Have you ever felt “off” but couldn’t quite put your finger on why? Maybe you're tired and irritable, or you just don't feel 100 percent. If you aren't sure what's causing your symptoms, there might be one place you haven't thought to look yet: your gut. That's right, many health issues and symptoms are tied to the status of your digestive system.
Digestion is a complex and intricate system, and trouble starts when nutrients aren't digested properly. While this often results in more well-known stomach symptoms like gas and bloating, research is now looking into how problems in the gut might also lead to other more serious health issues — like depression, stress, anxiety, fatigue and allergies.
In other words, focusing on your digestive health may be the missing link to finding overall health. To improve your digestion and feel better, here are seven strategies you can start using today.
1. Enjoy more probiotics.
Probiotics are health rockstars. Their job is to balance your gut with good bacteria and kill off the “bad guys," thus improving your digestive system. Yogurt is one of the best-known ways to add more probiotics to your diet, but you should also consider fermented foods. Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha are great examples you can enjoy every day. Not only will they add a dose of probiotics, but they're also nutrient-dense and research shows they aid in digestion.
2. Take smaller bites.
Chewing your food more thoroughly promotes digestion success. And when food particles are reduced in size during the chewing process, your body better absorbs some vitamins and minerals. Plus, recent studies show that thorough chewing not only aids in digestion, but might also help with some brain functions, like alertness and attention.
3. Swap coffee for tea.
While most of us like to enjoy a cup (or two) of Joe in the morning, coffee is very acidic, dehydrating, and can irritate the lining of your stomach. I recommend switching out coffee for green tea. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea has been recommended for thousands of years to help with digestive problems. Plus, it's high in antioxidants and studies suggest it can help protect against diabetes and obesity.
4. Stay hydrated.
Drink up! Water helps your body digest food and also aids in the removal of toxins. Aim to down at least eight glasses of H2O per day.
But try to steer clear of overly chilled beverages. According to Ayurvedic Medicine, avoiding ice and drinking warm or room-temperature water instead can strengthen your digestive power and promote the elimination of waste.
5. Add lemon to drinks and meals.
If you find water boring to drink, try adding a wedge of lemon. Not only will it increase the flavor, but research shows that lemon — and other citrus fruits — can help reduce inflammation in the body. Some studies also suggest that lemon helps the body absorb more antioxidants from other foods.
6. Follow the 80/20 food rule.
Fill your plate according to the "80/20" ratio, where at least 80% of your diet is plants. Doing so will help you naturally get more fiber, which moves waste and toxins through your digestive system and keeps you regular. Vegetables, especially artichokes and asparagus, are also full of prebiotics, which help with healthy digestion.
7. Keep stress under control.
It may seem surprising, but studies suggest that stress and other psychological factors can also play a role in our digestion and gut health. So it's important to find smart ways to manage your stress. Learning how to deep breath is one great tool to start with. You might also consider entering into a yoga or meditation practice, which can help you ensure that stressful situations don't start to wreck your gut health.