Our bodies are complex organisms with intricate systems and functions. When we don’t treat them well or provide the nutrients or vitamins they need, our bodies begin to develop discomfort and possible issues that may eventually require medical intervention. Slow digestion is one of the main health problems many people struggle with daily. Diets packed with processed foods and sugar lead most people to experience sluggishness, bloating, or even nausea and constipation as a result.
It’s quite common as well, affecting an estimated 74% of Americans who live with digestive issues. Few talk to their doctor about their symptoms, and many go without treatment. Read on for 5 tips for improving slow digestion.
Symptoms of Slow Digestion
There are several signs that your digestion may be slow, and some may not be uncomfortable — or even noticeable — unless you’re paying attention.
- Stomach pain or discomfort. Bloating, gas, cramps, and constipation could be signs that your digestion is slow, and your gut health could be improved. Symptoms like these could indicate that your body may be having difficulty processing food and eliminating waste and toxins.
- Unintentional changes in weight. If you haven’t made changes to your diet or exercise routine, and yet you find yourself gaining or losing weight, you may have unhealthy digestion.
- Difficulty sleeping. Slow digestion and an unhealthy gut can cause insomnia or chronic fatigue — even after you’ve rested.
- Cravings for sugar. If you have sugar cravings, your digestion may not be at its peak. Consuming refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup may increase inflammation, leading to cravings, which may exacerbate the problem.
- Skin irritation. A damaged or unhealthy digestive system may affect the skin since it can force your body to release toxins in other ways. If you experience skin irritation or eczema, and your diet isn’t very balanced, you may have slow digestion.
- Intolerance to foods. Food intolerances, which differ from food allergies, could be the result of an imbalance of bacteria in your gut.
- Autoimmune conditions. Poor gut health can increase inflammation throughout the body impacting your immune system functions, which could lead to slow digestion.
What Causes Slow Digestion?
The most common causes of slow digestion are related to your diet. Specifically, if you consume higher daily amounts of salt, sugar, or high-fat foods, your digestive tract can become backed-up or sluggish. Alcohol is another factor in the body struggling with slow digestion as alcohol disrupts healthy gut flora and processes. Another dietary cause of slow metabolism may be consuming too many vegetables, dairy, legumes, cereals, grains, or fruits with naturally fermenting sugars. This advice may seem contradictory, but for some people, increased amounts of insoluble fibre can lead to disrupted or slow digestion.
Quick and Easy Ways to Help Speed Up Slow Digestion
You don’t have to completely change your lifestyle to speed up your digestion and improve your gut health. While the most straightforward changes you can make have to do primarily with the foods you eat (and don’t eat), exercise and hydration are also important.
- Eat plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre. Be sure to consume foods that are rich in soluble fibre. These include fruits such as oranges, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, apples, and mangoes, as well as dark and richly-coloured vegetables such as leafy greens and bell peppers. Legumes and beans are also rich in insoluble fibre, and multi-grain bread, quinoa, and nuts can also boost your diet with good fibre content. Watch how your body responds to these types of fibres and adjust intake as needed. The recommended fibre requirement for men is 30-38 grams per day and 21-25 grams for women.
- Add probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are essential for a healthy digestive system and to maintain balanced levels of good gut bacteria. Believe it or not, probiotics are in everyday foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and even pickles.
- Reduce your consumption of meat. Red meat can be taxing on the digestive system by slowing down the body’s ability to process other food. As an alternative, try balancing your diet with other sources of protein such as nuts, tofu, and peanuts, and when eating animal products, opt for leaner options such as fish and poultry.
- Drink plenty of water. The recommended daily amount of water you should drink is eight 8-ounce glasses, which is about two litres or half a gallon.
- Exercise daily. Since your food processes through muscular contractions in the digestive system, you can speed up your digestion by moving your body! Thirty minutes of exercise each day — mixing between aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate, and strength training to develop your muscles. — is the perfect way to ensure optimal digestive support.
How do you nurture your digestive health?
**This is a collaborative post.