What Helps with Digestion and Why It Matters


While we might not think about it often, our digestive system is one of the most important functions in our bodies; this complex process breaks down the food we consume, extracts vital nutrients that fuel our bodies, and expels waste. And when this system runs smoothly, it’s easy to take it for granted - but when it's disrupted, the discomfort will quickly remind us of its importance!
So, given the importance of digestion in maintaining our overall health and physical comfort, understanding what helps with digestion is crucial for our overall well being. From natural remedies to lifestyle choices, there are a number of ways to promote optimal digestive health - so let’s take a look at this intricate process and explore how to bolster its efficiency. Let’s get started!

Why is Digestion so Important?

Digestion plays a pivotal role in our health and well-being, and is the mechanism through which our bodies absorb essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates from the food we consume. A well-functioning digestive system ensures we get the necessary fuel for energy, growth, and cellular repair, and when digestion is compromised, nutrient absorption decreases, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies and associated health problems that come with it. So, how can we improve it? Let’s take a look at some tried-and-trusted methods. 

Improving Digestion with Fibre 

One of the primary answers to "how to improve digestion" is ensuring you’re getting enough dietary fibre. Found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, fibre is important for promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation, but there are two types of fibres you need to be familiar with. Soluble fibre, present in oats and beans, forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, aiding in stool formation. Insoluble fibre, found in whole wheat and vegetables, adds bulk to the stool, promoting its passage through the intestines. Getting enough of both of these types of fibres is important for optimal digestive function. 

Regular Exercise

Physical activity is not just important for weight management or cardiovascular health; it's also a boon for digestion - this is because exercise helps strengthen abdominal muscles, promoting regular bowel movements. Activities like walking or yoga can be particularly beneficial, helping to combat constipation and maintain a healthy digestive rhythm.
And if you feel like hitting the gym, don’t forget that many private health care plans in the UK include discounted gym memberships, so you can improve your health and wellbeing without draining your bank account.

Stay Hydrated

You’ve probably already heard how important drinking water is for your health and wellbeing - but water is absolutely necessary for your digestive system to function correctly! Adequate hydration ensures the digestive tract remains lubricated, allowing for the smooth passage of food and waste products; without enough water, you might start to experience painful constipation, which can lead to bloating and discomfort. Water also aids in nutrient absorption and helps dissolve soluble fibre, so it's non-negotiable when it comes to a well-functioning digestive system.

Probiotics and Good Bacteria

Your stomach is teeming with bacteria, some beneficial and others not so much. Probiotics, often referred to as 'good bacteria', play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced gut environment. Found in fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, probiotics help combat harmful bacteria, promote nutrient absorption, and may even alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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Ginger and Peppermint

Looking to improve digestion naturally at home? Ginger and peppermint have been traditional remedies for centuries - and this is why your grandparents might offer you a “gingernut biscuit” if you ever complain of an upset tummy! But why? Ginger can alleviate nausea and speed up the emptying of the stomach, ensuring swift digestion, while peppermint, on the other hand, can relieve symptoms of indigestion by relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

Mindful Eating and Chewing Properly

In today's fast-paced and bustling world, many of us eat on the go or in front of screens to save time - but this isn’t the best choice for optimal gut health. In fact, the act of chewing is the first step in the digestive process: when you take the time to eat mindfully and chew food thoroughly, you ensure that it's broken down into smaller, more digestible parts, easing the work for the stomach and intestines. So don’t rush through meals, however busy your day is - your gut will thank you for it!

Avoid Overeating

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An overloaded digestive system struggles to function efficiently, which is why you should minimise consuming large quantities of food at the same time; large meals can overwhelm the stomach, making digestion sluggish and potentially leading to acid reflux. Instead, opt for smaller, more frequent meals, which are easier on your stomach and will promote a digestive system that operates seamlessly.

Limit Fatty Foods

While fats are essential for health, they also slow down the digestive process; consuming an excess of fatty foods can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and heartburn, especially processed fats such as greasy and deep-fried foods. While everything can be enjoyed in moderation, it's essential to strike a balance, integrating healthy fats like avocados and nuts into the diet while being cautious about deep-fried or overly greasy foods.

Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Where would we be without our morning cup of joe before work? While caffeine can kickstart your day, it can also irritate the stomach and intestines, increasing acid production and potentially leading to inflammation and even ulcers in the stomach. As with fatty foods, moderation is key; so if you're pondering how to strengthen a weak stomach, reducing or eliminating caffeine and other irritants like alcohol can be a significant step.

Manage Stress

The gut-brain connection is powerful, and high stress levels can negatively impact your digestive system, leading to symptoms like diarrhoea, constipation, and stomach cramps. Engaging in stress-reducing activities, be it meditation, reading, or simply taking short breaks, can help maintain a harmonious digestive process.

Listen to Your Body

It sounds simple, but many of us do tend to fall out of touch with our bodies, especially when we’re busy with work or family commitments. However, being intune with your body means recognising how different foods affect your digestion: if certain foods consistently cause discomfort, they may be worth avoiding. Similarly, if you often experience digestive symptoms, a visit to the doctor could be beneficial - while it’s likely nothing serious, consistent digestive problems can be an indicator of conditions such as IBS, colitis, Crohn's Disease and even bowel cancer. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, digestive health doesn't merely influence our physical wellbeing; dysfunction in our gut can also lead to ramifications for our mental and emotional well-being too. By limiting unhealthy foods, minimising stress, getting enough exercise and including enough fibre in your diet, you can ensure a well-functioning digestive system and minimal discomfort. 

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