Poor digestion associated with symptoms such as upset stomach, nausea, heartburn, gas, diarrhea, or constipation can seriously disrupt your life. At the same time, proper and healthy eating is the basis not only for the adequate functioning of the gastrointestinal tract but also for all body systems, as well as the guarantee of longevity.
Polls show that only 4% of adults admit that they are eating right, the rest are aware of the problems, but cannot or do not want to fix them.
To improve digestion, it is necessary to competently approach food consumption, observing the calorie content of the diet, as well as its qualitative composition. It is imperative to add vitamins, macro- and microelements, exclude harmful substances, and lead a healthy lifestyle. All of this is important for gut health and will help avoid future medication.
Here is a list of 10 simple yet effective ways and guidelines that can help improve your digestion naturally.
1. Eat less fatty foods
Nutritionists recommend reducing your total fat intake. They should not account for more than 30% of the daily calorie intake. In addition, older people should limit this group of foods even more due to the high risk of developing urgent cardiovascular conditions.
To minimize the risk of developing diseases from the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system, you should reduce saturated fats to 10% of the daily calories, trans fats – to 1%. They should be replaced with polyunsaturated fats.
- To achieve these indicators, it is enough to follow a number of simple recommendations:
steam or boil food;
- baking and frying must be discarded;
- replace butter and sunflower oil with olive or coconut;
- do not eat lard;
- consume fermented milk products with the lowest possible fat content;
- abandon industrial baked goods.
It has been proven that excess fats disrupt the work of the smooth muscles of the intestinal wall and activate the processes of fermentation and putrefaction, which is manifested by bloating, a feeling of rapid stomach overflow, and constipation.
Harmful fats must be replaced with healthy ones. The best choice for good digestion is omega-3 fatty acids. Scientific works demonstrate their effectiveness in reducing the incidence of inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, including those of an autoimmune nature. Healthy fats are found in foods such as flax seeds, walnuts, and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines).
Reducing the total consumption of fats and then replacing them with omega-3 fatty acids has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the stomach and intestines, and also prevents the development of a wide range of diseases.
2. Eat more vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are rich in vegetable fiber, which activates a motor function. Fiber helps to improve the movement of feces through the intestines and is a substrate for the vital activity of beneficial microflora, which provides fairly reliable prevention of dysbiosis.
The World Health Organization recommends eating at least 400 g of fresh fruits and vegetables to significantly reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases, including the digestive system. In addition, such amounts of food provide the body with all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Scientists also advise making the following changes to your diet to keep your digestive system running smoothly:
- Include vegetables in any meal.
- Use fruits and vegetables as snacks when there is no time to prepare full meals.
- Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce starch in the diet. Most of it is found in potatoes.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in all essential vitamins and minerals, as well as plant fiber, which improves food digestion.
3. Don’t overeat
A common problem for many people is the discrepancy between the calorie content of the diet and energy expenditure. It has been proven that this leads to disruption of enzymatic breakdown of food in the lumen of the digestive tract, the development of malabsorption syndrome, and constipation.
In addition, increased food intake leads to the development of subcutaneous and intra-organ obesity, which significantly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes mellitus, and constipation.
The daily calorie intake for the “average” person in the middle age group ranges from 2200 to 3000 and depends on physical and mental activity during the day. The formula for the calculation is as follows:
For men: 88.36 + (13.4 x body weight, kg) + (4.8 x current height, cm) – (5.7 x age, years)
For women: 447.6 + (9.2 x body weight, kg) + (3.1 x current height, cm) – (4.3 x age, years)
4. Drink more water
Scientists have long proven that not enough clean liquid (not in the form of food) contributes to the development of constipation.
An adult is recommended to drink at least 1.5-2 liters of water per day.
Children from 5 to 8 years old should drink at least 1 liter, and from 9 to 12 years old – 1.5 liters.
During active physical exertion or staying in conditions of high temperatures, when the release of fluid through the skin and lungs is activated, the volume of water drunk should be increased.
An alternative method of meeting the body’s needs are fruits and vegetables (watermelon, melon, cucumber, grapefruit, peach, celery).
Thus, inadequate fluid intake is one of the main causes of constipation.
5. Practice mindful eating
Any food product should be taken with care. It has been proven that a deliberate approach to nutrition reduces the incidence of various pathologies from the gastrointestinal tract, as well as the severity of their course.
Nutritionists recommend following these tips:
- Chew food slowly and thoroughly. It is strictly forbidden to swallow large particles of food. This disrupts the balanced functioning of the digestive tract. Rapid swallowing of lumps provokes a decrease in intestinal absorption.
- While taking food, you should not be distracted by extraneous irritants (TV, mobile phone, etc.).
- Food should be attractive for its taste and smell.
- The food temperature should correspond to the type of product (meat – hot, ice cream – cold).
Conscious eating creates a favorable emotional environment that helps to calm the central nervous system and the coordinated work of various parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
6. Avoid stress
Stress can cause significant harm to the gastrointestinal tract. The mechanisms of the development of these effects are currently not fully understood. Psychologists claim that psychosomatic disorders are at the core.
Dysfunction of the central parts of the nervous system disrupts the regular processes of intestinal peristalsis, the coordinated secretion of digestive juices in response to irritation. This leads to significant digestive problems: from constipation or diarrhea to serious pathologies.
It has been proven that persons who are systematically exposed to stress are more likely to suffer from gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer.
Correction of mental balance disorders using special methods of stress management, relaxation, meditation, and the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy has a beneficial effect not only on the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract but also helps to alleviate the symptoms of various diseases from the digestive system (irritable bowel syndrome).
In addition, there are a number of foods that can help you calm down and reduce stress. Stress is an important risk factor for developing peptic ulcers, constipation, or diarrhea.
Stress is an important risk factor for developing peptic ulcers, constipation, or diarrhea.
7. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to correct and maintain digestive processes at the proper level.
A change in the position of the body in space, even a slight one, in combination with gravitational influences, promotes the movement of food particles in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract.
An example is a study conducted in the Netherlands. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can help relieve constipation and reduce symptoms such as false or incomplete bowel movements.
Exercise also relieves inflammatory bowel disease by activating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
Regular exercise improves digestion and prevents constipation. An active lifestyle can also prevent inflammatory pathologies.
8. Give up smoking and alcohol
Popular bad habits adversely affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and the health of the whole body.
It has been proven that smoking increases the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease by almost 2 times. At the same time, it is noted that alcoholic beverages do not affect the formation of this deviation.
In the course of large studies, a direct relationship was also noted between the activity of smoking, the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and the development of pathologies such as gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer, the oncological proliferation of mucosal cells.
Alcoholic beverages increase the production of hydrochloric acid and all digestive juices. As a result, the stomach lining becomes irritated and inflamed. In the early stages, this is manifested by dyspeptic disorders such as a feeling of rapid stomach fullness, heartburn, and nausea. Alcohol is closely related to the incidence of gastrointestinal bleeding. Also, alcohol abuse has fatal consequences for the liver, in which recovery is not always possible.
Thus, giving up bad habits will lead to the normalization of digestion and the prevention of dangerous diseases of the digestive tract.
9. Include certain nutrients in the diet
- The components that are necessary for the well-coordinated work of the muscular and secretory apparatus of the gastrointestinal tract include:
Probiotics are a group of beneficial bacteria that can improve digestion and overall digestive health by creating beneficial intestinal microflora for the body. Microorganisms actively break down the indigestible fibers that come with food, the excess of which activates the processes of decay and causes bloating.
One scientific study examined the effectiveness of probiotics in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. During treatment, there was a decrease in the severity of symptoms such as a feeling of distension of the abdomen, bloating, pain after eating. These substances are also effective for stool disorders such as constipation or diarrhea.
For treatment, you can use specialized nutritional supplements or bioyogurts. The main thing is that they contain bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.
Glutamine is one of the most important amino acids that regulate the permeability of the intestinal wall. With a sufficient amount of it, permeability decreases against the background of acute intestinal infections. The effectiveness of the component has been proven in persons in the intensive care unit. The richest in glutamine are soybeans, eggs, turkey and nuts (almonds).
Zinc is another extremely important component for the digestive system. The trace element increases the factors of local immunity and the functioning of natural barriers, which makes it effective for any infectious or long-term chronic pathologies. The effects have been proven at the Lankenau Institute, USA.
The recommended dose of zinc per day for men is 11 mg, for women – 8 mg. The highest content of the element is found in beef, sunflower seeds, and shellfish.
Various nutrients are important for the gastrointestinal tract, but zinc, glutamine and probiotics are the most valuable. Without them, there can be no well-coordinated work of the digestive tract.
10. Get enough vitamins
With age, the need for vitamins increases, and their absorption decreases due to involutive changes in the digestive system.
For example, it has been proven that about 30% of people over 50 years of age are deficient in vitamin B12 because the stomach does not produce enough gastric juice.
Due to inadequate food intake, a large number of people have a deficiency of vital vitamins – A, C, group B, folic acid.
For the full functioning of the digestive tract, you need the following vitamins:
- B vitamins. They improve the energy potential and metabolic processes at the level of cell membranes. All persons of older age groups are recommended to include vitamin supplements with this element. Eat more almonds, avocado, oats, pumpkin, tomato, spinach, and asparagus to meet your needs.
- Vitamin D. The body feels the need for it in winter when there is a lack of sunlight, and after 40 years, when the skin begins to synthesize less of this substance. They are rich in tuna, salmon, chicken eggs, beef liver.
Before including vitamin supplements and other dietary supplements in the diet, it is recommended to first consult with a specialist.
Vitamins are extremely important for the balanced functioning of not only the gastrointestinal tract but all body systems. Preference should be given to natural sources rather than drugs and dietary supplements.
What to avoid
In case of any problems with digestion and the presence of acute or chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, it is necessary to limit or exclude a number of “heavy” foods, as well as make a correction in the lifestyle.
So, always avoid:
- Eat any fried, spicy, and smoked foods.
- There are foods with a lot of dyes and preservatives. This includes many confectionery, carbonated drinks.
- Take a lot of food at a time. Meals should be fractional about 5-7 times a day, in small portions.
- Swallow food in large chunks quickly after consumption.
- Eat monotonously. The diet needs to be diversified with a large range of food products. This is the only way to provide the body with all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Avoid physical activity and lead an inactive lifestyle.
- Smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Thus, simple changes in diet and lifestyle will help improve the functioning of the digestive system, which will help to eliminate a number of pathological symptoms and provide prevention of serious diseases.