10 ways to improve your digestion

Constipation, indigestion and heartburn are no fun, but most likely one of them will bother you at some point. Here are 10 ways to help your body remedy these issues or prevent them from occurring in the first place.

10 ways to improve your digestion

Better digestion, better health

  1. Make the milk connection. Lactose intolerance could be the culprit behind your digestive upsets. If so, calcium-fortified rice or soy milk might be good substitutes.
  2. Check your medications. A wide variety of drugs, including antihistamines and antidepressants, can upset your stomach. Ease acid reflux and indigestion by taking 5–10  millilitres (1–2 teaspoons) of slippery elm powder in a glass of warm water.
  3. Antibiotics not only attack harmful bacteria, but also kill off the "friendly" bacteria (probiotics) that help digest food in the gut. To replace the good bacteria, take a probiotic supplement. Fermented milk drinks and some yogurts are a good source, or take probiotics in capsule, tablet or powder form (available from health food shops).
  4. Are you drinking enough water? Every adult needs a minimum of about 2 litres (8 cups) of fluid daily to ensure efficient digestion and elimination.
  5. Focus on fibre. It's not difficult to get the recommended daily 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of fibre if you choose foods carefully. Try fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, nuts, cooked dried beans and whole grains. Increase your intake slowly to avoid gas attacks.
  6. Get moving. Inactivity can result in sluggish digestion, whereas regular exercise moves food through the bowel faster.
  7. Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need. Ignoring the urge to go can cause a variety of digestive problems.
  8. Have a good laugh! Laughing has a "massaging" effect on the intestines and counters stress, which can make the bowel sluggish.
  9. Eat pineapple or kiwi fruit after meals. These foods contain enzymes that assist digestion. Or try chewing cardamom or caraway seeds. Flavour food with rosemary and mint, and eat watercress or artichokes occasionally. All these foods make the digestive juices flow.
  10. Go easy on your intake of caffeine (found in coffee and chocolate) and avoid soft drinks and greasy foods, all of which can exacerbate digestive problems.

Top tip

For constipation, take a dose of psyllium seed, a natural bulking agent sold in supermarkets and health food shops. It's tasteless, inexpensive and generally very safe, even if taken over long periods.

  • Grind together two parts psyllium seed with one part flaxseed and one part chopped dried figs or prunes.
  • Take 15 millilitres (1 tablespoon) of this mixture combined with yogurt every night before bed.
  • If you have celiac disease, eat some sunflower seeds each day to protect against inflammation of the intestinal lining.

Improving your digestion is a great way to reduce the risk of constipation, indigestion and heartburn. However, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor first before making any significant changes in your diet or the use of natural supplements.

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