If you find yourself frequently popping antacids or taking swigs of pink bismuth, you are probably wondering what causes poor digestion and what you can do to improve your digestive health. Bloating, heartburn and reflux, gas, constipation and diarrhea are common complaints that can typically be linked to certain eating habits and lifestyle factors. Changing what you eat and how you eat can greatly improve your digestion.
What Causes Poor Digestion?
- Not going when you have the urge can lead to constipation
- Taking too many NSAIDs can cause ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract
- Eating late increases nighttime heartburn
- Eating large meals leads to unpleasant fullness, reflux, and bloating
- Eating quickly causes uncomfortable fullness, reflux, bloating and belching
- Not enough fiber in your diet
- Drinking too many beverages with a meal can have the same bloating effect as too much food and contributes to reflux by flushing overfull stomach contents back into the esophagus
- Drinking soda increases bloating, gas, and feelings of fullness, and can trigger reflux symptoms
- Drinking too much alcohol can cause stomach discomfort, diarrhea and ulcers
- Smoking cigarettes is the cause of numerous digestive problems, including heartburn and ulcer development
Habits To Promote Good Digestion
- Limit high-fat foods – Fatty foods typically slow down the digestive process, leading to constipation. Some fat is important in a healthy diet, so pair fatty foods with high-fiber foods for easier digestion.
- Eat a high-fiber diet – A diet that is high in fiber and rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes helps keep food moving through the digestive tract. This helps treat and prevent various digestive conditions, such as constipation, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis. It can also help you achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight.
- Consume both insoluble and soluble fiber – Each fiber type helps the digestive system in different ways, so it is important to have both in your diet. Insoluble fiber – often called ‘roughage’ – can’t be digested by the body and thus adds bulk to stool. Soluble fiber draws water and eases the passage of stool. Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grains, while sources of soluble fiber include nuts, seeds, legumes, and oat bran.
- Eat on schedule – Eating your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system regular. Sitting down for meals and allowing yourself plenty of time to eat can prevent the uncomfortable fullness and bloating that can accompany overeating and rapid eating.
- Include probiotics in your diet – Your gut is naturally full of healthy bacteria that work to keep your body healthy by combating the effects of antibiotics, stress, and poor diet. Probiotics are the same kind of good bacteria, and consuming them helps maintain a healthy microbiome in your gut. Good sources of probiotics include low-fat yogurt and kefir.
Drink plenty of water – Water plays a key role in good digestive health by partnering with fiber to create softer, bulkier stools that can be easily passed. It is important to drink 8 glasses of water a day – juices, sodas and caffeinated beverages shouldn’t replace proper water intake.
- Exercise regularly – Exercising on a regular basis helps keep food moving through the digestive system, reducing constipation and bloating.
- Avoid bad habits – Smoking and excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can interfere with the digestive system and cause problems such as heartburn and stomach ulcers.
- Reduce stress – Thanks to the gut-brain connection, stress and anxiety can trigger negative effects in the digestive system. Reducing stress and participating in relaxing activities can improve both your mental and digestive health.
To learn more about what causes poor digestion and how to improve your gut health, schedule an appointment with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM today! As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can help you get your digestive health back on track.