Diet and Nutrition

6 Ways To Aid Digestion

It’s obviously not the most glamorous health topic, but having a well-functioning digestive system is definitely something you want to keep you feeling your best.

Now everyone is different, being considered regular can range anywhere from having a bowel movement three times a day to three times a week. It depends on a variety of factors including your diet (bet you saw that one coming), your age and how much activity you get each day.

However, one thing that’s not “regular” is cramping, nausea, bloating, indigestion, constipation, or the opposite, diarrhea. It’s easy to consider those symptoms normal when it’s something you constantly deal with (they’re not), but with a few adjustments to your lifestyle your tummy troubles can be gone for good. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money on Tums and time in the bathroom; those are both good things in our book.

Cut Back on Fat

Plain and simple, fatty foods are harder for the body to digest, thus it slows down the entire digestion process. That’s why we often experience indigestion when we consume a big, greasy meal. Not so yummy four hours later, right?

One of the biggest areas to cut back the fat is meat. When you’re choosing a cut of meat go for the leaner items like chicken or turkey. However, if you just have to have that juicy steak, try to find a cut with out fat marbled through it. Also, cutting back on full fat milk and dairy products, fried foods and cooking with olive oil over butter will assist in easier digestion.

Think of the term “clean eating.” When you’re eating “clean” (i.e. cutting out excess fats, sugars and processed goods) you’re also helping to “clean out” your system.

 

Drink More Water

Did you know dehydration is the top cause of most digestive issues? Beyond helping everything to move through your digestive tract more smoothly, staying hydrated aids in dissolving fats and soluble fiber allowing those substances to pass easier as well.

When you don’t drink enough water, stool can harden, making it very difficult to pass and it contributes to stomach cramping. Overall, we assuming that you all know you should be drinking more water each day (and you’ve heard it a million times before), but that’s just one more reason why it’s good for you.

 

Fiber, Your New Best Friend

 As with everything, fiber requires balance. Too much fiber and you’ll be running to bathroom more than you would care to, but not enough and you can suffer from constipation. The recommended daily dose of fiber is 25 to 30 grams, but the reality of the matter is that the majority of people don’t get enough of it.

The role of fiber is to bind to the waste particles of our food once enzymes have broken down all the nutrients they could obtain from it. Items such as oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables particularly dark, leafy greens are high-fiber foods to add in to your diet. And they also help to make you feel full for a longer period of time.

Therefore, when you eat more high-fiber foods not only are you eating healthier, you’ll also feel less enticed to snack. This is on top of the reduced bloating and cramping associated with constipation.

 

Introduce Probiotics

 Probiotics are good bacteria that assist in digestive functions. You may have had a time where you took antibiotics to fight off a cold or other ailment, and were then advised to eat yogurt. This is because yogurt is one of the most popular sources of for consuming probiotics, and after you’ve taken a medication that kills off bacteria in the body sometimes it kills the good stuff, too.

The main function of probiotics is to help keep the lining of the intestines healthy as well as to help prevent excess gas and diarrhea. A few sources for adding probiotics to your diet include yogurt, soft cheeses, sourdough bread or a supplement.

 

Slow Down and Savor

When you inhale your food you also happen to inhale a lot of air along with it. With a large consumption of air, the body converts it to gas, which is uncomfortable in and of itself, not to mention the cramping that also occurs.

By slowing down the eating process and making sure you’re not mindlessly noshing, try to avoid eating on the go or while you’re watching television/trolling social media. Having a mindfulness of how quickly you’re eating and how much you chew your food before swallowing will ensure that half of what your eat isn’t air.

 

Get Moving With a Workout

One time during a yoga class, the instructor mentioned that several of the poses we were doing help to get the digestive tract moving. She said certain flows through poses act like a massage for our internal organs. And as somewhat creepy as that sounds, it’s completely true.

Our bodies never, ever rest. They are constantly going through metabolic processes, pumping our blood throughout the body; breathing…thank goodness we don’t have to actually remind ourselves to do these things. However, when we exercise and up the momentum of our bodies, it’s almost like we’re revving the engines of our organs and giving them some extra juice to go faster and stronger. Therefore, the result of exercise when it comes to digestion: increased blood flow to the muscles, which then stimulates the intestines allowing them to process waste more efficiently.

 

Extra Bonus: All of these tips will not only aid your stomach woes, they’ll also work to give you more energy and see positive effects in your appearance. Drinking more water is great for your skin, we guarantee you’ll lose a few pounds just from cleaning up your diet, and slowing down to actually taste and enjoy your food brings on a new appreciation for how you fuel your body.

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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