Improving digestion and gut health can take a bit of work but there are some simple ways to improve digestion naturally that yield amazing results.
One of the best ways to improve digestion is to support the primary organs involved in digestion such as the stomach, pancreas, and gallbladder with foods good for digestion.
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When it comes to improving gut health Hippocrates was correct in saying ‘let food by thy medicine’ as there are so many phenomenal foods for gut health.
The following gut health tips are simple and easy to implement with some of the best foods for digestion.
Before using any kind of supplement to improve digestion I always like to start with the diet, because to be honest, there is no magic pill that is more powerful than the diet.
But, before we even talk about foods for gut health take a moment to inhale and exhale, because digestion is a parasympathetic process that brings us to our first gut health tip.
#1 Sit down and take 5 deep breaths before eating
Good digestion requires us to be in a relaxed parasympathetic nervous system state. The best way to improve digestive health is to stop treating the symptom and instead go back to where digestion starts, essentially going back to the root of the problem.
Instead of treating symptoms further down the digestive tract, it is best to start with improving digestion where digestion begins and that is in the brain.
Optimal digestion requires the body to be in a parasympathetic state, so take time out from your busy schedule to sit down, relax and do what it takes to shift a busy body and mind into a relaxed parasympathetic state.
Whether that’s finding gratitude for what is great in your life, eating outside in nature, or your favorite cozy spot. Just get as comfortable as possible then sit down, take a few deep breaths and enjoy eating your food in a relaxed state.
#2 Chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing
One of the best ways to improve your digestion is by chewing your food thoroughly. Chewing your food is seriously one of the best tips to improve digestion naturally and it doesn’t cost you a penny!
So, put your fork or spoon down between bites and aim for 20-30 chews per bite. The more the better.
Bloating after eating is a super common digestive complaint, yet chewing your food is a simple way to prevent bloating and gas.
#3 Increase stomach acid naturally with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
The stomach requires an acidic pH of the stomach and good hydrochloric acid secretion for the optimal breakdown of protein.
Maintaining an acidic terrain that is inhospitable to bacteria, viruses, and various pathogens that enter the body via the food we eat is crucial to prevent infections that can cause a host of gut health problems.
Some signs of low stomach acid include:
To increase stomach acid naturally take 1 tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar with the mother in ½ cup of filtered water before meals.
You can also use lemon juice for low stomach acid by squeezing half a lemon into ½ a cup of water to increase stomach acid for digestion.
#4 Eat gallbladder cleansing foods that promote bile flow for fat digestion
Problems with fat digestion are associated with a sluggish gallbladder and poor bile flow as bile is needed to emulsify dietary fats to make more surface area available for the fat-digesting enzymes such as lipase to act upon.
Fat malabsorption symptoms due to poor bile flow and a sluggish gallbladder include:
The best foods to improve fat digestion and support a sluggish gallbladder include beets, artichoke hearts, warm water with lemon, and bitter greens such as mustard greens and arugula.
Eating foods high in choline is also crucial for a healthy gallbladder as choline is needed to make phosphatidylcholine which keeps bile flowing smoothly from the gallbladder for optimal fat digestion
#5 Eat fresh, raw, ripe foods high in enzymes
All enzymes are destroyed in the cooking process and at temperatures above 118 degrees F. Aim to eat 50% raw foods in the diet with live enzymes to help with digestion.
Pineapple and papaya are the top foods high in enzymes for digestion that can be eaten in-between meals or 20 minutes before to help breakdown undigested protein.
Papain is the enzyme in papaya that aids in protein digestion while having a soothing effect on the stomach. Papaya is an excellent tropical fruit to enjoy for gut health with promising results.
This study showed a papaya preparation reduced constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, reflux, and gastritis.
Pineapple helps digestion as it also contains a protein splitting enzyme called bromelain.
If proteins are not properly broken down by stomach acid and protein-digesting enzymes such as proteases and pepsin, proteins will putrefy in the digestive tract.
Eating pineapple between meals can help to breakdown undigested protein as it flushes through the Gi tract.
Bromelain is also an anti-inflammatory enzyme that has been used in higher doses (500-2000mg daily) to reduce joint inflammation and arthritis.
#6 Include cultured/fermented foods in the diet.
Cultured foods contain probiotics (the beneficial bacteria) that contribute to healthy gut flora. Traditional cultures used to have lots of fermented foods in their diet as fermentation was used as a food preservation technique which also helped to build a healthy robust microbiome.
The modern diet lacks many beneficial fermented foods for gut health such as raw unsweetened yogurt, sauerkraut, raw cheese, beet kvass, kefir, kombucha, and Lacto-fermented vegetables.
With the increase in antibiotics taken for various reasons and a decrease in fermented foods high in probiotics is part of the reason as to why so many people have gut health problems.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon contains dozens of recipes that are fermented from cultured dairy products to sauerkraut and Lacto-fermented vegetables of all sorts. Her book is great for anyone who wants to learn how to make fermented foods at home for gut health.
#7 Do not drink water with main meals instead drink water in-between meals
Drinking water with meals can impair digestion as water will dilute the digestive juices required for optimal digestion.
Water is the most important nutrient for the human body (second to oxygen) so make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of water for your body weight in-between your meals or before your meals to properly hydrate.
#8 Do not overeat. Eat until you are 80 % full.
Another simple way to improve gut health is to eat until you are 80% full as overeating puts excess strain on the digestive system. You should feel satisfied but not overly full.
#9 Eat a wide variety of plants and fiber to feed healthy gut flora
Include high fiber foods in your diet such as flax seeds, chia seeds, legumes vegetables, and fruit in their whole form. The probiotic bacteria in your colon need to be fed a wide variety of plant-based fibers to flourish and build a diverse and robust microbiome.
A healthy gut flora filled with beneficial bacteria is needed to prevent pathogens and invaders from taking up residence. Taking probiotics (beneficial bacteria) for gut health has become increasingly popular but guess what, these probiotics also need to be fed fiber found in plants to flourish.
Fiber is also needed o bulk up the stool and absorb water to prevent constipation.
Sometimes a low fermentable diet that is low in fiber, such as the low FODMAP diet or SIBO diet needs to be followed for some time to help reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and IBS symptoms.
But it is crucial to bring fiber back into the diet and eat high fiber foods for optimal gut flora diversity in the colon.
And of course, enjoy eating your food and be mindful while eating for optimal nourishment. Nourishing your body also means enjoying your food!
If you have implemented these simple yet effective strategies to improve digestion and still have digestive problems, you may need additional support through targeted supplementation and a closer look at what foods could be irritating for you.
But these 9 gut health tips are foundational steps that will help to improve gut health.
Supplements to take for gut health and digestive support include Pro-Digestion Intensive which is a broad-spectrum enzyme to help with the breakdown of all foods including more difficult to digest carbohydrates.
Common symptoms associated with an enzyme deficiency include:
Gallbladder Nutrients provides the body with the nutrients needed to make bile and promotes bile flow from a sluggish gallbladder to improve fat digestion.
Bile also stimulates peristalsis to help relieve constipation and sluggish bowels. If you are drinking enough water and eating high fiber foods supporting your gallbladder with Gallbladder Nutrients to improve bile flow can help to improve bowel movements.
Probiota HistaminX is a great probiotic for gut health that is helpful for anyone who has taken antibiotics. Probiotics help to bring back the beneficial bacteria that may have been reduced or killed during a round of antibiotics.
Probiota HistaminX is especially great for anyone who has histamine intolerance.