left untreated.) (5).
3. Practice stress management
Stress affects how well you absorb the nutrients from your foods, how your body digests your food via the secretion of digestive substances like digestive enzymes and stomach acids (6), by reducing the blood flow to your digestive organs as your brain and muscles take the share of all the nutrients and oxygen running around your system so you can cope with the challenges stress place on your mind and energy levels.
This reduction in blood flow can contribute to common digestive issues related to stress including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, stomach ulcers and changes in your bowel habits. Stress may also lead to the inflammation of your digestive tract and may contribute to the exacerbation of existing inflammatory digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (7).
Studies have shown that mind-body therapies such as yoga, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy may help alleviate stress, and therefore have an impact on reducing symptoms related to digestive problems in those with IBS (8). So, the next time you are feeling queasy, take some deep breaths … It might help reduce your stress and improve your digestive health!
4. Get Your Move On
Just like stress reduces the blood flow to your digestive organs, exercise can assist in improving blood flow and as a result the flow of oxygen to your digestive organs. This means that as you move your body, you are also helping to move food through your digestive tract and as a result, supporting healthy nutrient absorption and healthy elimination.
5. Ensure you are well hydrated
Do you consume enough fibre and get enough exercise, but still get constipated? You may not be consuming enough fluids!
Experts recommend that men consume about 3L of fluid (as water) a day, while women should consume about 2L. If you engage in a lot of physical activity or live in a hot climate, you may need to consume more fluids to maintain proper hydration and prevent dehydration (9).
The best fluid of all is water, but other beverages such as herbal teas and watery foods such as cucumber, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, grapefruit, and cantaloupe also contribute positively to your overall hydration (10).