Want a “recipe” for smoother digestion? Start with these nine tips. They’ll help you prevent symptoms such as bloating, belches, or heartburn.
Of course, if you have any digestive symptoms that are severe or won’t go away, see your doctor.
- Tap Into Plant Power
Plant foods have fiber. This helps you stay regular. Bonus: It fills you up, which is a plus if you want to lose weight.
Go for high-fiber foods, such as:
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grains
• Beans and lentils
Start slowly. As you gradually add fiber to your diet, also increase the amount of water you drink. Water is fiber’s best friend. Fiber soaks it up, and this will help you avoid cramping or gas.
- Have a Side of Soup
Water and other fluids such as soup, broth, and juice can ease things through your system.
Not a soup fan? Try herbal tea or water with a slice of cucumber, lemon, or lime. Or anything, really, as long as it doesn’t have alcohol (which dehydrates you) or too much caffeine (which can stimulate your intestines too much).
If you favor fizzy drinks, keep in mind that they increase stomach acid, which gives some people heartburn.
- Break It Down
Eat smaller amounts more slowly. Chew your food thoroughly to make your digestive system’s job a little easier.
- Keep Moving
Is there anything exercise can’t do for you? The list of benefits just keeps growing. You already know it’s good for your heart and your waistline. Turns out that active people also have smoother digestion.
Watch the timing. For some people, exercise right after a meal can cause indigestion. So schedule your workouts before meals or wait at least an hour after eating.
- Bring on the “Good” Bugs
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are in your gut. They are in some yogurts and fermented foods. They help with your digestion. You can also add them to your diet with supplements.
- Outsmart Fatty Fare
Fats tend to stay in your system the longest, making them harder to digest. You may have even noticed a feeling of fullness or burning after a rich meal.
Limit fatty foods such as chips, burgers, and greasy foods. Instead, eat lean meat and fish. Also, try to grill your meals more often than you fry them.
- Dear (Food) Diary
Pay attention to foods that seem to trigger stomach discomfort. Write down what you ate and how you felt so you remember for next time.
Some people find that acidic foods, like tomatoes or citrus fruits, trigger heartburn. For others, wheat, onion, or dairy products such as milk or cheese cause problems.
Spicy food is a common cause of heartburn, stomach pain, or diarrhea, so you may want to stay away from anything that heats up your mouth.
Smoking can also upset your digestion. Add that to your list of reasons to quit. If you’ve tried to quit before, that’s OK! Keep trying and ask your doctor for help.
- Soothe Your Stress
Stress affects your whole body, including your digestive system. Ditch stress whenever you can. For those problems you can’t avoid, find ways to relax. It may also help to sign up for a few sessions with a counselor or to take a stress management class. For better digestion, do what you can to keep your stress under control.
- Get Expert Advice
Some medications or medical problems can interfere with smooth digestion. If you’ve ruled out other problems but still have symptoms, tell your doctor what’s been going on. Bring a list of any medicines you take. This might help spot the source of your problem.
(Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD)