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How to Improve Digestive System Health

Updated on August 15, 2015

Tummy Trouble?

Ease digestive upsets with simple life changes that don't require prescriptions.
Ease digestive upsets with simple life changes that don't require prescriptions. | Source

More and more people seem to be suffering from digestive problems. Heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation can be irritating and annoying to live with constantly.

Below are some ways to get your digestive system in better health and to improve the way you feel. Most of these are natural aids and don't require taking chemicals with long lists of side effects.

So take control of your health and get your digestive system back on track with these easy changes and simple tips that can make a huge impact on your health.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is essential to the digestive system in several ways. Our organs need water to help them function. For instance, stomach acid is produced with water.

Blood flow is also necessary to proper organ function. Staying hydrating keeps a good supply of blood moving throughout the body.

Water helps flush food through your digestive tract. It also helps in the breakdown of food and absorption of minerals.

Bring water with you wherever you go to make sure you are drinking enough each day.
Bring water with you wherever you go to make sure you are drinking enough each day. | Source

Not having enough water on a regular basis can lead to chronic dehydration. Some of the symptoms are constipation and stomach problems.

So keeping your digestive system working properly means getting enough water. Most doctors recommend having about 8 cups (64 ounces) of water a day.

Try these ideas to make sure you are getting enough water daily:

  • Carry a 64 ounce water container with you throughout the day. When you have finished it, you will know that you've gotten in your needed water amount each day. You could also use 32 ounce (4 cup) bottle and refill it during the day.
  • Drink a glass of water in the mornings to start your day off right. Some health care specialists recommend warm (room temperature) water with lemon first thing in the morning to give the digestive tract a jump start.
  • Ask for a glass of water along with your other beverage when you are at restaurants. Drink the full glass before your meal.

Physical activity is great for the digestive system.
Physical activity is great for the digestive system. | Source

Quick Tip

Practice good posture! Sitting slouched can cause your intestines and organs to be scrunched together and unable to process the food properly.

Exercise

Exercise is another important component of digestive health. It is beneficial for a number of reasons.

Exercise helps eliminate bloating because it gets the gas moving through the digestive tract. It also speeds digestion because it stimulates the body and the intestines.

It can even help boost metabolism. Exercise and movement also improves blood flow which in turn improves organ function. And exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight thereby decreasing the stress on the digestive system.

Get active with these manageable tips:

  • Start off slow and get into an exercise routine that you can handle and that you will stick with. Most people make the mistake of jumping into a program that is too advanced and is too much for their schedule. Set a goal that is easily achieved, like exercising once a week, and then start building up to more.
  • Walking at a brisk pace for just 20 minutes a few times a week can make a huge difference in overall health.
  • Yoga is great for digestive health. The stretching gets blood flowing to your intestines and stomach. It is also great for stress relief, another factor in improved digestion.

Easy Massage Techniques to Help Digestion

Probiotics

Probiotics are "good" bacteria that are found in your digestive tract. We need a balance of bacteria in the body to stay in good health. Antibiotics, stress, and other modern lifestyle habits can cause an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria and too few of the "good" kind.

Bacteria in the body helps you break down and digest your food and they also help boost the immune system. Without the proper bacterial balance, digestive problems like diarrhea and infections can start to crop up. Lack of "good" bacteria can also lead to a feeling of fatigue, heightened allergy symptoms, and other health issues.

Taking a daily dose of probiotics can help alleviate many health problems.

Try these things to get more probiotics:

  • Take an OTC probiotic supplement. They come in tablets, capsules, and more. The most effective type are the ones that have live cultures. Ask your pharmacist for more information.
  • Many types of yogurt have natural probiotics in them. Look for "live and active cultures" on the label to see if the yogurt has them. Activia is a great yogurt to eat daily to improve overall digestive health.
  • Probiotics are also being added to lots of other food products. Check with your local grocery store and health food store to find other probiotic choices. Some manufacturers are starting to offer drinks that have them added, some milk companies offer a type with probiotics included, and they are also added to specialty chocolate bars and other foods. Food and drinks with probiotics added are typically found in the refrigerated sections because they must stay cool to keep the cultures alive.

Beneficial Probiotics

Enzymatic Therapy Probiotic Pearls Acidophilus (Formerly Acidophilus Pearls)
Enzymatic Therapy Probiotic Pearls Acidophilus (Formerly Acidophilus Pearls)

These probiotics are surrounded by a pearl capsule that protects them so that they won't dissolve until they get to the intestines.

 

Digestive Enzymes

Sometimes the stomach needs help breaking down the food with added digestive enzymes. This is especially true as we age. Many people think they have a problem with too much stomach acid when the problem is actually that their stomachs is producing too little acid.

Boost your body's digestion by taking enzymes along with meals. They aid the stomach in breaking down the food. They come in capsule form and can really make a difference with a lot of tummy troubles.

Raw fruits and vegetables also have natural enzymes, so you can try eating more of these.

One note of caution, if you have Crohn's or regularly get diarrhea, you may not want to try enzymes or sample a very small amount because sometimes they can cause an increase in diarrhea.

Fruits, veggies, and nuts are natural sources of fiber.
Fruits, veggies, and nuts are natural sources of fiber. | Source

High Fiber Foods

Fiber can help to keep your intestines functioning properly and make your bowel movements more regular.

Fiber works because it adds bulk to what is moving through your intestines. If there isn't enough substance to what your body is digesting, your muscles have to strain to push the food along. Fiber gives the muscles of the intestines something to grip and push. This speeds up digestion and helps to control bloating, gas, and constipation.

Since foods high in fiber aren't absorbed quickly, it can also be beneficial for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.

Get more fiber in your diet these ways:

  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They are full of fiber, especially the skin and stringy parts.
  • Nuts, seeds, and oatmeal are another great source of fiber.
  • Switch to whole grains rather than the more refined types of grains. Whole grains have more fiber.
  • For more fiber, you can eat products specifically made to boost fiber like Fiber One bars and cereal. Most of them taste great, which is a plus.
  • If you still aren't getting enough fiber, you can take fiber supplements like Metamucil.

Chew Your Food Thoroughly

Make sure you are chewing your food thoroughly. The more the food is broken down before you swallow, the less your stomach and intestines have to work to digest it.

Chewing more will break down the food better. Your saliva also aids in digestion.

Eating slowly and chewing smaller bites can helps you to avoid over eating. It will also help you to be relax, which is good for digestion as well.

Great Tips for Improved Digestive Health

Source

Eliminate Irritating Foods

Certain foods may be the culprit in digestive problems for some people. Food allergies and food intolerances could be what is upsetting your digestive system. Or it could just be food that doesn't agree with you.

Feeling better could be as easy as avoiding foods that cause you trouble. Dairy and gluten allergies are very common. If you suspect that you may have a food allergy, you can try an elimination diet to see how you feel when you don't eat certain foods. Or you can talk to your doctor about doing an allergy test.

If you have acid reflux or heartburn, eliminating certain foods can help ease the symptoms. Coffee, tea, sodas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and dairy are some of the foods associated with increased reflux.

Have a problem with dairy?

Lactaid Fast Act Chewables, 60 Count
Lactaid Fast Act Chewables, 60 Count

Lactaid can help you to digest dairy without as much bloating and gas.

 
Find ways to relax and minimize stress.
Find ways to relax and minimize stress. | Source

Reduce Stress

Stress takes a toll on the body. It can affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels, cause muscle aches, and can lead to digestive upset.

Frequent diarrhea and constipation, heartburn and acid reflux, and even a rumbly tummy can all be caused by stress.

Finding ways to reduce stress and relax can help your whole body feel better.

Cut down on stress and help your digestive system with these tactics:

  • Don't eat in a hurry. Eat slowly and without rushing. Taking the time to eat peacefully aids in digestion and helps your food settle better.
  • Exercise can be a great stress reducer. Take peaceful walks, try yoga, or another relaxing activity.
  • Close your eyes and take deep relaxing breaths periodically throughout the day. Focused breathing can lower blood pressure, aid digestion, lower blood sugar levels, and much more.

Stress Reliever

School Specialty 1361961 Fidget Poppin Peepers Brain
School Specialty 1361961 Fidget Poppin Peepers Brain

Relax your brain by squeezing this one. The eyes pop out when squeezed.

 

Digestive Problems Poll

What digestive ailment do you have?

See results
Do you frequently need stomach relievers? Talk to your doctor to get to the bottom of your digestive trouble.
Do you frequently need stomach relievers? Talk to your doctor to get to the bottom of your digestive trouble.

Natural Stomach Soothers

These are some natural ways to soothe the stomach:

  • peppermint
  • chamomile
  • ginger
  • marshmallows
  • aloe vera juice/gel
  • licorice herb
  • Chew sugarf ree gum to help with heartburn and reflux.

Digestive Medicine and Medical Help

Some people may need medicine and a doctor's care to combat digestive problems.

You should seek medical advice if you have persistent problems for more than a few weeks and if you experience severe diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, stomach pains and cramps, or sharp pains.

Among other problems, frequent digestive upset could be a sign of these common problems that may require medical attention:

  • H. pylori infection
  • ulcers
  • hiatal hernia
  • food allergies
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn's

Proton-pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Zegerid, Prevacid, and Nexium aren't recommended for long term use. Talk to your doctor if you are using OTC stomach medicine frequently.

Comments

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    • Mommy Needs a Nap profile image

      Michelle Clairday 19 months ago from Arkansas

      Very good article. Probiotics and eliminating gluten changed my life. You did your research. Good job!

    • profile image

      john 2 years ago

      Thanks for the tip

    • profile image

      chalotte 3 years ago

      ive try windease and it help me A FRIEND told me about it and i try it it makes me fort a lot it is great because myt ummy feel good

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      Amy - Avoiding preservatives and all the chemical junk in foods can definitely help.

    • profile image

      Amy 4 years ago

      I found no preservites helped my stomach hard to do though

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      Brightonbreezy - I'm not very familiar with king of bitters, but it looks like it has lots of positive benefits for digestion and overall health. I will add it to my list of natural remedies to check out.

    • Brightonbreezy profile image

      Brightonbreezy 4 years ago from Brighton, UK

      I was suggested something called King of bitters to aid my digestion. Ive read some information on here http://www.regenerativenutrition.com/king-of-bitte... Has anyone else used this supplement before?

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      Camille Pegram - Green vegetables and most other veggies and fruits are great for the body.

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      writer20 - I definitely find probiotics helpful. Hope you do too. Thanks!

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      TFScientist - I can type "probiotic studies" into Google and it will pull up hundreds of reliable double blind studies with results that show probiotics to be beneficial for a wide range of health problems beyond what would just be a placebo effect. The same thing with digestive enzymes. The ones I pulled earlier were just some of the first examples I came to, not a definitive case point.

      Not only do I have studies to go by, I have my own experiences. And my experience has proven that they (probiotics especially) definitely help. I've taken plenty of other stomach medicine and supplements that haven't worked, so I don't think it is just the placebo effect in my own case.

      As for reviews, I was talking about Amazon, which isn't controlled by the companies who make the products. You'll find positive reviews and a few negative ones as well. But more often than not, other people are finding the products helpful. And from a purely pragmatic point of view, if it is helping people with relatively few side effects, then what's the problem?

      But you seem to feel passionately about your opinion of probiotics and digestive enzymes. Maybe you should start a hub of your own about them and explain more thoroughly the case you are making against them. You can send me the info and I'll take a look, but for now I'm still pro-probiotic.

    • profile image

      Camille Pegram 4 years ago

      Green vegetables definitely provide more nutrition and enymes for the digetsive system than I imagined.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great hub to help us who suffer, good work. I'm going to try the Pearls.

      Vote up useful and interesting, Joyce

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 4 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      Never underestimate the placebo effect. And published studies are only as good as the people who paid for them. Having a digestive study published by people selling digestive enzymes is not what you would call unbiased. I wrote a couple of papers on probiotic yogurts. I will dig other out and send you the references if you like?

      Reviews of people trying the yoghurt do not a double blind trial make. The company are only going Publish reviews that show their product in a favourable light. Double blind trials are the gold standard of proof. Double blind investigations into probiotics and digestive enzymes both show no correlation above that of the placebo effect. I recommend Ben Goldacre's 'bad science' it has a great chapter on probiotics

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      Marcy Goodfleisch - I carry stress in my stomach, too. I've had to learn about this information the hard way. Thanks so much!

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      TFScientist - I beg to differ about the effectiveness of probiotics and digestive enzymes.

      There are several studies that have shown that patients who take probiotics versus those who don't have significantly fewer digestive and even immune system problems. Here is just one example of positive benefits of probiotics: webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/probiotics-benefits.

      Not only that, but I have first hand evidence of their benefits. They have seriously helped me with my stomach problems. I am positive that they are the cause of the improvement because when I stop taking them, the problems start returning. The same thing has happened with my husband and several other people I know personally. There are thousands of people who have started eating Activia (yogurt) and seen a vast improvement in their digestive health. Just read the reviews. That doesn't mean that it is going to help everyone, though. But it can definitely help with some digestive problems.

      The same thing with digestive enzymes. There are several studies that show they can be helpful in helping your body to break down food. And they aren't destroyed by the stomach acid: enzymes.subtleenergysolutions.com/GastricStabilityStudy.pdf. The digestive enzymes need stomach acid to function. If there isn't sufficient acid, then it stands to reason that the body can have trouble releasing enough enzymes. Depending on the type of enzyme you are taking, it can also be active in the intestines as well. It's similar to the idea of taking lactase to help digest dairy.

      Otherwise, thanks. There are tons of ways to help digestion naturally. By the way, a lot of the natural digestive enzymes have ginger in them. Maybe they are natural stomach soothers because they aid in digestion.

    • cocopreme profile image
      Author

      Candace Bacon 4 years ago from Far, far away

      amanthkr01 - Thanks! Water is definitely important to healthy body function.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      One of the first places my body shows stress is my stomach - this is very helpful information! I like the thorough way you covered the various issues and options. Voted up and up!

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 4 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      I agree with almost everything you have written here apart from the taking of digestive enzymes and probiotics. Studies show that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that probiotic cultures become part of your own intestinal flora and fauna. Eating a pot of yoghurt just doesn't have a statistically significant impact on the three hundred trillion microbes that call your body home. Particularly considering that most are destroyed in the stomach.

      Similarly with digestive enzymes.

      Enzymes are not the same as acid. Your stomach acid is there to kill germs and provide your processes the ideal working environment. Acid doesnt break down your food. The only thing an enzyme pill MAY help you digest is protein, as any other enzymes contained in the pill would be denatured on contact with stomach acid. Your body constantly produces enzymes in the stomach. Taking a supplement will has no measurable impact in situ. If the pH of your stomach is off because of a lack of acid, taking enzymes will make no difference as they need a certain pH to work.

      The rest of the hub contains sound advice. Drinking plenty of water and eating fibre and other roughage can keep your gut healthy. The advice on exercise is also great. I also liked your lis of stomach soothers and medications. Very informative. Voted up

    • amanthkr01 profile image

      Aman Thakur 4 years ago from India

      Really a superb hub!!!!!!!!!

      You have included all the factors indispensable for a healthy digestive system. I am agree with you that by drinking plenty of water you can make your digestive system healthy.

      Voting this up and useful.

      Shared with followers.