Digestion is the process that starts in the mouth when eating food and ends when the waste material is eliminated(1). In digestive process, large insoluble food molecules break down into the small water-soluble food molecules so that they get absorbed into the watery blood plasma. This catabolic form of the digestive process is divided into two types by which it takes place in the body:
Mechanical Digestion: It is the physical breakdown of the food molecules with the help of digestive enzymes.
Chemical Digestion: It is the enzymatic breakdown of food molecules into the essential nutrients so that cells of the body can use them.
Digestion is the long process which involves the role of various organs of the human digestive system, such as:
Mouth: Firstly the food enters the mouth where the physical breakdown of food or chewing, also called as mastication, takes place.
Saliva: It is a liquid secreted by the salivary gland which contains:
Salivary Amylase – The first enzyme where digestion starts and it helps in digestion of the starch in the food.
Mucus – It lubricates the food particles.
Hydrogen carbonate – It helps amylase enzyme in working by providing the ideal alkaline PH conditions in the mouth.
Esophagus: Through the peristalsis movement in the esophagus, the food bolus travels down into the stomach.
Stomach: It has Gastric juices, which contains Hydrochloric Acid and pepsin that start protein digestion by mixing the food bolus with the various digestive enzymes.
Duodenum: Food particles converted in the thick liquid called as Chyme and mixed with the digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile juice from the liver.
Small Intestine: Chyme gets fully digested in the small intestine and absorbed by the blood. About 95% of nutrients absorption takes place in the small intestine.
Large Intestine: Colon of large intestine has slightly acidic PH and absorbs water, mineral and some vitamins, such as Biotin and Vitamin K.
Rectum: It eliminates the waste through defecation.
These all are the important organs and functions of the digestive system and any kind of change or disruption in them leads to various digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, gas, diarrhea, food allergies, bloating and much more. It is essential to address those digestive problems soon, otherwise they can manifest into various chronic health issues.
10 Natural Ways to Improve Digestions
The best ways to prevent digestive issues and improving the digestion naturally are:
High Fiber Diet Helps Improve Digestion Naturally
Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that can be natural or synthetic(2). Fiber contains special kind of chemical bond that is unable to get break down by the digestive enzymes, so fiber generally reaches to the large intestine undigested. Soluble fibres are easily fermented in the gut and generally found in the oats, barley, legumes, citrus fruits and many more. Unlike soluble fibre, insoluble fibre is not easily fermented in the gut and commonly found in the whole grain, vegetables and fruits. A high fiber diet improves the digestive system naturally in the following ways:
High Fiber Diet Improves Frequency of Bowel Movement(3): A high fiber diet draws the water into the gastrointestinal tract to soften the stools and it also increases the bulk which helps in the faster passage of the stools through the GI tract. This is how a high fiber diet helps in improving your digestion naturally.
Fiber Acts as Prebiotic: Fiber acts as a prebiotic substance because it helps in the growth of gut bacteria by feeding them which helps in improving digestion naturally.
Fiber Produces Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs): Fibres produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) after fermentation, such as butyric acid, acetic acid and propionic acid. In all of them, particularly butyric acid improves the gut health naturally.
Consume Real Food for Better Digestion
Real, fresh or whole food is considered as the best kind of food for improving the digestion because they are easy to digest, contains the nutritive value and prevents and protects against various digestive problems. In comparison with the real food, typical western diet or processed food has high saturated fats or trans fat, food additives and refined carbs. So, for improving the digestion naturally, it is important to avoid processed food and consume natural whole food in your diet, such as yoghurt, fruits, whole grains and much more.
Improve Your Digestion Naturally by Chewing your Food Thoroughly(4).
As we discussed earlier digestion is the process that starts in the mouth. Chewing food properly or for more time breaks the food into smaller pieces, which reduces the work of digestive enzymes in the stomach and small intestine. Chewing your food thoroughly also produces more saliva, which has enzyme salivary amylase, mucus and hydrogen carbonate that helps in proper mixing of food, the formation of food bolus and better digestion.
Add Healthy Fats In Diet for Improving your Digestion Naturally
Fats are considered bad for digestion because they are known to slow down the digestion process, which leads to constipation and various other diseases. However, fats are also necessary for the digestion process because fats give the feeling of satisfaction after the meal and secondly fats are important for the absorption of vital vitamins and minerals and other fat-soluble nutrients. Apart from those, it is also important for hormonal balance, blood sugar stability and many brain functions. Foods rich in healthy fat or omega-3-fatty acids that are beneficial in improving digestion are nuts, flax seeds, salmon fish, chia seeds and much more. These omega-3-fatty acid rich foods decrease the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis along with improving your digestion naturally.
Sufficient Hydration is Important for Better Digestion(5)
The human body is composed of about 50 to 65% of water; and all cells, tissues and organs use water for maintaining the body temperature and other functions of the body. Water gets lost through various functions of the body, so it is very important to stay hydrated because water or other fluids help the body in breaking down of food particles and in absorbing essential nutrients from it. Water also pulls enough liquid into the colon, which helps in making stools soft and bulkier that passes easily and prevent constipation; thus improving digestion naturally. So a person should have 50-66 ounces of water or non-caffeinated liquid per day for better digestion.
Stress Management is a Must for Better Digestion(6)
The brain and gut of the human body are connected to each other because some of the functions of the gut are controlled by the central nervous system in the brain and spinal cord. So, whatever affects the brain influences the digestion also. High stress activates the fight-or-flight response of the human body and affects the digestive system in the following ways:
- Creates a feeling of nausea.
- Increases the amount of acid in the body that leads to indigestion.
- Causes esophagus or food pipe to go into spasm.
- Causes diarrhea or constipation.
- Decreases the blood flow and oxygen in the stomach that leads to an imbalance of gut bacteria, cramping or inflammation
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Stress management is important if you are serious about improving your digestion naturally. Meditation or relaxation training, yoga, cognitive behavioural therapy and acupuncture are the activities that can help in the managing stress and thus improving digestion as well.
Mindful Eating: A Lesser Known Way for Improving Your Digestion Naturally(7)
Mindful eating is a relatively new concept which helps improve your digestion naturally. Mindful eating is the process of focusing on all the aspects of the food that a person is consuming. Mindful eating involves limited eating, scheduled eating and healthy eating, which is good for the liver so that digestive problems, such as indigestion, gas and bloating do not occur. Mindful eating also helps in preventing the symptoms of chronic digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For improving digestion, mindful eating also involves eating only liver friendly foods, with proper chewing, meals on a proper schedule and attention paid to the temperature, smell and texture of the food.
Improve Your Digestion Naturally by Ditching Those Bad Habits(8)
Bad habits, such as alcohol, eating too much, eating very fast, smoking cigarettes and consuming a high amount of caffeine creates an intense effect not only on digestion, but on the overall health of the human body(8). It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle and ditch these bad habits once and for all for improved digestion(8).
Probiotics for Healthy Digestive System(9)
The human body is full of bacteria; some of them are good and some are bad. So probiotics are the live, good or helpful bacteria or yeasts, which are consumed to improve the digestive health. Probiotics are a great way to improve your digestion naturally. Probiotics benefit in restoring or creating the natural balance of the friendly gut bacteria and also helps in breaking down of the indigestible fibres, which prevent the symptoms of gas, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bloating. Probiotics are generally found in dietary supplements or in fermented food, such as yoghurt, kimchi and miso. Probiotics are also found in capsules that contain the mixed strain of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria.
Regular Exercise Benefits Digestion(10)
Exercising regularly is known as the best way for improving digestion naturally, as it keeps the body and food moving. Exercises, such as walking, running and much more help in strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, increasing the heart rate and decreasing the intestinal sluggishness that results in stimulating and eliminating the digestive waste outside the body. Exercise has anti-inflammatory effects, as it decreases the inflammatory compounds from the body thus prevents the symptom of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Exercise and gravity keeps the food in movement throughout the digestive system that aids in weight loss and improves digestion naturally. So, a person should exercise for 30 minutes every day for better digestion and better health.
The digestive system is not only associated with the digestion of food, but it is the process that affects the overall health of the person. The digestive system involves the function of various organs of the human body, so it is important to focus on keeping all these organs healthy so that they can work properly and a person can stay fit. The best way for getting a good life is to improve digestion naturally. Food has the power to heal the body and prevent disease; so only healthy stomach and liver friendly foods should be eaten. Along with the food, enough water and regular exercise are also responsible that plays a vital role in improving digestion. The more a person will stay away from stress and all the bad habits, the close he will come to a better and healthy lifestyle with better digestion. Add all these activities into your daily lifestyle and get healthy digestion naturally.