Do you struggle with digestive issues? Statistically, many of us do, and there seems to be an ever-growing array of over-the-counter help to improve digestion.
Many people just assume that poor digestion is normal… but is it?
How to Improve Digestion
Personally, I’ve noticed a big change in my own digestion since transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, and the change has been most profound for our son who struggled with allergies (and who had a complete turnaround thanks to the GAPS diet).
The 7 things that I’ve found most helpful for helping avoid digestive issues like bloating, heartburn, indigestion, flatulence and more are:
1. Start Consuming Bone Broth
Bone broth is an incredibly nutrient dense food and it is also very inexpensive to make. Broth is packed with minerals, gut-soothing gelatin and amino acids proline and glycine. Broth’s natural gelatin content helps sooth the digestive track and improve nutrient absorption. Our children get bone broth from a very early age, as it is also a great natural source of minerals.
If you aren’t able to make broth, another option (though not quite as good) is to supplement with natural gelatin powder which will confer some of the same benefits.
2. Improve Bathroom Posture
Turns out our bathroom posture may be causing more problems that we realize. There is increasing research (and age old evidence) that squatting to use the bathroom is not only more efficient and more natural, but also helps avoid common digestive disturbances (and even bigger problems like hemorrhoids.
To fix this problem, it seems we simply need to adopt a more natural squatting position instead of the sitting position many of us use today. While squatting on the actual toilet seat is one solution, I personally don’t recommend it if you are pregnant, have balance issues, or simply aren’t already a very strong squatter.
At our house, we have a Squatty Potty in each bathroom as a simple way to improve bathroom posture (and a great random conversation starter with visitors!). If adding a piece of bathroom furniture isn’t your thing, a couple of small upside-down buckets or a regular stool will work almost as well.
3. Optimize Magnesium
Ever since it helped me avoid morning sickness while pregnant, I’ve been a magnesium evangelist, but it is also helpful in digestive health! I’ve gotten many emails from readers who were low on magnesium and who noticed digestive benefits when they started consuming enough magnesium.
From a previous article: “Magnesium is the eighth most abundant mineral on earth, and the third most abundant in sea water. More importantly, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and it is necessary in over 300 reactions within the body.
Magnesium isn’t just abundant in the body, but vitally important too. As this article explains:
Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency”.
Easy fix: start consuming magnesium or using a magnesium skin oil to boost your levels. Many people notice an immediate digestive difference (though if really loose stools occur, reduce the dose and work up slowly). Taking magnesium and salt baths is another great (and relaxing) way to up magnesium levels.
4. Up the Probiotics
The human gut is teeming with bacteria, and this is vitally essential. Unfortunately, if the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut gets tipped in the wrong direction, a lot of digestive disturbances can follow.
We don’t take many supplements regularly but a high quality probiotic is one supplement that everyone in our family takes daily. We also consume fermented foods (see below) but adding in a high quality probiotic has made a big difference in digestive health for us.
Another great way to boost beneficial gut bacteria and improve digestive health is to consume fermented foods or drinks regularly. These are an excellent source of probiotics and enzymes and can help nutrient absorption. In combination with a good probiotic (see above) fermented foods and drinks can make a big difference in ease of digestion and avoiding bloating.
5. Move More
Exercise is important on many levels, and it certainly aids proper digestion as well. The mixture of movement and gravity helps food travel through the digestive system and frequent low-level activity like walking is an excellent aid to digestion (and much more!).
The sedentary modern lifestyle of sitting all day puts a kink in the digestive process and makes normal digestion more difficult. Easy fix? Walk a few miles at a comfortable pace each day! Bonus points if you do it as a family or with your significant other and get some quality time too!
6. Eat More Fat!
Advice is often given to avoid fat and protein when constipated and up the fiber (the FIBER!!!). Turns out, fiber can be very hard to digest for some people, and that it can contribute to additional gut problems. Guess what is slippery and does help things glide right along? Yep… FAT!
Especially those who struggle with constipation can benefit from adding a lot more fat (from good sources) to the diet. Fats we consume regularly are coconut oil, grass fed butter, animal fats from healthy sources (including lard and tallow), fermented cod liver oil (excellent source of fat soluble vitamins and Omega-3s) and olive oil (never heated). The fats we don’t consume ever? Vegetable oils and margarine (here’s why).
7. Improve Your Posture
Just as bathroom posture affects digestive health, so does posture when sitting or standing. Optimally, we’d all be walking/moving more and sitting less, but since that isn’t always possible, it is important to have good posture so digestive organs can work optimally.
If you haven’t focused on your posture much, this is a great article about the basics of proper squatting (see #2 again too!) and using these same methods, a person can sit and stand in a way that is more beneficial for digestion.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever had digestive troubles? What helped you? Share below!