Best Ways to Support Digestive Health

james duignam hhp

It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans experience some form of digestive stress daily such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, acid reflux, or heartburn. Digestive issues result for many reasons such as being stressed, eating too fast and not chewing food thoroughly, an unhealthy diet of highly processed foods, low stomach acid, imbalanced gut flora (good bacteria), medications, etc.

The following are some easy ways to address digestive issues.

Recommendations to support the digestive process:

  • Consume foods that are close to their natural state as possible (avoid processed, refined foods), and include raw foods regularly.

  • Consume fermented foods (natto, sauerkraut, kimchi, black garlic, and miso) these foods support friendly bacteria in the GI tract.

  • Chew food thoroughly before swallowing, at least 20 times (digestion begins in the mouth).

  • Eat in a relaxed, calm environment, free of distractions.

  • Eat slowly and savor every bite; really taste your food.

  • Don’t drink liquids one hour before or after eating because your stomach is the most acidic organ in your body (pH of 4). It contains Hydrochloric acid and pepsin to break down foods and kill pathogens that are eaten. If you drink liquids you weaken the acidic environment and compromise the digestive process. Furthermore, as you get older your digestive strength weakens.

  • To compensate for weakened digestion, it is helpful to supplement with digestive enzymes because they help the body convert food into nutrients.

  • Probiotics (broad spectrum) for keeping a healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. These "friendly" bacteria help maintain a healthy balance in our gut and promote proper digestion.

  • Exercise regularly and drink plenty of water to keep everything moving.

  • Cabbage juice is good for the stomach. It is a traditional treatment for peptic ulcers since it supports the mucosal linings of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Also, Aloe Vera juice soothes the GI tract.

  • Different herbs help intestinal healing including cat's claw, marshmallow root and slippery elm. Sipping tea is a convenient way to calm an upset stomach. Anise tea is good for flatulence and nausea, cardamom for acid reduction, fennel for fatty food digestion, ginger for stimulating digestive secretions and peppermint for an upset stomach or cramps.

Important note: if you are under a doctor’s care or taking medications it is prudent to consult with your health care provider for any contraindications to supplements or herbs. Always stay on the side of caution.