9 Quick Tips on How to Improve Digestion Naturally
Everyone experiences occasional digestive issues. Uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, upset stomach, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea are common complaints. However, if these symptoms become prolonged or occur frequently, they can cause major disruptions to our health and our life. For this reason our Zuma Nutrition team have developed a targeted line of Holistic Supplements for Gut Health
Many facets of modern life can negatively impact our digestion—high stress levels, lack of sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, overeating, eating irregularly, taking antibiotics; the list goes on.
As digestion is the process that allows our body to get nutrients from the food that we eat, digestive issues can quickly cause issues in other aspects of our health. From brain health, to heart health, to the health of our immune system—every system in the body depends upon the digestive system for nutrients.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 9 ways to improve digestion naturally:
1. Eat Real Food!
The modern Western diet is full of refined carbs, oxidized oils, preservatives, food additives, toxic chemicals and pesticides that wreak havoc on our digestive system. Consuming these foods on a regular basis has led to an epidemic of gut issues and poor health, which explains why 72% of Americans are dealing with digestive problems—that’s nearly 240 million people in the US alone!
If we wish to improve digestion, we have to start first with the foods that we’re already eating. Eating a diet based on organic whole foods and limiting the intake of processed foods that we consume is one of the best things we can do to optimize digestion.
Fiber, fiber and more fiber—we need up to 60 grams a day. Fiber provides the lubrication the colon requires to function properly. Fiber falls into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber serves many functions, which include providing a conducive environment for friendly bacteria, slowing the absorption rate of sugars, lowering serum cholesterol levels, and binding to heavy metals dumped by the bloodstream into the colon. Examples of soluble fiber foods include apples, prunes, figs, raspberries, carrots, oat bran, kidney beans, lima beans or (supplemental) psyllium husks.
Insoluble fiber complements soluble fiber by increasing bulk in the waste, preventing impacted bowel pockets (diverticuli), reducing the length of time waste stays in the body and absorbing bile acid released during digestion. Examples of insoluble fiber are brown rice, quinoa, millet rice, whole wheat, raw spinach, brussel sprouts and flaxseed.
Water is essential for life. The human body is roughly 70% water, and it requires water to carry out its many processes. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses (64 oz) of high quality water each day (ideally not tap water). However, be sure to drink no more than 8 oz with meals, as too much water can dilute hydrochloric acid (HCL) and cause indigestion.
4. Reduce Stress
The brain has a major influence on the gut, just as the gut has a major influence on the brain. Within the gut, there are hundreds of millions of neurons which can function fairly independently and are in constant communication with the brain. Stress can affect this brain-gut communication, and may trigger pain, bloating and other gut discomfort to be felt more easily. The gut is also inhabited by millions of bacteria which can influence its health and the brain’s health which can impact the ability to think and affect emotions. Stress is associated with changes in gut bacteria which in turn can influence mood.
Finding ways to manage and reduce our stress—such as meditation, relaxation exercises, or adaptogenic herbs such as those in our Relaxation Blend—are great ways to improve our digestion. It is especially important that we do not eat when we are stressed, but take a few deep breaths before our meal so we can eat in a relaxed state.
5. Eat Mindfully
If we aren’t mindful while we eat, we may easily eat too quickly or overeat, which can lead to issues like bloating, gas and indigestion. Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to all aspects of your food and the process of eating—from the smell and taste of the food to the process of chewing, and to how your body feels after eating. Studies have actually shown that mindfulness may reduce digestive symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis and IBS.
To eat mindfully:
- Take a few breaths before eating and allow yourself to relax.
- Focus only on your meal, and do not eat while watching TV, talking on the phone, or engaging in any other distractions.
- Smell the food and allow that to trigger the release of enzyme-rich saliva in the mouth.
- Eat slowly and pay attention to the texture, temperature and taste of your food.
- Enjoy your meal! And when you notice that your stomach feels full, stop eating, even if there is still food on your plate. This will help to avoid stress on the digestive system from overeating.
6. Eat at Regular Meal Times
Consuming meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep the digestive system in top shape. When we don’t eat at consistent times each day, it can cause the stomach to overwork resulting in bloating and indigestion. Eating on a schedule allows for proper digestion of food, which will result in having a good, comfortable feeling in the gut. The key is to allow a minimum of 3 to 4 hours between meals in order to allow the stomach to properly digest its contents. By setting specific times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sitting down to eat them at the same time each day, your body knows exactly when it’s time to eat, which will help prevent overeating and improve digestive health.
7. Chew Food Thoroughly
We’ve all heard it a million times before, but chewing our food is an essential part of the digestive process. Chewing food breaks it down and combines it with digestive enzymes produced by the saliva. This prepares it to be properly digested once it enters the stomach. If this process is skipped or poorly performed it creates more work for the stomach and can easily lead to indigestion.
Imagine a line of workers at a factory. Now imagine one of those workers decided they weren’t going to do their job—imagine the stress that puts on the rest of the workers down the line! This is what happens to your body when food isn’t thoroughly chewed—it creates more work for the stomach, and makes it more likely to improperly digest the food that’s been eaten.
8. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps strengthen the digestive tract and keep the gut healthy. Evidence suggests that regular exercise has other benefits for the digestive system including enhancing the microbiota found in the gut and reducing the risk of colon issues. Conversely, as you become less active, your intestinal flow tends to slow down.
Physical activity can also have short-term benefits for our digestion. Exercising increases blood flow towards the muscles and digestive tract, which can help move food through the digestive tract. Exercise has also been shown to alleviate heartburn, gas, stomach cramps and constipation.
9. Incorporate Gut Supporting Nutrients
Due to the importance of gut health for overall health, longevity, mental health and vitality, our Zuma Nutrition team have developed a targeted line of Supplements for Gut Health that can enhance digestion very quickly. These products contain the highest quality ingredients we have come across in 40 years of research in the field.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for the body, especially for the digestive system. We often think of germs as something that causes disease, but your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy.
Gut bacteria play several important roles in our health, such as communicating with the immune system and producing certain vitamins. Gut bacteria can also affect how different foods are digested and produce chemicals that help make you feel full.
Research on gut health recommends that we maintain an ideal ratio of 90% good bacteria to 10% bad bacteria. Unfortunately, the average person today has the complete opposite ratio of 10% good bacteria to 90% bad bacteria. To remedy this, it is recommended to include more fermented foods in your diet, and to take a high quality probiotic. Our Zuma Nutrition Multi-Strain Probiotic was formulated to help restore the optimal balance of good and bad bacteria in the microbiome. Our formula features 30 billion CFUs and eight unique strains of beneficial bacteria that go on to produce the hundreds of species that colonize the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract.
Good gut flora stave away pathogens, help your body break down fiber and complex sugars, help your body produce essential vitamin K, folic acid, and vitamin B, regulate bowel movements, decrease inflammation, moderate immune health, and of course support a healthy metabolism.
One of the most effective ways of improving digestive health is by supplementing with digestive enzymes that can enhance your body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food. With better nutrient absorption, your body can more effectively assimilate nutrients from food for tissue growth and repair, allowing you the health and nutrition needed to perform at your best.
Every person is born with a unique enzyme potential—an amount of enzymes the body can produce and use in its lifetime—and years of eating foods lacking in enzymes can lead to an enzyme deficiency. Cooked foods and processed foods often deactivate or remove the enzymes in the food which can stress the body. Because of this, it is important to include a lot of fresh, uncooked plant foods in our diet, for they are rich in natural enzymes that have not been made inactive from drastic changes in temperature. It is also helpful to supplement with digestive enzymes to support and improve the digestive process, helping to ensure that you get the maximum amount of nutrient absorption from your food.
Zuma Nutrition's digestive enzyme formula contains a broad spectrum of digestive enzymes including 14 different enzymes to aid in the digestion and assimilation of sugars, grains, fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
The more we learn about health, the more we see the importance of a healthy gut, and the importance of knowing the natural ways to improve digestion and gut health. All food is ultimately broken down in the gut to a simple form that can enter the bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients throughout the body, which is only possible with a healthy digestive system.
Unfortunately, many people suffer from poor gut health, and as a result, don’t digest their food properly. Poor gut health and improper absorption of nutrients can lead to a whole range of ailments. Treating the health of the gut often resolves many of these health issues, as the gut is really the root cause of our health or disease.
A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion. Poor gut health can lead to a range of illnesses, including digestive issues, malnutrition, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and much more.
If you really want to take control of your health, start by focusing on the health of your gut. By following the 9 tips offered in this article, you can significantly improve your digestion and can naturally restore gut health.