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Digestion of food is a basic function performed by the body at all times, more so, while one is awake than when sleeping. It begins the moment you chew food and terminates with the excretion of waste. But, this process is perpetual, with digestion going on at different paces at all times.

Digestion is responsible for providing the body with the energy derived from food, and it helps in providing nourishment to all the organs and tissues of the body. It also helps in avoiding deficiencies. Since digestion is such an important aspect of overall health, poor digestion certainly increases the risk of diseases, and it is essential that you take care of it.

This can be done by adding certain dietary components, like fibres, which improve digestion, and by efficiently timing the meals. The foods that improve digestion has been discussed in this article along with the foods to avoid for a better digestion and other tips.

  1. Exercise and yoga for better digestion
  2. What is digestion
  3. How to improve digestion
  4. Other tips for better digestion

A healthier lifestyle is inevitable without including a form of workout in your daily lifestyle. Following practices are helpful in improving the digestion:

  1. Exercise for better digestion
  2. Yoga for better digestion
  3. Meditation and breathing exercises for digestion

Exercise for better digestion

It has been recognised that physical activities and exercise facilitate bowel movement improving the process of digestion of food. So, it is recommended to indulge in brisk walking or any other form of exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Jogging, biking, trekking, cycling and dancing are other exercises that are good for gut health.

However, you may note that mild to moderate exercises are more effective for your gut health than intense workouts. Whatever light form of exercise you opt for, it is better to get moving for your food to be digested in the body. Following meals, you can opt for a light stroll to boost your digestive system.

Yoga for better digestion

Certain yoga poses, particularly those which require forward bending aid in the better digestion of food in your body. Poses like pada-hastasana (touching the feet with the help of hands by bending forward), vajrasana (sitting erect with legs folded underneath), sasakasana (forward bending with knees apart) and a few of the supine positions have been recognised to improve bowel movements, favoring better digestion. You can perform any of these techniques under the guidance of a trained expert.

Meditation and breathing exercises for digestion

Stress has been found to be a causative factor of constipation as per recent research. Meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques like anulom vilom, which are known for their anti-stress actions may aid in the better digestion of foods by your body.

The role of pranayama has also been recognised in the process of digestion. Techniques such as kapalbhati, which involve forceful exhalation of air from both the nostrils while sitting in a meditative position, are known to release toxins and other waste products of the body through the breath. The forceful breath and cleansing action of this technique may aid in better digestion.

Digestion refers to the process of breakdown of large insoluble food particles into smaller more soluble products, which can then be absorbed and utilised by the body. This breakdown begins in the mouth and continues in the small and large intestines, with the help of enzymes.

Different enzymes are responsible for the digestion of food in different areas. While simple breakdown occurs in the mouth, complex digestion, absorption and assimilation occurs with the help of duodenum (beginning part of the stomach), stomach, and the intestines. Following the digestion of food and absorption of the required nutrients, waste is excreted out of the body as faeces.

But digestion does not always work the same, certain foods may amplify the process of digestion, while others may slow it down. These foods have been discussed ahead.

The basic way of improving digestion to meet the nutritional requirements of your body is by eating the foods, which enhance the process of digestion. Some of these foods are:

  1. Fibers for fast digestion
  2. Fruits good for digestion
  3. Best foods for digestion: probiotics
  4. Water improves digestion
  5. Foods to avoid for a better digestion

Fibers for fast digestion

Dietary fibres are one of the main nutrients required by the body for a healthy digestive system. They are of two types, namely soluble and insoluble and are present in a variety of food products like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables with skin, and cereals.

Incorporating these foods into your diet will ensure better digestion of food by enhancing your bowel health. They also help in providing a bulk to the faeces and speed up the process of digestion. So, fibres may be of particular interest if you commonly suffer from constipation or have a trouble defecating. It is important to include both the types of fibres.

Since fibres are bulky and filling, they also offer better satiety than other dietary components and thus may aid in weight loss by reducing frequent cravings. A daily dosage of 25 to 30 grams of fibres is recommended to aid in digestion. This can be achieved by the inclusion of healthy sources of fibres like breakfast cereals, oatmeals, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and some nuts like almonds.

It is a good idea to include these natural sources in your daily diet for better digestive health since supplements may have side effects like are not found to be equally beneficial.

Fruits good for digestion

Fibre is present in most fruits making them good for digestion. Apples, figs, bananas, berries and oranges are rich sources of fiber and are good to be included in your diet. But, there are some fruits, which have a very special role in this process. These are explained below.

Green kiwi

Green kiwi or kiwi fruit is commonly available in India these days and is eaten after removing the peel. Eating this fruit increases the frequency and volume of stools, which implies that it allows you to defecate more quantity of stools at frequent intervals.

It also enhances the softness of stools and eases their motion. These properties make it an ideal food for those suffering from digestive problems like constipation. These benefits are mainly experienced due to a rich fibre content of kiwi and the presence of actinidine, which has a role in stimulating the motility of the gastrointestinal tract.

Prune (dried plum)

Prune is another fruit, rather a dry fruit, which helps in the process of digestion and is beneficial for those suffering from constipation. It has a very high fibre content, which is the reason for these benefits. Prune also contains certain enzymes, which may be responsible for its laxative actions (enhances bowel movements). To get relief from constipation, you can eat a handful of prunes, which is likely to help.

Best foods for digestion: probiotics

Probiotics are foods containing live organisms, which are likely to confer health benefits when eaten in sufficient amounts. They contain one to several microorganisms, which have been demonstrated to be conducive to your gut health.

Different microbial species have different effects and confer different health benefits to your body. Probiotics are known to alter microbial flora and are helpful in the treatment of several gastrointestinal disorders by functioning across different mechanisms.

Most of the probiotics are derived from fermented milk and milk products, but vegan options containing soy milk are also available. For the best results, it is recommended to use a combination of probiotic products instead of using one single type.

Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are regarded as safe and are the most commonly used probiotics. Since Lactobacillus is naturally present in yoghurt, you can opt for consuming it instead of a probiotic supplement. Yoghurts with pre-added probiotics are also commonly available and can be consumed for dietary benefits.

Water improves digestion

Water aids the process of digestion. It is recommended to have 2.5 to 3.7 litres of water each day depending on your age, gender and levels of physical activity.

Water facilitates healthy bowel movements, which allow easy excretion of waste products from your body, avoiding constipation. Consuming water is particularly more essential during an increased intake of dietary fibres since it helps in their digestion.

You can increase your daily water intake by taking water before meals and opting for a glass of water on an empty stomach in the morning, which will have added benefits for digestion. You can also add a lime, which will further aid this process while also offering a better taste.

Drinking water instead of soda, fizz or juices with every meal or snack is also a way of incorporating more water and avoids the side-effects from these drinks. However, it must be ensured that water is taken before a meal and not after to achieve best digestive benefits.

Foods to avoid for a better digestion

We have already discussed what to eat for a better digestion, but do you know about foods that harm your digestive health and must not be consumed. Supplementing the right foods will serve no purpose if you continue eating unhealthy otherwise. So, here is a list of foods to avoid, for a better digestion:

  • High sodium diet- A diet high in sodium is considered to be deleterious for your digestive health. Sodium is present in salt but can be acquired in higher amounts in our diet from the consumption of packaged foods and fast foods. High-sodium diet alters the natural microflora of the stomach, which is responsible for digestion. It is the best to refrain from these foods to improve your digestive mechanism.
     
  • High sugar diet- Like a high salt diet, a high sugar diet is also unfavourable for your gut health. Excessive consumption of sugary products like candies, sweets, etc has been more commonly associated with an increase in flatus (excessive gas in the stomach), which causes symptoms like bloating, burping or farting. These foods alter or increase the microflora of the intestines, which releases these gases.
     
  • Vegetables like beans, asparagus, broccoli, kidney beans, cauliflowers, mushrooms and onions are associated with an increased risk of flatulence (gas). 
     
  • Consumption of milk and dairy products also has this risk and their excessive consumption must be avoided.
     
  • Carbonated and fizzy drinks must be avoided to reduce flatulence and aid in better digestion.
     
  • High-fat foods like butter, ghee, cream, etc must be avoided since they are harder to digest.
     
  • While opting for proteins, it is recommended to opt for lean sources like lean chicken, pulses and lean pork, since proteins are also harder to digest by the body.
     
  • Bananas must not be consumed in excessive amounts since they increase the risk of constipation.

Now that you know about the foods that you should eat and avoid for a better digestion, it is essential that you understand when to eat these foods for the best results. This section will answer this query and will also discuss other tips and remedies for better digestive health.

  • For better digestion, it is recommended to have a healthy breakfast, which will help to kickstart your metabolism. Breakfast will help you feel full during the day reducing your cravings for high-fat foods. For better satiety, you can include healthy fibre sources like oatmeals or whole grain bread in your breakfast.
     
  • Dinner must not be taken very late since the digestive system slows down during the night, causing a sense of bloating the day after.
     
  • Chew your food enough before swallowing since the process of digestion begins in the mouth itself.
     
  • Have water before meals, the benefits of which have already been discussed.
     
  • Opt for natural foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of packaged or fast food.
     
  • Switch to low-fat dairy products.
     
  • Eat more homemade food since it is more likely to be natural and healthy. You can pack your lunch while going to work, school, etc.
     
  • While shopping for groceries, it is recommended to buy more natural products. In case you are opting for packaged food, it is recommended to check the label for sodium content.
     
  • Avoid smoking and chewing gums- these have been linked to an increased risk of flatulence.
     
  • Adequate rest and sleep are also essential for your digestive health.
  • Visit your dentist- to get your teeth and dentures fixed so you can eat solid fibre-rich foods. Also, loose dentures may be a source of extra air in your gut, which is responsible for gas.
     
  • Use detox drinks like warm lemon water or diluted apple cider vinegar for better digestion.

You are advised to visit your doctor if you face any digestive issues like constipation, diarrhoea, flatus or irritable bowel syndrome before making any changes in your diet and lifestyle.

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References

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