Can you really improve your digestion without the need for a visit to your doctor? Is it possible to make small adjustments to your current diet and lifestyle to help your digestive system, so you feel a lot better?
Lets find out, but first let me ask you a few questions.
- Are you eating to much sugar?
- Are you eating to much processed food?
- Are you consuming too much fatty foods?
- Are you a ‘couch potato’?
And do you suffer from?
- Fingernails breaking
- Poor quality hair
The latter list is just a few of the symptoms of poor digestion. And if you answered yes to any of the first set of questions, then you are certainly not alone. But do not worry, there is usually a simple solution to improving your digestion.
Two Tips to Help your Digestive System That You Can Consider Right Now
- Firstly figure out in your head if you are drinking an adequate amount of water. If you are not drinking around two liters of re-hydrating fluids (including hot and fizzy drinks) every day then start right now. It will make a positive difference.
- Then ask yourself (honestly) if you are consuming enough fiber in your diet. Are you a healthy eater, or just someone who eats a banana now and again? For your digestive system to function properly, you need to spread your fiber intake throughout the day. This is not difficult, as all fruits and vegetables are great sources of dietary fiber, as is salad.
How Common are Digestive Problems?
You are not alone. More than forty percent of people in America suffer with some kind of gastrointestinal disorder. That includes nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, gas or even weight loss.
Poor digestive health can result in any of the above symptoms and also cause poor sleep patterns. It can also prevent you from exercising (when stomach discomfort becomes more pain, than discomfort), and it could also prevent you from having a normal social life.
So it is very important to first find out the cause of your problems, and then use the following guide to make those adjustments which will enable you to enjoy life that much more than I guess you are probably doing right now.
What Else Can You do to Improve Your Digestion?
Table of Contents:
Eat a well balanced and nutritional diet.
Drink less caffeine.
Your problem could be more serious than you think – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and gallstones.
Eat your food slowly, it’s not a race.
Are you doing enough exercise?
Don’t eat a big meal right before you go to bed.
Understand the digestive process.
Understand why your digestive system is important to your whole body.
Eat a Well Balanced and Nutritional Diet.
How often do you hear that ‘you must eat a well balanced and nutritious diet’? Probably more often than you can remember. But if you are anything like I was, at some point you fell victim to the law of familiarity and ignored some very vital and friendly advice about abdominal digestion.
Without doubt (unless you have more severe problems, which I will cover later in this article), this is probably the root cause of your indigestion.
So what defines a well balanced diet? Well, it does not include the processed foods in cans or packets. It is not anything which is not naturally growing in the ground and is not a Big Mac or KFC. There is salad in your Big Mac, but the rest of this great recipe is mainly processed food.
Although you should eat a wide variety diet which is low in fat, you should not cut fat out of your diet completely. Your body requires ‘essential’ fats to function normally, because it does not make them by itself.
Ideally, your diet should be divided like this:
Protein – 25%
Carbohydrates – 45%
Fat – 30%
These figures vary from person to person, if your male or female and your age. As I am 42, this applies to me and is about the average for most people.
I already gave you ‘two tips’ above, but without the appropriate amount of fiber and water in your diet, your digestive system is going to start ‘malfunctioning’.
Water and fiber are highly related. If you don’t consume enough of these ‘body functioning fundamentals’, you are likely to suffer the symptoms of constipation, bloating and of passing of gas.
As part of its natural process, your colon absorbs water. If you don’t have an adequate amount in your system, it absorbs what it needs, resulting in hard stools which are very difficult to pass out through your anal passage.
Water is also essential because the fiber and waste passing through your small intestines also absorbs it, making it more formed for traveling through your large colon. Without it, your stools become more solid and again you get constipated, you get a bloated stomach and basically, you fart a lot!
Although there is no recommended daily intake (RDI) for fiber, a rough guide according to an article written on the Daily Mail website is 18 grams per day.
That would be something like the following guide, which I have gathered from the many different sources I researched for this article:
- Breakfast – A bowl of cereal high in fiber. Just look on the packet and it will tell you if it’s high in fiber. A good example is oatmeal or a cereal made with bran.
- Lunch – Fresh vegetable soup, sandwiches made from whole meal bread, piece of fruit.
- Dinner – Jacket potato, brown rice, green salad, vegetables like green beans, broccoli.
OUR TOP TIP: Review your current diet. Are you eating too much processed food, consuming large amounts of fat or sugar? Or do you eat a lot of green vegetables and beans? These great foods, although generally good for you, could be causing your indigestion, gas and bloated stomach.
Drink Less Caffeine.
Caffeine has long been known as a product that has detrimental affects on your body. It’s one of those everyday products which is found everywhere you look, from your kitchen cupboard to the book store coffee shop.
But it is simply not good for you. It can give you the ‘jitters’ because it hits your central nervous system and can cause insomnia, particularly if you drink it on a regular basis (which most people do).
So how does caffeine affect your digestive system?
Personally, I disagree with the inconclusive results of medical studies that caffeine may or may not affect the gastric system.
Why do I say that?
Because when I drink just one cup of coffee (black or white), I get stomach cramps and have to run to the toilet about fifteen minutes after I drink it. Hence the reason I drink tea, not coffee.
However, medical ‘observations’ have been made about its effects on the body.
Caffeine causes your bowel to go into a kind of spasm causing food which has not been digested properly to get pushed out of your body quite quickly.
But I suppose the real answer to ‘how does caffeine affect my digestive system’ can be answered with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease patients being told NOT to drink caffeine because it will make their condition worse.
Our Top Tip: Cut down the amount of coffee you drink each day. If you cut it out completely and swap it for another type of refreshing drink, you will benefit in many ways.
Your Problem Could be More Serious than you think – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Gallstones.
Here are the symptoms of IBS.
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- The feeling of still needing to go to the toilet, after you’ve just been
- The feeling of urgently needing to do to the toilet, particularly when you first wake up
You won’t know that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome unless you visit your doctor for a diagnosis. I’ve had mild IBS since I was sixteen, it comes and goes (as does most people’s) but there is no known cure which is really annoying.
So if your symptoms persist over a long period of time, be sure to pay your doctor or physician a visit to rule out IBS or anything else such as Crohn’s disease or Colitis.
If your diagnosis is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it is certainly not the end of the world. There are certain measures you can take with your diet and lifestyle, and there are medicines you can take such as antispasmodic’s and high fiber ispaghula husks in various forms.
These can help to relieve your discomfort and treat your problem, so you ‘go’ a lot more normally.
Another serious cause of abdominal pain and discomfort is Gallstones.
The main symptom of Gallstones is severe pain in your upper and lower abdomen, from just below your breastbone down to your belly button.
So if your pain and discomfort spreads around, more than just your lower abdomen it could well be Gallstone disease, and not problems with the food you are eating and your digestive system.
Other symptoms of Gallstones (for your information):
OUR TOP TIP: Don’t just take it for granted that you have a lot of gas and your stomach is always bloated, because you may have a more serious condition. Make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Eat Your Food Slowly, it’s Not a Race!
Flatulence and burping is a sign of poor digestion which can be from you chewing and swallowing your food too quickly.
When you chew your food too quick, you can ingest air with your food. To avoid this any unnecessary burping and passing of gas, eat your food slowly.
OUR TOP TIP: To rule out if your flatus is a digestive disorder in your gastrointestinal system, and not just because of the way you eat, try this and see if the changes make any significant difference.
Are You Doing Enough Exercise?
Daily physical exercise not only improves your cardiovascular health and makes you feel great, but it also helps to improve your overall health, including your bowel movements.
And when I am talking about getting enough exercise, I am not talking about a couple of weekly cardio sessions at the gym. I am really just talking about the walk to the bus stop or to your work place.
Speaking from my own life experiences, even just walking around the block or through the park with my daughter, is a necessary amount of exercise.
Have you ever had the flu (I guess you probably have), and you’ve been unable to move for several days? Did you notice any change in your bowel movements were slower? Yes, maybe?
If you can relate to this, it was your lack of exercise for that time which was the culprit.
I had abdominal surgery four months ago and in the weeks following that, as you can imagine, I did not move around very much. Consequently, ‘things’ were not moving very much and stools were very hard.
OUR TOP TIP: Get out there and do some kind of physical activity, even if it’s just a walk or some heavy gardening. The exercise will work wonders for your digestive activity (and your overall health), which is great if you are constipated.
Don’t Eat a Big Meal Right Before You go to Bed.
Eating a meal right before you head off to bed causes heartburn and causes gas to build up in your gastrointestinal tract (stomach, large and small colon). When you lie flat your digestive juices and gases can sometimes make their way back up through your esophagus causing a burning pain adjacent to your heart (hence the name, heartburn).
If you do get heartburn before bed, you can either sleep on more pillows to keep you in more of a sitting position, or you can get some ‘elephant feet’ for your bed to raise it.
This will help keep the stomach acids in their normal place.
If your problem is a bloating and pains in your stomach when you lie down, this is because gas is trapped in your system.
The best thing to do is to get up and have a walk around. Up or down, one way or the other – your gas will be relieved.
OUR TOP TIP: Make your last meal at least two hours before going to bed.
Understand the Digestive Process.
Your digestive system works like this. To keep your whole body healthy, like your skin, bones and organs (including your stomach and colon) it needs water and nutrients.
We could also go down the long road here, and discuss how your system also needs exercise to function normally which completes the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of the whole process, but we’ve already covered that previously in this article.
Your body gets the nutrients from your food, which are broken down and ‘fed’ to the billions of cells that make up every muscle, bone and organ of your body.
The digestive process starts with the saliva in your mouth. The ‘juices’ start breaking down your food, before it enters your stomach.
It is then broken down even further by your stomach lining (apart from starchy foods, which I have covered in my article titled Foods That Cause Constipation), before it enters your small bowel and then your large bowel. This is where the final part of the digestive process takes place, breaking down and absorbing food and nutrients.
For most people who have problems with their digestion, it is normally just bad food (processed and high fat or sugar foods) which are causing them abdominal pain and discomfort – constipation, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence.
But it can also be from the healthy foods which I have talked about in that article. If your stomach or bowel does not ‘agree’ with the food that is passing through it, it will tell you how it feels about the situation!
OUR TOP TIP: Study the way your digestion functions, and if you think any particular food is not agreeing with you, change it or cut it from your diet.
Understand Why Your Digestive System is Important to Your Whole Body.
Your digestive system and the food you eat plays a fundamental role in the functioning of your body. If your digestion is wrong, by which I mean you are not eating enough of the right types of food and not getting enough nutrition, your whole body WILL suffer as a consequence.
Starting with the digestive system itself – if it doesn’t get enough fiber and water, it starts to malfunction, giving you gas, a bloated tummy and pain.
To help you understand why your gastric system is important, here are just a few of other vital nutrients it breaks down and absorbs:
- Calcium – If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your hair and nails will suffer.
- Vitamin B Complex – If you don’t get enough vitamin B complex, body tissue (cells of your body) will not repair and grow properly, your nervous system may suffer and you could feel a lack of energy (to name just a few).
- Amino acids (proteins) – Amino acids are the building blocks of your organs like your muscles and particularly your heart. If your diet is insufficient in just one of these proteins, you could suffer a range of conditions such as depression and muscle wastage. Have a read of this article on Fitday.com for more information.
Do you see why keeping your digestive system in a healthy condition is so important? And not just to the organs in it, but to your whole body?
OUR TOP TIP: Research some of the articles on our website, so you understand what causes flatulence, abdominal bloating and diarrhea.
What You Must Do, Starting Today to Help Your Digestion Function Normally
Firstly rule out the foods which are giving you problems. If you’re eating any amount of junk food per week, drop it out of your diet completely ‘just to see’ if it that food which is causing your upset digestion.
Whether your problem is gas, a bloated stomach or constipation there could be a range of food types, such as dairy or wheat products which could be causing your discomfort and grumbling in your stomach.
It may take you a little time to find the culprit food, but it will be worth it in the end. If it worked for me, it can definitely work for YOU.
What you need to do is to stop eating some of your regular foods, one at a time and see if there is any difference in your bowel movements and if your bloating is reduced.
Is there perhaps one type of food that you eat just a couple of times per week that gives you problems? Maybe it is the coffee you are drinking.
Have a think about it, because your solution could be more simple than you think.
You could also try adding organic probiotics to your diet, for more information read our article titled Probiotics and Flatulence.
If you constantly feel the need to run to the toilet, then you should contact your doctor right away. Your problems may be a little more serious than an Indian curry giving you diarrhea. You could have an irritable bowel, Colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Make sure you drink the recommended daily amount of fluids – water, fizzy drinks, tea or any other type of re-hydrating fluid such as orange juice.
If you are burping right after you eat, or even while you eat – try chewing your food slower. And if you chew a lot of gum, stop chewing for a few days and see if your bloated stomach disperses, because the chewing of gum also makes you ingest air.
Are you one of those people who live in for their career and have little time to eat at the proper times, ie – breakfast, lunch and dinner? If the only time you seem to be able to fit a big meal in is right before bedtime, then make a stern effort to take short breaks during the day and eat smaller meals.
This small change could be life-changing for you.
And think about your exercise regime. Do you even have one?
Are constantly driving from place to place, even if you could easily walk there in little to no time? I’m not talking about joining a membership gym (that’s great if you can though), but take several brisk walks every day to get your heart pumping.
This will really help to ‘move things along’ your intestinal tract, trust me – I know!
And finally take some time to understand the digestive process and why it is so important for your whole body to function normally. Everything from your small and large intestines, to your heart, your lungs and your skin.
The way you eat and digest your food, how your digestive system absorbs vital nutrients and pushes them into your every microscopic cell of your body is crucial to your digestive and overall health.