How to Improve Digestion

Three Methods:Eating a Digestion-Friendly DietImproving Digestion With MedicationsImproving Digestion With Lifestyle Changes

Digestive issues can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. Improving your digestion will help you feel much better and will help you improve your overall health as well. A big part of improving digestion involves changing your diet and discovering which foods trigger digestive issues for you. There are also a variety of simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to help improve your digestion.

Method 1
Eating a Digestion-Friendly Diet

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    Drink plenty of water. Hydration is essential for healthy digestion, so be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day.[1]
    • Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine can actually cause dehydration, so drink them in moderation.
    • You should drink water all day, but drinking during and right after you eat is especially helpful for digestion.[2]
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    Increase your fiber intake. Fiber helps regulate your digestion, so it’s important to eat foods that are naturally fiber-rich, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.[3] There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and they play very different roles in digestion.
    • Soluble fiber (found in oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples) absorbs water, while insoluble fiber (found in celery, whole wheat, the skins of fruit) does not. Increasing your soluble fiber intake can help with issues like diarrhea and can bulk up your stool; increasing your insoluble fiber can help with issues like constipation and hemorrhoids.[4]
    • If you plan on adding more fiber into your diet, do so slowly. Adding a lot of fiber all at once can cause digestive issues like bloating and gas.
    • While most whole grains are good for you, you should stay away from wheat products if you are gluten intolerant.[5]
    • Cabbage is a fiber-rich food that is especially beneficial for digestion.[6]
    • Our bodies can’t process all types of fiber easily. For example, corn contains cellulose, which is a type of fiber that is very difficult for the human body to process. If you eat corn, make sure to chew it thoroughly to help your body break it down better.[7]
    • If you suffer from gas, you may actually want to consider temporarily reducing the amount of fiber in your diet. Do so slowly and pay attention to whether or not the change in diet has any effect on your digestive issues. You should then begin reintroducing fiber little by little.[8]
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    Eat lean meats. Leaner proteins, like chicken and fish, are much easier for your body to digest than fatty proteins, like beef.[9]
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    Avoid foods that are hard to digest. Some foods are just more difficult for your body to process, so it’s best to stay away from them as much as possible, especially if you have digestive issues. Avoid fried foods, foods that are high in fat, and spicy foods.[10]
    • It’s also very important to stay away from dairy products if you’re lactose intolerant.
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    Eat smaller meals. Large meals may overwhelm your digestive system, so try eating several smaller meals throughout the day — five or six small meals instead of three large ones.[11]
    • Eating more slowly may also help improve your digestion because it will prevent you from overeating and encourage you to chew your food more thoroughly.[12]
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    Add natural herbs to your diet. Small amounts of ginger are thought to be very good for promoting digestive health.[13] Bitter herbs like beet leaf, dandelion, milk thistle, and artichoke are also beneficial for digestion, and can be consumed in a salad or in an herbal tea.[14]
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    Replenish your gut with good bacteria. Certain kinds of bacteria are beneficial to your digestive system. One of the easiest ways you can increase the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut is to eat foods like yogurt or kefir that contain live cultures.[15]

Method 2
Improving Digestion With Medications

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    Talk to your doctor about all medications. There are a wide variety of medications out there, both prescription and over-the-counter, that may be able to help you improve your digestion. It's important to remember, however, that medications, even herbal supplements, can interact with one another. Be sure to talk to you doctor about all of the medications you take.[16]
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    Consider probiotics. If eating foods that are rich in probiotics is not improving your digestion, consider taking an over-the-counter probiotic. These formulas help increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your digestive system.[17]
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    Try supplements. Popular over-the-counter supplements that may help improve your digestion include probiotics, licorice, peppermint oil, chamomile, ginger, L-Glutamine, psyllium, and artichoke.[18]
    • Enzyme supplements are also available over-the-counter. These may help with minor digestive issues, but they have not been tested the way prescription medications have. There is also a small risk for side effects related to these medications, although the side effects are typically minor.[19] Again, you'll want to speak with your doctor before trying these supplements.
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    Take over-the-counter remedies. There are many over-the-counter medications available for the relief of occasional digestive issues like heartburn or diarrhea.[20]
    • If you tend to have gas when you eat foods that are high in fiber, try taking a medication like Beano when you eat these foods.[21]
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    Get a prescription. If one of the organs that makes up your digestive system is not functioning correctly, you will likely be prescribed medication by your doctor. For example, a patient whose pancreas does not produce the proper enzymes may be prescribed an enzyme supplement.[22]

Method 3
Improving Digestion With Lifestyle Changes

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    Keep a journal. In order to help you keep track of the triggers that cause your digestive problems, keep a detailed diary that includes what you ate each day, what medications you took, what activities you participated in, and what significant events occurred. Keep track of any digestive issues you experience each day as well. Once you do this for a while, you may start to notice patterns.[23]
    • Common foods that trigger digestive problems include dairy, coffee, and carbonated beverages.
    • Fruit juices can be a common trigger as well. Foods with high amounts of simple sugars are osmotically active and pull water into the bowel, causing diarrhea. This is especially seen in children.
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    Wash your hands. In order to avoid introducing unhealthy bacteria into your digestive system, make sure to always thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap after you use the bathroom and before you eat.[24]
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    Avoid contaminated food. You can prevent food poisoning by thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, washing produce, storing all foods at the proper temperature, checking expiration dates, and avoiding unpasteurized dairy products and cider.[25]
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    Reduce stress. Stress can trigger digestive issues for many people, so try to combat it by pursuing relaxing hobbies.[26]
    • Yoga and meditation are relaxing for many people, but if these don’t appeal to you, you can choose any hobby that helps you feel relaxed.
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    Exercise. Getting your body moving can help stimulate digestion. Try taking a short walk after you eat.[27]
    • Exercise is also important to help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for optimal digestive health.[28]
    • Aerobic exercises like running and dancing are great for relieving constipation.[29]
    • Certain yoga poses, especially twists and forward bends, which massage the digestive organs, can help improve digestion.[30]
    • Give yourself some time to digest before engaging in any strenuous exercises, or you might experience symptoms like bloating and cramping.[31]
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    Quit smoking. In addition to the many other known health risks, smoking can cause or aggravate a variety of digestive issues, including heartburn, GERD, Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, gallstones, colon polyps, and peptic ulcers. Smoking also increases the risk of many different cancers of the digestive system, like colon and liver cancers.[32]
    • You may experience immediate relief from some of your digestive ailments when you quit smoking. Your risk of developing chronic digestive conditions will also decrease over time after you quit.
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    Seek medical help for persistent problems. If your digestive problems are severe or if they don’t improve at all with diet and lifestyle changes, you may have a medical condition that requires treatment, so see your doctor. You should make an appointment right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
    • Persistent diarrhea
    • Persistent or severe abdominal pain
    • Bloody stools
    • Changes in the color or frequency of stools
    • Unintended weight loss
    • Chest pain


  • Pay careful attention to foods and activities that trigger digestive issues for you. Everyone has unique triggers.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your digestive issues with your doctors! They are there to help you, and they can’t do that if you don’t let them know what’s going on.


  • Always talk to your doctor before you begin taking a new medication or supplement, or before you begin and natural remedy for digestive problems, such as fasting or colon cleansing. Some of these methods may not be safe.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Intestinal and Digestive Health