by: Yuri Elkaim

How to Improve Your Digestion Power (8 Essential Steps)

Your gut is your body’s furnace, and the food you eat is the coal that keeps it burning. Unfortunately, our modern diet can dampen those flames, and make your gut and your body run at sub-optimal levels. For this reason, knowing how to improve digestion is crucial.

Most people don’t understand just how important this process is, and therefore improving digestion is not a priority for them.(1)

Your immune system is rooted in your gut, and without healthy digestion, you ultimately make yourself susceptible to all kinds of viruses and bad bacteria that can really wreck your health.

With this in mind, here’s how to improve digestion through eight simple, natural remedies.

How to Improve Digestion – Step by Step

1. Chew Liquids, Drink Solids

How to Improve Digestion - chew liquids, drink solids

This might throw you for a loop, but there’s strong logic behind this one.

You may think that digestion starts in your gut, but it actually begins the minute you put food or drink into your mouth. Once you do, enzymes in your saliva get to work, initiating the digestion process.

This is why it’s important to chew your liquids, as funny as this may sound.

Think about it: when you take a sip of a delicious smoothie or vegetable juice, chances are you swallow it quickly because it’s so good.

Here’s the thing: if you do that, you’re not giving that healthy tonic enough time to make contact with the digestive enzymes in your saliva. It means you’re not getting the full benefit of what you’re drinking.

Instead of gulping it down—no matter how much you’re tempted to—swish that healthy liquid around in your mouth for a bit, or even try “chewing” it. You’ll be surprised how far this simple step goes towards improving digestion.

Solids should be chewed as well, but you want to make sure you’re chewing them to the point that you’re practically drinking them down when you’re done!

This allows more of the food to make contact with those digestive enzymes, and breaks down the food into a more easily digestible form.

It’s surprising, but in figuring out how to improve digestion, please understand that simply being more mindful of how you’re eating and drinking can make a tremendous impact on improving digestion.

[Read: 5 Diet Rules to Live By]

2. Avoid Drinking Water with Your Meals

How to Improve Digestion - avoid drinking water with your meals

Water is an essential part of nutrition, as it’s a part of every metabolic activity in our body. Chances are you aren’t getting enough, so you should be drinking more.

Just make sure you’re not drinking it while you’re eating.

If you’re used to drinking water every time you eat and you’re looking to improve your digestion naturally, avoiding water with your meals could be a big step for you.

This is because water greatly dilutes the digestive secretions present in the stomach leading to partial and inadequate digestion.

What’s more, cold water is even worse as it ends up “shocking” your gastric secretions that help break down your meals.

By all means, drink water all day long, but please avoid it while you’re eating.

3. Practice Mindfulness While Eating

How to Improve Digestion - practice mindfulness while eating

I mentioned this before in this article, other articles and it’s also a big part of both of my books, The All-Day Energy Diet and the recently released The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet. I can’t say it enough: you should practice mindfulness when you sit down to eat.

I’m not talking any mumbo jumbo here; this is very practical advice.

This may be the last thing you think about as you ponder how to improve digestion, but consider this: as a mindful eater, you make it a point to be very aware of what exactly you’re eating, and how much of it you eat.

Essentially, by practicing mindfulness with each meal, you’re giving yourself an insurance policy against eating unhealthy foods, or eating too much of anything at all. Eating doesn’t become a background process; it receives your full attention.

Savoring your meals allows you to eat just enough and no more. This promotes fantastic digestive health.

4. Do Deep Breathing Exercises

How to Improve Digestion - Do deep breathing exercises

This is in line with mindfulness. Not only does it allow you to relax and enjoy your meal, it also readies your body for digestion.

A deep breath causes the diaphragm to descend further into the abdomen. Once it descends like this, its dome essentially massages the stomach, thereby coaxing it to secrete more digestive juices.

This is definitely one of the more obscure tips to improve digestion, but trust me, it’s very effective.(3)

5. Pay Attention to Food Combinations

How to Improve Digestion - Pay attention to food combinations

The medical community has scientifically looked at how to improve digestion in many different ways, and in this study of the human body, we have learned that different types of food take a different amount of time to be digested.(2)

As a result, the stomach pushes out easily digestible food faster as opposed to hardier foods that take more time to be properly digested.

With this in mind, food combining is something to be mindful of; you don’t want to mix together foods that drastically differ in digestion times, as this can “gum up” your system.

For example, fruits and raw items take much less time to be digested than proteins that require a much more elaborate digestive process for the nutrients they contain to be fully extracted, absorbed and adequately assimilated by the body.

[Read: 9 Common Nutrient Deficiencies (and How to Fix Them)]

Therefore, it’s wise to combine foods that will be digested well together, and avoid combinations—such as fruits and proteins—that may be problematic.

For example, vegetables and protein can be combined. Proteins may include vegetarian or non-vegetarian varieties.

Carbohydrates, which start their digestive process from the oral cavity, can be combined with vegetables.

Fiber can generally be eaten with anything, as it helps move the food through the gut and is also required to avoid constipation.

6. Work Out

How to Improve Digestion - work out

When you decided to figure out how to improve digestion naturally, there’s a good chance you were thinking it would only require changes to your diet.

Not so at all.

Technically, exercise doesn’t improve digestion directly. When you exercise, blood is shunted away from the digestive tract to the working muscles, effectively shutting down digestion. Exercise simply makes you hungrier.

However, aerobic exercise does release endorphins and encephalin into the blood stream. These chemicals help in bringing about a feeling of euphoria.

This helps in busting overall stress levels, which further enhances your digestive well-being.

[Read: 3 Ways Stress Causes Weight Gain]

Aerobic exercise is also known to spur on the peristaltic movements of the gut, thereby helping you move your bowels faster and easier. This is especially great for people suffering with constipation.

7. Take Probiotics

How to Improve Digestion - take probiotics

If the word bacteria makes you reach for your anti-bacterial lotion, consider this: your gut is filled with bacteria that helps break down the food you eat.

Well, let me clarify that—it relies on good bacteria.

There certainly is bad bacteria which can make you sick, especially if it proliferates in your gut, thus harming your digestion.

The way to combat this is to inoculate and repopulate your gut with good bacteria, and the easiest way to do this is by adding probiotic foods to your diet.

You can do this with supplements, or also through cultured foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kefir.

[Try: Healthy Gut Smoothie]

8. Use of Digestive Enzymes

How to Improve Digestion - Take Digestive Enzymes

If you’ve been struggling to figure out how to improve digestion for some time now, chances are your digestion is seriously compromised.

With that being the case, you could use a little help. In addition to following the preceding tips to improve digestion, you should also consume digestive enzymes to push the process along.

Available at any decent health food store, digestive enzymes are little pills that contain enzymes like proteases, lipases and amylases that help break down your food and make the digestive process run a lot smoother. Buy a bottle and try taking a few with each meal.

I hope this tips give you some solid insights on how to improve digestion. As you can see they’re all in keeping with the natural remedies I promote in all of my work.

In short, it’s not complicated at all. This is something you can take care of in your kitchen.

And you absolutely should. Improving digestion is such an important step towards boosting your health, so give these eight essential steps a try today!

How to Improve Digestion FAQ

What foods improve digestion?

It’s not so much the foods but the combination of them that affect your digestion.
For some, the idea of food combining can be helpful. This basically means that you want to avoid combining starchy carbs and dense proteins in the same meal because they require different pH levels to be properly digested. Combining them—think meat and potatoes—dilutes each food’s ideal pH digestive environment which can lead to digestive problems.
Apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice added to water before your meal can help digestion by increasing the release of hydrochloric acid in your stomach.

How long does it take to improve digestion?

There are too many factors to know this really, but the right protocol can generally start producing noticeable results within a few weeks.
For most people with digestive issues—usually stemming from an under active stomach, I recommend taking the HCl test.
This simple test can help you determine whether you have the appropriate level of hydrochloric acid in your stomach for optimal digestion. You should not complete this test, however, if you have ulcers or are currently taking antacid medications.
Start by taking one capsule of betaine hydrochloride (HCl) before your largest meal of the day. You should feel a burning or warming sensation in your stomach or upper abdomen. You may also feel slightly “acidic,” or as though you have indigestion.
Any reaction of this nature indicates you should stop taking the pills and that your stomach acid is sufficient.
The test would now be complete and you could repeat it yearly since stomach acid levels tend to decrease with age as well as stress.
In my experience, however, one pill is rarely sufficient for most people.
So, if no reaction is felt after taking the HCl pill, repeat the process the following day with two pills before your largest meal.
If you still do not feel anything, continue to increase by one pill per day until you feel any change in your digestive system or you reach the maximum of 14 pills.
You should feel something after one or two pills—this is normal. Taking more without feeling any response is a definite indication your stomach acid level is low.
Once you reach the point at which you feel the warming or burning sensation it’s important to not cease taking the HCl capsules. In fact, you have just uncovered your level of deficiency.
Simply take one less pill the next day and remain at this number of pills daily until the warming sensation returns. Continue to decrease in this manner by one pill each time you feel the warming sensation. This weaning down process helps to restore your stomach acid levels.

How to improve digestion of fats?

Follow the HCl steps above and you can also consider supplementing with lipase—the digestive enzyme that specifically digests fat.

How to improve digestion of carbs?

Follow the HCl steps above and you can also consider supplementing with amylase and maltase—the most common digestive enzymes responsible for digesting carbs.

How to improve digestion of proteins?

Follow the HCl steps above since most protein digestion occurs in the stomach—not in the small intestine. Additionally, you can also consider supplementing with proteases – the digestive enzymes that specifically digest protein.

What affects digestion time?

Many things affect digestion time, including stress, the quantity and combination of foods eaten, and the overall vitality of your digestive system (ie. the acidity in your stomach).

Why do digestion problems occur?

In any abusive relationship, the “abused” eventually shuts down. That also happens to your stomach too after years of digestive abuse. The biggest culprits to digestive problems are consuming caffeine, sugar, spicy foods, and other processed foods; eating in a rushed manner; eating under stress; and not chewing properly.

What yoga poses help with digestion?

None really. Yoga instructors claim that pulling your knee into your chest massages your digestive organs but that’s about all it does. However, yoga can help digestion by calming your body and reducing your stress.

What supplements can I take to improve digestion?

You can take HCl and digestive enzymes as described above.

How does fiber help digestion?

Fiber actually makes elimination (not digestion) a little easier by adding bulk to digestive foods and helping move them through the digestive tract.

What are symptoms of poor digestion?

If after eating a meal, you experience the following symptoms, you can be sure you have digestive problems:
  • bloating
  • gas
  • indigestion
  • belching
  • heart burn
  • fatigue (especially after eating meat)
  • abdominal discomfort

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Additional References:
1.    Hertzler, SR; Clancy, SM (May 2003). Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. J Am Diet Assoc. 103(5):582-7.
2.    Aglaée Jacob (February 2013). Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease — Research Suggests Digestive Abnormalities May Be the Underlying Cause. Today’s Dietitian. 15(2): 38
3.    Barry M Popkin; Kristen E; D’Anci; Irwin H. Rosenberg (August 2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutr Rev. 68(8): 439–458. PMID: PMC2908954
4.    Joanne Slavin (April 2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 5(4): 1417–1435. PMCID: PMC3705355