8 Easy Ways I Finally Improved My Digestion
The human gut is an amazing system of intake, distribution, and elimination. It’s always at work on your behalf, and its balancing act of separating the nutrients you need from the gunk you don’t is something we should never take for granted.
My own gut and I have had a very turbulent relationship, with many ups and downs. I was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 25, as well as a motility disorder of the colon. Then, after a trip abroad, I discovered that a parasite hitched a ride home with me, bringing along its entire family.
After struggling with chronic illness for years, I realized that I had to become an active participant in my own health — and I learned that taking good care of the gut is essential to our well-being. From that moment on, my tummy and I made friends.
Through my personal experience healing my digestive system as well as my work coaching clients through their health challenges, there are a few tips I recommend. Here are eight easy ways to keep your system in peak condition:
1. Start the day with hot water and lemon.
Set yourself up for success by giving your body space to breathe first thing upon waking. If we eat immediately upon waking, digestion is forced to focus on the food that just entered the system instead of focusing on removing what was put into it yesterday.
Instead, trade in your first cup of coffee for a mug of hot water and a squeeze of lemon juice, which I've found really helps to jump-start digestion. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C, and hydration is crucial for digestion. Give your body the time and space it needs in the morning to move, groove, and remove.
2. Add in probiotics.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in our gut and are necessary for digestive health. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, contain these bacteria naturally, but probiotics are also available in supplemental capsules.
Research suggests that they can help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal conditions, like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. I recommend adding naturally probiotic foods to your diet or tossing down a daily probiotic supplement as you sip your hot water and lemon.
3. Junk the junk food.
Wave bye-bye to processed white foods. You know what I mean: sugar-laden, fiber-free snacks and treats that give you all the side effects of empty calories and none of the nutritional benefits of “real” food.
Real food is gut-happy food. Embrace whole grains and dark leafy greens. They have a high fiber content (more on that in the next section), but they are also high in amino acids, phytonutrients, and all the things you want to boost your body with. Fill your fridge with real food in all the colors of the rainbow — your body, and your tummy, will thank you later.
4. Fill up with fiber.
Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are the best sources of the natural dietary fiber essential to a healthy diet and healthy digestion. Fiber not only keeps us from overeating, it also helps to keep us regular. There's a lot of research on how a fiber-rich diet can help aid in constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gut-related conditions.
High-fiber foods to consider adding to your diet: raspberries, pears, apples, beans, sunflower seeds, and almonds. I also recommend throwing a pinch of chia or flax seeds onto your salad or into your smoothies to make filling up with fiber super easy.
5. Drink aloe juice.
You know when you get a bad sunburn and you put aloe on it to soothe the pain? The same goes for when you have a system that’s compromised, in pain, or just straight-up uncomfortable — you want to soothe it.
I find that drinking aloe helps to sooth and relax the bowel and body, and research also shows it can help keep you regular.
6. Spice up your life.
Spices have been used for thousands of years to settle a queasy tummy or soothe indigestion. Followers of the natural healing practices of Ayurvedic medicine consider ginger to be at the forefront of helping your digestion succeed — and research also suggests that ginger can be a great tummy-tamer.
Studies also suggest that turmeric, fennel, and peppermint can be helpful for digestion. Use them the next time you cook!
7. Get moving.
Let’s get real: your insides won’t move if you aren’t! Trust me, I was the world’s biggest couch potato at the onset of my health crisis. But all sitting around doing nothing did was make me feel worse.
In fact, research suggests that exercise can benefit the good bacteria in your gut, while inactivity has long been associated with constipation and other digestion problems.
I recommend getting your blood circulating and your digestive juices flowing by walking, biking, or trying something fun like rebounding, yoga, or Pilates. Yoga poses that involve twisting can also be very helpful for digestion. Get moving to get removing!
8. Drink plenty of water.
Water is essential to a healthy life, and it also plays a major role in healthy digestion. Make your goal to drink at least two liters of water in a day, especially if you're having digestive troubles. Try drinking a liter of water before noon, which will help flush out your system and also make drinking more later in the day not seem as daunting.
Hate drinking water? Get creative: add some orange, cucumber slices, lemon, or even some raspberries.
All in all, we are only as healthy as what we choose to put into our bodies. That’s why incorporating water, fibrous foods, and probiotics into our diet are so important — for your digestion and for your overall health.
- 9 Easy Ways I Improved My Digestion (After Years Of Issues)
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Amy Kurtz is a health and wellness coach, author, Pilates instructor, and detox specialist based in NYC. She is the author of the new book, Kicking Sick: Your Go-To Guide for Thriving with Chronic Health Conditions (Sounds True, January 2017). Having experienced a variety of chronic health issues from a young age, Amy realized that the only way she was going to recover was to become an active participant in her own well-being. Amy deeply believes in the power of self-care, and it is her mission to teach people how to truly take care of themselves and heal. Amy coaches clients who strive to get healthier while also helping those with chronic health conditions thrive. She coaches people on how to become advocates for their own well-being and provides a framework to find harmony between their mind, body, and soul. Visit Amy on the web to find out more, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram for daily tips, inspiration, and motivation.