If you suffer from occasional indigestion, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive complaints, consider incorporating these simple, healthy strategies into your daily routine. Diet modification, stress management, regular exercise, and prudent supplementation can all be helpful:
- Exercise daily. Regular physical activity tones your intestines and is essential to regular bowel movements.
- Manage stress. It can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, affecting how you digest food. Practice some form of relaxation technique daily, such as breathing exercises, biofeedback, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Avoid stimulants. Caffeinated beverages, coffee (including decaffeinated coffee), tobacco and other stimulants can irritate the GI tract.
- Check your meds. Talk with your physician about over-the-counter and prescription medications you are taking, as some can affect digestion.
- Don’t eat right before bedtime. Give your meal adequate time to be broken down and digested.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco smoking has been linked to several digestive disorders including heartburn, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Strong spirits can irritate the digestive system. If you do consume alcoholic beverages, do so only with meals.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep digestive systems running properly. Drinking fluids after, rather than during, a meal may help minimize symptoms of indigestion.
- Eat a diet rich in fiber. Consume at least 40 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber a day, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Keep a food log. It can help you identify the causes or triggers of your digestive issues.
- Eat small meals. Smaller portions place less demand on the digestive tract and are easier to digest than large meals.
- Drink herbal tea. Pure peppermint-leaf tea, steeped for three to five minutes, is an excellent stomach soother. (However, it may worsen esophageal reflux by relaxing the sphincter where the esophagus joins the stomach.) Chamomile tea is an alternative.
- Drink ginger tea. Also try candied ginger or take a 500 mg capsule of ginger root extract after a meal.
- Avoid spicy foods. They can irritate the digestive tract and trigger indigestion.
- Monitor how you eat. Don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t talk while eating and don’t eat too quickly – all can contribute to indigestion.
- Probiotics. These products contain “friendly” bacteria that can stabilize the digestive tract and aid in digestion.
- Plant-derived digestive enzymes. For example, bromelain, derived from pineapples, can help digest specific nutrients.
- Artichoke-leaf extract. It may help with indigestion by increasing bile flow needed to digest fats.
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This herbal extract can soothe and protect the lining of the stomach and duodenum.