Poor digestion is an extremely common problem in American society. Digestion problems can be caused by anything from minor food intolerances to serious underlying gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. The good news is that modern researchers are discovering new ways to support better digestive health every day.
Increase Stomach Acid Production
Every part of the human digestive tract features a different environment filled with diverse, highly specialized microbiota. In the stomach, creating a healthy environment means ensuring adequate levels of stomach acid production. Thankfully, there are now natural supplements available that can help. Increased stomach acid production is just one of many betaine HCl benefits, and that’s far from the only supplement shown to help with altered pH levels in the gut.
Eliminate Processed Foods
- Processed foods can negatively impact digestion in many ways. To name just a few:
- They tend to be high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can increase inflammation of the digestive tract.
- Most contain preservatives that disrupt the microbial communities in the gut.
- Many have emulsifiers that impair intestinal barrier function.
To make matters even worse, processed foods are less likely than whole foods to contain healthful ingredients that nourish the body and feed the immune system. Eliminating processed foods can thus improve not just digestive health but also overall health and well-being.
Stress can induce digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation even in healthy individuals. It can also worsen symptoms in patients who struggle with underlying gastrointestinal problems like IBS and IBD. While it’s not possible to simply avoid all possible stressors, learning techniques for managing anxiety such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help to mitigate the impact of stress on the body, including the digestive system.
Try Fermented Foods
Recent research has shown that fermented foods are good for the gut microbiome. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that can improve microbial composition and help to keep populations of potentially damaging bacteria in check. Fermented foods to try include:
- Yogurt with live cultures
Some people avoid fermented foods because they are expensive. However, it only takes around two servings per day of these beneficial foods to achieve maximum digestive benefit. There are also ways to create fermented foods at home for much less than it costs to purchase them from local grocery or health food stores.
Eat More Fiber
Both soluble and insoluble forms of fiber play essential roles not just in maintaining digestive health but also in lowering the risk of heart disease. Most Americans should aim to consume around 30 grams of fiber per day via dietary sources, which can include:
- Whole grains
- Fresh vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Fresh or dried fruit
For those who can’t get sufficient fiber from their diet, alone, supplements made from psyllium husks and other materials are also effective. Just be sure to drink plenty of water, because the fiber needs to absorb it to pass easily through the digestive tract.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
It can take some time for anyone to get their digestive tract back into a state of good health after eating a typical American diet, so don’t get discouraged if the strategies above don’t pay off immediately. Remember, they’re lifestyle changes, not quick fixes. That said, there’s also nothing wrong with taking natural supplements and probiotics to help speed up the process.