Ways to improve digestion
Common digestive problems include:
An unhealthful diet or lifestyle can cause more regular digestive problems, and lifestyle changes can often help resolve symptoms. A doctor can offer support and advice.
An underlying medical issue, a medication, or a food intolerance can also cause regular digestive discomfort.
Home remedies can help improve digestion in the short term. Lasting improvement may require more significant dietary or lifestyle changes.
Getting enough sleep may improve digestion.
Many people experience an unsettled stomach before an exam or a big event, but sustained stress can affect the connection between the brain and the gut, causing ongoing problems.
- having a good support network
- getting regular exercise
- getting enough sleep
During a busy day it can be tempting to rush meals, but this can cause indigestion and stomach discomfort. Take time to relax, particularly before and after eating.
Reducing stress by seeking support and making some lifestyle changes may improve problems with digestion.
2. Drink mint tea
To make a simple mint tea:
- Set aside 5–10 peppermint or spearmint leaves.
- Boil 1 cup of water and leave it to cool slightly.
- Pour the water over the leaves and steep for 3–5 minutes.
- Add a slice of lemon or a small amount of honey, if desired.
Researchers have found that peppermint oil may relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome — including stomach pain — in the short term. However, there has been too little research to determine whether mint has lasting digestive benefits.
3. Take a walk
Doing gentle exercise can help with digestion. Being upright and active allows gravity to help move food through the digestive system.
A slow walk around the block, for example, may ease bloating and reduce feelings of fullness.
4. Reduce gas
Gas can come from swallowing air when eating or drinking. The body also produces gas when digesting food. Trapped gas in the gut can cause bloating and stomach discomfort.
Having a certain amount of gas is healthful, but some activities cause a person to swallow more air than usual, and this can increase the amount of gas in the body. Examples of these activities include:
- chewing gum
- drinking carbonated drinks
- eating too quickly
- wearing dentures that do not fit well
Certain foods create more gas when they go through the digestive system. These include:
- kidney beans
Gently rubbing the belly can help gas move through the body, which can help reduce stomach discomfort and bloating.
5. Try fermented foods
Fermented foods, such as probiotic yogurt, may help improve digestive problems.
Fermented foods have been partially or wholly broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria. These microorganisms work to preserve food, and they may also benefit gut health.
Bacteria occur naturally in the gut. Some help digest food, but others can cause problems with digestion if there are too many in the body. Fermented foods contain bacteria that may help support a healthy digestive system.
Some fermented foods include:
- probiotic yogurt
- sourdough bread
Incorporating these foods into the diet may help improve digestion. However, confirming the benefits will require more scientific research.
6. Eat more fiber
According to national dietary guidelines, the average adult should include around 30 grams of fiber in their daily diet.
Good sources of fiber include:
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables
A person should also drink plenty of liquids to ensure that the fiber absorbs enough water to pass through the digestive system easily.
7. Keep a food diary
Some foods and drinks trigger problems with digestion. These triggers can vary from person to person, and keeping a food diary can help with identifying the culprits.
Make a note of meals, snacks, and drinks, as well as any digestive problems that follow. Then, try cutting out potentially problematic foods and drinks from the diet to see whether symptoms improve.
A nutritionist can provide guidance before a person makes any significant changes to their diet. A food diary will also help a medical professional gain a better understanding of the situation so that they can offer more specific advice.
8. Avoid these foods
While people react differently to different foods, some foods and drinks commonly cause problems with digestion.
- processed foods
- fried foods
- acidic foods, such as vinegar and citrus fruits
- sweeteners, such as fructose
Limiting the intake of these can help improve digestion.
Also, fast foods and ready-made meals are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. They can be harder for the body to digest and cause problems such as constipation and gas.
When to see a doctor
A person should see a doctor if their digestive symptoms are ongoing or severe.
If digestive symptoms are ongoing or severe, they may result from an underlying medical condition.
Some common digestive diseases include:
Medications such as antacids or antibiotics can also cause digestive problems. These issues are side effects, and they should resolve once a person stops taking the medication.
For quick relief from digestive problems, mint tea, a belly rub, or a gentle walk can help. Eating slowly and relaxing before and after meals can also help the body digest.
Eating more fiber and avoiding certain products, such as processed foods, can result in more lasting relief from symptoms of digestive problems.