Improve Your Digestion Naturally (and Start Today!)
Digestion work is one of the three core functions of my private practice, Nourishing Minds Nutrition (in addition to intuitive eating and hormonal imbalances). Improving your digestion naturally is such an empowering way to partner with yourself and your body and learn to tune in to the body’s needs. While there can be a ton of complexity to healing digestion issues, even naturally, I wanted to give you some basic strategies to get started today.
It is important to remember that what I am going to discuss won’t replace the need for antibiotics if you have SIBO, or targeted supplementation or probiotic use for IBS, or working with a health care provider that can properly guide you to determine the root cause of your digestive issues. But no matter the circumstance, I still highly encourage each of these steps below to help improve your digestion naturally.
Eat a varied, diverse diet.
One of the absolute best things you can do to support your digestion is to eat enough, eat consistently and eat a varied, diverse diet.
Contrary to what often seems to be promoted in the health and wellness world, research shows that our microbiome grow, flourish and THRIVE the more types of food we eat (not limiting the diet and taking out all foods). Its a primary reason I am such a believer in intuitive eating to improve your digestion naturally (the secondary reason will be discussed below!), because it supports your microbiome so much.
While there are times where a restrictive diet is medically necessary, such as gluten free for Celiac disease and cases of true non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, there are many more times where I see a client who is limiting their diet unnecessarily. I totally get it, when I experienced digestive issues I was desperate enough to try every diet out there, too. But what I saw in my own story and with every client I’ve worked with, is that as the diet becomes more liberalized the easier it becomes to eat all foods again and without digestive distress.
If you are working to include foods back in your diet, you can make new foods easier to digest by considering helpful techniques such as eating warm, cooked foods, eating meat with the fat included and full fat dairy, soaking and sprouting nuts, grains and legumes and most importantly- finding delicious, satisfying and fun ways to eat these foods. Working with a registered dietitian to add back in foods with professional guidance may also be extremely supportive.
Encourage your “rest and digest” mode.
We live in such a fast-paced environment, I find so many of us have truly forgotten what its like to eat in a relaxed, calm way. It is a vital part of the digestion process though, because your body cannot send digestive mechanisms to digest what you are eating unless its in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as your “rest and digest” mode.
Think about it: Do you possibly eat while working? Eat full meals in less than fifteen minutes? Eat rushed and on the go? This is a great place to begin with improving your digestion: finding ways to support your digestion through slowing down, taking around twenty minutes to eat a meal, and remove any distractions (oh hey, phones) while eating. Another favorite tip of mine is to take three, long, deep belly breaths before a meal and during a meal to immediately activate your PNS.
Another reason why I love intuitive eating is because of the way it supports your digestion through encouraging our PNS. When we are having nervous, anxious thoughts about what we are eating, regardless of if it is because you are nervous about having digestive issues (been there before), or because you are nervous about what you are eating because of disordered thoughts (been there before too), its going to impact the way you are digesting the food you are consuming. There is such validity to bacterial imbalances causing IBS and SIBO, but I do truly believe you can be perpetuating and exacerbating digestive issues simply with your thoughts.
My recommendation? Utilize affirmations (positive thoughts) to support your digestion while eating. I want you to think to yourself: I got this! I can digest this food/snack/meal. I also encourage focusing your mind on the pleasure and experience of eating to support your PNS. What are the flavors you are eating? Textures? Sensations and smells? This can be a small, yet powerful change in supporting your digestion naturally.
Get into a Routine.
As in a morning routine. You know I’m a huge fan of morning routines (I’ve written about my routines here and here AND did a podcast episode here), mainly because I love starting the day off calm and relaxed and with a clear, intentional mindset for the day. But I also love morning routines as I find it is incredibly beneficial to improve your digestion naturally.
Your body LOVES routine, and when it comes to going to the bathroom this couldn’t be more true. The mass motor movements in your large intestines are quite peculiar, and are very affected by what’s going on in our lives and our gut-brain axis, too. Think about it: how often do you struggle going to the bathroom when you are traveling or not staying in your own home? How often do you find your body “waits” to go to the bathroom until you are back home in a safe environment?
Especially for those with constipation, forming a consistent morning routine is a must. And when its not possible, because life happens, you know not to freak out internally- your body is just a little thrown off and you know why! And for those with diarrhea, I find a morning routine is also helpful to encourage feeling calm and relaxed and hopefully form a better bowel movement.
Want to learn more about digestion? We have covered the topic extensively on the Nourishing Women Podcast! Some of my favorite episodes are:
And some of my favorite blog posts on the topic are:
I hope that helps if you are working to improve your digestion naturally!
Tell me: What are your biggest struggles when it comes to digestion?