My forties are fast approaching and, as they do, focusing on the health of my body is becoming more important than ever before. Considering what I do in terms of physical activity, how much sleep I get, and what I fuel my body with is vital to support a sense of healthy balance. It’s also important to think about some of the daily internal processes, such as digestion.
I’m fortunate that I don’t tend to struggle with digestive issues, but everyone can feel sluggish from time to time, and having spoken to others on this topic I have found that there are several ways you can improve your digestion. PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS IN PLACE OF PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, but if you are looking for some pointers then I hope that this post today might give some ideas of things you can do to get started:
Rethink What You Eat
The first thing you need to do is look at what you eat each day. It’s well-known that Western diets are rich in refined carbs, saturated fats, and food additives. Those three points contribute to all kinds of digestive disorders.
Western diets also tend to have larger quantities of processed foods like meats, cheeses and other dairy products, especially during meals like dinner. Convenience is a big reason for many individuals choosing to eat processed foods, with our schedules often being incredibly busy and time taken for meals being squeezed more and more.
It makes sense to rethink what you eat each day. Consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is one way to upgrade your diet and make it more balanced and nutritious. On a personal note I have experienced what I feel is a turn in my health since becoming vegan.
Another step you can take is cutting down or even eradicating processed foods from your diet, especially those with artificial elements such as sweeteners.
Keep Your Head Elevated When You Sleep
Acid reflux is a particularly troublesome problem for many people and plagued me during my early twenties. It can leave you with a burning sensation in your stomach and chest, and a horrible taste in your mouth.
If you regularly experience acid reflux, the good news is you can take acid reflux treatments to help ease those symptoms. Of course, prevention is better than the cure, as they say, and where possible you should help your body to digest what you eat better.
A straightforward way to minimise the effects of acid reflux is by keeping your head elevated at night when you go to bed. That way, stomach acid won’t travel up to your throat as you try to sleep at night. Another top tip is to reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Add More Fibre to Your Diet
This is an area that I have focussed on more recently, in supporting my young family to have a varied but healthy diet. High-fibre diets help reduce the risk of digestive problems like ulcers, acid reflux, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Examples of foods abundant in fibre include:
- Whole grains and whole wheat;
- Vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, and broccoli.
Drink Plenty of Water
One of the most common causes of a slow moving and sluggish digestive tract is a low intake of fluids, which can also lead to abdominal pain. There are many different things you can drink when you feel thirsty, but some drinks can have diuretic effects, causing you to become dehydrated.
If in doubt, drink water. The amount of water you should drink is a constant source of debate. Some medical experts believe you must consume around two litres of water daily, while the NHS recommends 6-8 glasses.
It’s challenging to give an accurate volume of water that everyone should consume because everyone has a different height and weight. One way of looking at it might be to drink at least one glass of water every couple of hours as a bare minimum, and your digestion will feel better for it.
Of course, you shouldn’t over-consume water each day as you could end up causing other health problems!
Decrease Your Stress Levels
Everyone has some form of stress in their lives, and for many this will have increased over the past 12 months in particular. Putting the global pandemic to one side though, some people have more stress than others. If you feel as though you have excessive stress levels, you’ll undoubtedly feel anxious about many aspects of your life.
Stress can negatively impact various areas of a person’s life and health, and one example is digestion. Did you know that stress can directly contribute to digestive problems like diarrhoea, constipation and IBS?
With all that in mind, it makes sense to take actionable steps to reduce the stress levels in your life. Fortunately, there are many ways you can achieve that goal. Some examples include:
- Relaxation therapy;
- Deep breathing exercises;
- Making lifestyle changes like distancing yourself from ‘toxic’ people in your life;
Chew Your Food Better
Are you someone that tends to ‘vacuum’ their food rather than chewing it properly? If so, that could be a leading reason for your digestive woes. Your body’s digestive system takes a while to process all food that you eat.
If you eat each meal quickly, perhaps because you feel you’ve got little time to do so, your body will find it challenging to process that food. As a result, you could feel bloated and unwell due to the ‘queue’ of food waiting to get digested.
Whenever you eat food, you should ensure that you thoroughly chew everything. The main reason for doing so is that you break up your food into small pieces that are easier to pass through your digestive tract.
What’s more, your mouth produces saliva when you chew. Saliva is a fluid that helps your stomach and digestive system process food easier. As a side benefit, chewing food for longer will make you feel fuller for longer.
There’s no denying that the body’s digestive system is efficient at processing food and helping your body get rid of any toxins. You can make conscious decisions to support this physical process though, ensuring that your body’s digestive system is working as it should so that you can lead a healthy and happy lifestyle.
N.B. This is a collaborative post, meaning that I have worked with others to bring you relevant and interesting content. If you want to know more about this, please take a look at my disclosure page.
Photographs contained within this post are courtesy of third party stock photography sites. Please do not reproduce them without permission.