I have been doing a lot of traveling lately for work, and it seems like the more traveling I do, the more digestion issues I have to deal with. It just seems harder on my tummy when I’m not eating the usual things at the usual times. But you don’t have to travel a lot to suffer from digestive issues. Over 70 million Americans struggle with digestive diseases. Poor digestion deprives our bodies of nutrients it needs to promote a healthy brain and immune system, leaving us at risk for illness, memory loss, fatigue, and even depression.
However, just a few simple changes, you can help your digestive system do the job it was made to do and keeping things running smoothly.
Here are 16 natural ways to help take care of your digestive system:
Eat Less Processed Foods
Sugars and refined carbohydrates feed the growth of yeast like Candida and other bad bacteria in the digestive tract. The majority of your diet should be natural and unrefined as processed foods get broken down into sugar more easily.
Drinking too little water slows down your digestive system significantly because a harder stool is more difficult to pass. Drink plenty of water and other fluids, especially after you exercise. You’ll know when you’re getting enough water when your pee is clear all day long.
Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to all your organs, and stimulates muscles in the GI tract, helping your organs work more efficiently. It can even tone the walls of your colon! Aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber slows down digestion and absorption so the glucose in food enters your bloodstream more slowly, keeping your blood sugar at a more even level. Without fiber, you get gas and constipation. Look for insoluble fiber (in wheat bran, beans, and green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and chard), which helps move waste out of the colon. Aim for at least 25 grams of total fiber a day.
Limit Bad Fats / Increase Good Fats
Beyond keeping us from fitting into our favorite jeans, fatty and fried foods are hard to digest. Eat less of this type of fat.
Eat more protein and “good” fats. Protein stimulates stomach acid production. Good fats are also very important for the health of the liver, which it uses to produce bile. “Good” fats include unrefined coconut oil, butter, lard, naturally occurring animal fats, etc.
Losing even a few pounds eases some of the pressure in your abdominal area and can help reduce heartburn and other discomfort.
Take Your Time
Slow down and chew each bite at least 20 times. That gives your stomach plenty of time to prepare to properly digest the nutrients you are giving it, and allows your body and brain to tell you when you’ve had enough. Eat in the moment. Savor every bite, enjoying the flavors, textures, and smells of your meal.
Eat More Fermented Food
Eating fermented foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, or kombucha (a fermented tea beverage) can actually heal the gut by repopulating it with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria and providing a proper pH balance.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms naturally found in the human gut. These “good bacteria” are used to prevent and alleviate many different conditions but particularly those that affect the gastrointestinal tract.
Eat On Schedule
Eating your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.
Too much stress or anxiety can cause the passage of food through the digestive system to slow down or to speed up, which can cause abdominal pain and/or diarrhea. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis.
Every morning before breakfast, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon in 1 cup of water (or put 4-5 drops of Lemon essential oil in 1 cup of water) and drink. This small but effective daily routine will help to cleanse the stomach of left over “debris” and remove any excess acid.
Avoid Cold Drinks While Eating
Food is digested more efficiently if it’s around body temperature; therefore, cold fluid can slow down the digestive processes. If you must drink while eating, try hot water or herbal teas.
Chewing is the first stage of digestion. It not only physically breaks down foods, but signals the organs to secrete their digestive juices (pancreatic enzymes, stomach acids, etc.) in order to prepare for the incoming foods.
Digestion of our food is a process that requires a great deal of energy. Adequate, restful sleep ensures that your digestive organs have time for rest and repair. Lack of sleep also makes us more susceptible to stress, which can significantly influence digestive symptoms.
There are many essential oils that can be used to treat digestive distress. Essentials by Jillee has essential oils to help relieve digestion issues, including indigestion, heartburn, gas and bloating, including Lemon, Spearmint, Myrrh, Fennel and Ginger.
- Got indigestion: Rub Lemon essential oil on your wrists.
- Nausea, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, food poisoning, acid reflux, gas, gloating: Rub Lemon essential oil in a clockwise motion on your stomach and your wrists.
I personally will not leave home without this blend! It has saved me so many times whether I’m on the road in a different state….or just out to dinner!
Other Essential Oils that Aid Digestion:
Peppermint improves digestion and combats parasites. It relaxes the smooth muscles of the intestinal tract and promotes peristalsis. It kills bacteria, yeasts, fungi and mold.
Lemongrass has powerful antifungal properties. It is vasodilating, anti-inflammatory, and improves digestion.
Patchouli is a powerful digestive aid that alleviates nausea. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help reduce fluid retention.
A word of caution…know when to see a doctor.
The occasional digestive system flare-up — bloating, heartburn, or diarrhea — is pretty common, but if the problems persists after making lifestyle changes, if you have blood in your stool, or a fever, you should see a doctor. Start with your primary-care physician who can help determine if you need to consult a gastroenterologist.
But hopefully if we just follow some of the advice above, you and I can enjoy happier tummies overall. :-)
How do you care for your digestive health?