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Practical steps for improving poor digestion

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on May 15, 2022

Is poor digestion cramping your style? Here’s how to keep things running smoothly

 

Life is usually good when our gut feels good – no bloating, diarrhea, gas, or constipation.  But when those symptoms rear their ugly head, and for many, they do, suddenly your happy-go-lucky life has just taken a turn down the wrong road.

Having a gut that works like a charm the majority, if not all of the time, is one of life’s most valuable health assets.  When tummy troubles are under control, we can enjoy life much more.  Luckily, good gut health and the ability to digest what we eat without worry can be achieved by most of us by, when specific steps are taken.

Causes of poor digestion

There can be several reasons why we may experience poor digestion.  Here are some common ones many may have:

  • Taking too many over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating too many sugary foods/beverages or refined carbohydrates
  • Too much “bad” bacteria instead of “good” bacteria
  • Stress
  • Environmental contaminants

Signs of poor digestion

Many of us associate poor digestion with the typical symptoms of bloating, gassiness, constipation, or diarrhea.  But poor gut health can make itself known by causing other symptoms outside of our abdomen – joint pain, unexplained headaches, fibromyalgia, skin problems, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.

Easy steps to better digestion

The best news for anyone with a tummy in turmoil is by making a few changes; you can strengthen your gut’s defenses and make it behave better.  Here are some steps that can lead to healthy digestion:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated. We hear this all the time but, it’s true.  When we are well-hydrated, we are less likely to have constipation.  Consuming fluids during the day, and eating foods high in fiber, is a dynamic duo helping bulk up and softens stools, so they pass more quickly through the digestive tract.   Choose water as your main beverage choice and load up on more high-fiber fruits and vegetables to keep things moving.

 

  • Don’t overeat at meals. Learning to listen to our bodies is a must when avoiding overeating.  Eating more than we need only leads to bloating, gas and indigestion.   Plus, overindulging leads to weight gain.  Pay attention when eating and once you feel full but not uncomfortably stuffed, stop.

 

 

  • Learn to chew your food slowly. Chewing food thoroughly is essential for enzyme release and for breaking food into smaller particles that your digestive system can handle more efficiently.

 

  • Stay away from foods you know cause problems. If you are not sure of what those foods are, try an elimination diet. Common culprits include sugar alcohols, refined grains, and dairy products.

 

 

  • Eat more whole, natural or unprocessed foods. Go for what Mother Nature provides us – beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds can provide us with good sources of flavonoids, a friend to our gut.

 

  • Choose foods with good bacteria. You probably heard of both probiotic and prebiotic foods.  These good bacteria are necessary to keep the peace in your digestive system by establishing a healthy balance of healthy bacteria that promote good gut health. Scientists believe that probiotics aid healthy digestion by producing substances that fight viruses and infections and make B vitamins to help metabolize what you eat.

 

 

  • Be active. Healthy digestion requires you to be physically active. Daily, do regular aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, and dancing.  All that movement improves circulation, vital for better digestion.

 

  • Reduce stress. When under pressure, our body releases gastric acid which can cause heartburn symptoms and indigestion.  The best way to reduce those symptoms and anxiety is to include regular exercise to release the feel-good hormones of endorphins and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.

 

  • Take care of your teeth. Healthy digestion begins in the mouth.  Therefore, regular dental visits and brushing and flossing can help promote a healthy mouth and healthy digestion.

 

 

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

2 Comments

  1. Richard Porter on May 17, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Cheryl always gives great practical advice.

    • Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on May 30, 2022 at 11:35 am

      Thank you so much Richard! I appreciate your comment and enjoy hearing from you!

      Many healthy regards,

      Cheryl

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