Digestion is not always the flashiest health topic, but it’s one of the most important. Our digestive system (GI tract, liver, pancreas and gall bladder) is responsible for turning the food we eat into energy, and sending all the vital vitamins and minerals we need to survive to our other organs. Our digestive system also helps us dispel foods and ingredients our bodies don’t need.
Because today’s average American diet is so full of pre-packaged foods that have been processed, our digestive systems can often feel overworked, creating issues from constipation, to skin rashes, to fatigue, to even a lowered immune system.
If you’re trying to get things moving in the right direction, green smoothies are an excellent starting point, but here are five more ways to improve your digestion — naturally.
How To Naturally Improve Your Digestion
One of the most important minerals for overall bodily function, magnesium is essential for healthy bones, teeth, red blood cells, DNA and proper nervous system functioning. And as essential as this mineral is, magnesium deficiency is one of the “leading nutrient deficients in adults.” Because of the ratio of importance and shortage of magnesium in the average American’s diet, it can be one of the leading causes of an uneven digestion.
According to the National institutes of Health, adult males need about 400mg of magnesium daily, while women need 315mg. If you find that you’re constantly battling insomnia, low energy, achey muscles, or anxiety, there’s a chance you could be magnesium deficient.
Leafy greens, nuts, avocados and beans are great sources of magnesium, but there are also lots of great supplements out there. And because magnesium helps to relax muscles (including the intestinal wall), it’s one of the first supplements you should try to get your digestion healthy.
Probiotics are tiny microorganisms (or “good bacteria”) that can help improve everything from diarrhea or other digestive issues caused by medications, to irritable bowl syndrome, to skin issues.
Even though more scientific study needs to be carried out, probiotics may be able to help balance your digestive tract by increasing the amount of good bacteria while helping the body fight bad bacteria.
Most people are able to tolerate supplemental probiotics (although you should probably talk to your doctor before starting any kind of new health regime), and because so much of our overall health is dependent on our gut health, probiotics are a great, prescription-free way to get things moving!
The average American diet, heavy on the pre-packaged foods, is routinely lacking in the proper amount of fiber. Men need about 30 – 38 grams of fiber a day, while women need 21 – 25 grams. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, most prepared and fast foods are sorely lacking in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber, found in most fruits, many vegetables, and legumes like beans and peas, slows the process of digestion, allowing your body to grab more nutrients and vitamins from the foods you’ve just eaten. Insoluble fiber, found in bran, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans, legumes and sprouts, is what helps your body move the food you eat through your digestive tract
Fiber is also responsible to helping us stay full for longer, so it’s really in our waistline’s best interest to have an adequate daily amount.
If you find that your digestion is off (namely if constipation is frequent), consider adding more natural fiber in the form of fruits (dried fruit especially), nuts, vegetables, bran, oats and beans. There are also natural fiber supplements available.
Like probiotics, fermented foods help create a healthy microbiome in our gut because of their plentiful good bacteria. The healthier our gut is, the easier it is to lose weight, feel satisfied, and keep our blood sugar balanced.
Some of the more common fermented foods are plain yogurt, kefir (a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut, kimchee (a spicy Korean version of fermented cabbage), and various other pickled vegetables. If you find that you’re often bloated after meals, try adding a small portion of fermented foods to your daily diet. They’re a delicious way to keep bloat at bay!
This may sound simple, but many of us are under-hydrated. In fact, because the part of your brain that is responsible for hunger pangs is the same part that is responsible for thirst, we often mistake being dehydrated for being hungry.
Make sure you’re drinking water (not sugary fruit juices or soda) at regular intervals throughout the day. Maybe people like to bring a water bottle with them to work, and to challenge themselves to drink the whole thing by lunch or the end of the day. If you find that regular constipation is an issue with your digestion, try adding more water to your diet!