If you routinely experience bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, gas, or any other digestive issues after meals, there’s a good chance it has something to do with your lifestyle choices. Find out how day-to-day factors like stress and dehydration may be triggering your upset stomach—and the simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your gut health drastically. (1)

Did you know?
Healthy bowel habits range one to three times per day, but diarrhea immediately after eating could be a symptom of an underlying condition. (3)

How does lifestyle affect digestion?

There are a lot of different factors that impact our digestion and overall gut health. Some things we have control over — such as how much sleep we are getting — and others that we don’t — like our genetics and family history.

If you routinely experience stomach problems, poor lifestyle choices may be hurting your gut. You’ve probably heard a well-balanced diet, and regular exercise is good for you, but those are just two of the many ways you can regulate digestive health. (4)

The following lifestyle factors may be negatively impacting your gut health:

  • What you eat
  • Mindful (or mindless) eating
  • Your exercise routine
  • Daily hydration
  • Your sleep schedule
  • Stress and anxiety levels
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications you take
  • Bad habits such as late-night eating or excessive alcohol or tobacco use

11 ways you can improve your digestion naturally

1. Eat more colorful, plant-based and fiber-rich foods

Digestive issues can be challenging, but avoiding certain foods and eating more of others can help ease uncomfortable symptoms. Quality nuts and seeds, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes protect against a lot of digestive disorders and promote regular bowel movements. On the other end, you will want to avoid certain foods that are tough-on-the-tummy, like fried, artificially processed, or acidic foods. (5)(6)

If you routinely suffer from an upset stomach or have been diagnosed with IBS, you may want to consider adopting an anti-inflammatory rich diet.

improve digestion naturally

When it comes to a gut-healthy diet, focus on a diet that is mostly plant-based and full of anti-inflammatory foods.

2. Consider meal frequency and size before eating

Are you a grazer who’s constantly snacking or do you tend to have three big meals a day? How often do you eat and how much do these habits impact your digestive health? Recent clinical studies have shown that intermittent fasting can be beneficial to gut health. (7)(8)(9)

Did you know?
Grazing (i.e., eating 6 or more small meals a day) may not be suitable for people prone to constipation. (10)

3. Practice mindfulness around eating

Eating too much and too quickly often leads to gas, bloating, and other unpleasant indigestion symptoms. Thankfully, there is a whole practice, known as mindful eating, that has been studied to be a practical approach to reducing indigestion. Researchers have shown that mindful eating can reduce symptoms of IBS and ulcerative colitis. (11)(12)

To eat mindfully, keep the following in mind:

  • Turn off your tv and put away the phones at mealtimes.
  • Take a moment and inhale once you sit down with your plate in front of you. Notice how it smells.
  • Take in how your food looks on your plate.
  • Select each bite of food consciously.
  • Chew your bites of food slowly.
  • Eat your meal slowly.
  • Take breaks, sips of water, or have a quick chat in between bites.
  • Take in the taste, texture, and temperature of every bite.
  • Take time to relax after your meal.

Did you know?
Taking the time to relax and pay attention to your body before a meal may improve your digestive symptoms such as indigestion and bloating. (11)

improve digestion naturally

Digestion begins in your mouth. Use your teeth to break down your food into smaller pieces, so your stomach has to do less work.

4. Get moving and commit to exercising regularly

Have you considered exercise to help digestion? How we move our bodies on a day-to-day basis affects our digestion. Mostly due to its anti-inflammatory effects, exercise can have a very positive impact on your digestive system. Meanwhile, studies have shown living a sedentary lifestyle can be damaging to your gut. Working out helps you relieve stress, enables you to maintain a healthy weight, strengthens abdominal muscles, and stimulates food to move through the large intestines. Plus it even positively affects the balance of the bacteria in your gut! (13)(14)

According to research, aerobic exercise, such as dancing or a high-interval workout class is particularly great at increasing blood flow to our GI tract, but keep in mind you want to avoid these types of high impact exercises right after eating. If you have a sensitive stomach, give yourself at least 30 minutes in between workouts and meals. (15)

improve digestion naturally

Just 30 minutes of walking or any other low-impact physical activity can significantly improve symptoms of chronic constipation. (16)

5. Stay hydrated

Not drinking enough water is a common cause of constipation among adults and children. This is because we often replace water with sugary alternatives. Studies have shown that you should aim to drink at least 1.5-2 liters of non-caffeinated beverages daily to help prevent constipation. And if you exercise, you should drink even more! (17)(18)

You can also increase your water intake by eating fruits with high water content, herbal teas, and non-caffeinated beverages such as flavored seltzer waters.

6. Try and get restful, quality sleep

Not sleeping enough hours and getting poor quality sleep has been associated with several gastrointestinal diseases. Studies have shown, for example, that people who are sleep deprived are also more likely to suffer from stomach pains, diarrhea, and an upset stomach. One of the most well known is inflammatory bowel disease. (19)(20) This makes getting quality sleep an important priority. (21)

improve digestion naturally

Have you ever talked about sleep nutrients with your practitioner? Taking daily supplements can help you get a better night’s sleep, improve your gut health, and help lower stress levels. (39)

Did you know?
Over 70 million Americans suffer from some form of a sleep disorder. (22)

7. Practice ways to manage stress levels

Can stress affect digestion and your gastrointestinal tract? Big time. When you are chronically stressed out, your body is continuously in a fight or flight mode. Being chronically stressed out often comes hand in hand with a number of unpleasant digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, IBS, and stomach ulcers. (23)(24)(25)

Luckily, there are stress management techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, and meditation that have been shown to improve symptoms in people with IBS drastically. Even taking the time to sit quietly and listen to your breathing for five minutes has been shown to help alleviate stress levels. (26)(27)(28)

Improve digestion naturally

Practicing meditation or deep belly breathing on a regular basis may improve your digestion.

8. Cut back on drinking alcohol

A lot of people experience diarrhea after they drink alcohol, along with several other unpleasant symptoms. This is because drinking alcohol triggers some serious changes in the digestive system. When the gastrointestinal tract comes into contact with alcohol, it becomes inflamed. This is because your intestines do not absorb water as efficiently, which causes overall digestion speed up and the good/harmful bacteria balance to be thrown off. (29)(30)

Did you know?
Eating heavy foods (such as pasta or a burger) while drinking alcohol increases your risk of diarrhea. This is because the body has trouble digesting food when alcohol is working its way through the system. (29)

9. Stop smoking (or vaping, or chewing)

Smoking impacts your entire body— including your gut. Smoking, chewing, and vaping tobacco has been linked to a number of common disorders of the digestive system, such as heartburn, peptic ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can also worsen gastrointestinal symptoms in other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease. (31)(32)(33)

Luckily, quitting smoking can quickly reverse some of the effects of smoking on the digestive system. When you stop smoking, you can improve the symptoms of some gastrointestinal diseases or, at the very least, keep them from getting worse. For example, people with Crohn’s disease who quit smoking have less severe symptoms than smokers with the disease. (34)

10. Consider taking supplements for gut health

Taking daily supplements is a great way to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs for proper digestion.

  • Probiotics have been shown to improve symptoms of gas, bloating, and stomach pains in people with IBS. (35) They are an excellent digestive supplement to take and have been shown to help alleviate stomach problems while traveling.
  • Glutamine is an amino acid that supports gut health and has been shown to reduce leaky gut in people who are very sick. (36) You can take it in supplement form or you can find it naturally in foods like soybeans, eggs, and almonds.
  • Zinc is a mineral that is essential for a healthy gut. A deficiency in zinc leads to a variety of unpleasant digestive disorders. Supplementing with zinc has been shown to help treat diarrhea, leaky gut, colitis, and other digestive problems. (37)

11. Be aware of medication interactions and side effects

Think your stomach pains are being triggered by drug-nutrient interactions? The medication you are taking may be what’s causing stomach discomfort and making you more prone to diarrhea or a bout of constipation. Common medications such as aspirin and other pain relievers have been studied to upset the lining of our stomach as well as prescription medications taken for anxiety and depression. (38)

improve digestion naturally

Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso, as well as kombucha beverages.

The bottom line

If you are suffering from occasional or chronic digestive problems, keep these natural healthy gut tips in mind. Research has shown simple diet and lifestyle changes really can be the difference between an unhealthy and a happy gut.

If you’ve tried all these approaches but are still routinely suffering from digestive issues, it may be something that requires further testing. Reach out to your healthcare practitioner to ensure an appropriate treatment strategy is put in place. No one should have to live with chronic stomach aches and pains!

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED SOURCE: https://fullscript.com/blog/lifestyle-tips-for-digestive-health