Home Digestive Health 7 Ways To Speed Up Digestion Naturally

7 Ways To Speed Up Digestion Naturally

Written by Decyry Jhoy Serrano, RPh

Digestive symptoms occur a lot of times especially for people with food sensitivities.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, in 2013, around 37.2 million people in the United States reported digestive system problems like indigestion or slow digestion.

Usually, the common symptoms of slow digestion include upper abdomen discomfort, bloating, and burping.

Fortunately, there are ways to speed up digestion, and in this article, you will learn the digestive process, digestion time, and the best effective ways to improve your food absorption and protect your digestive system.

The Digestive System Digestion Process

For you to be able to know how to improve your digestion and alleviate your digestive issues, you must understand the digestive process.

When you consume foods, your digestive system will break down these foods into nutrients.

These, along with other essential nutrients, will then be absorbed in your body to improve your muscles, bones, joints, organs, blood vessels, and brain health.

Health professionals from Italy report that these nutrients are critical in helping your body function properly as these nutrients work on balancing your metabolism and energy.

Based on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, take a look at how your digestive system works:

1) Chewing of food

Everything will start in your mouth. Of course, you will chew your favorite snack (for example, a slice of pizza), breaking it down into smaller pieces through the help of your saliva so that you can easily swallow it, and so that your stomach will not have a hard time digesting it.

2) Food breakdown

In the stomach, there are digestive enzymes like amylase and digestive juices or acids.

So, when the pizza reaches your stomach, the digestive enzymes and acids you have in there will break down the food into much smaller pieces, producing some essential amino acids.

3) Small intestine and nutrient absorption

Since the pizza you just ate no longer looks like a pizza after staying in your stomach, these small pieces will enter your small intestine.

Eventually, in your small intestine, the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the pizza contains will be absorbed by your body.

4) Waste processing

Of course, there will be food wastes from the pizza you snacked on. These wastes then will go to your large intestine or colon.

Moreover, these will be processed by your gut bacteria, wherein they will turn the waste into usable vitamin B12 and vitamin K.

Lastly, the unusable waste will be formed as your stool that will be expelled through your anus.

The Normal Digestion Time in the Digestive Tract

So, how long would it usually take for you to digest food?

According to medical doctors from Georgia, it will take around 10-73 hours to completely digest food.

This means it will take 6-8 hours for the food to pass through your small intestine and stomach, and it will take 36-54 hours for the food to be processed in your colon.

Factors Causing Slow Digestion

Although it was stated that there is a specific period to completely digest food, this can be altered by many factors such as the following:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Food allergies
  • Gut health 
  • Gut metabolism
  • Pre-existing digestive disorders
  • Emotional health
  • Physical activity level
  • The kind and food taken
  • How much food was consumed
  • Hydration level
  • Quality of sleep

Generally, if you have good health and you do not have any other health problems, indigestion will not be an issue for you.

However, if you have any issues with the factors stated above, you are most likely to have indigestion problems.

7 Ways to Increase Digestion and Improve Digestive Health

digestive health

If you feel that there is something wrong with your digestion (like if you are experiencing frequent stomach discomfort after eating), it is about time for you to look for effective ways to speed up digestion naturally.

1) Exercise Regularly

In the factors affecting digestion listed above, it was stated that physical activity level can inhibit you from getting healthy digestion.

Physical inactivity can lead to reduced gastrointestinal motility and reduced transit time.

Thus, increasing your physical activity level through regular exercise must be done.

It is known that exercising can help you prevent certain health conditions, especially psychological stress and heart disease.

But, did you know that exercising also helps you to improve your food absorption?

According to a study from Africa, regular exercises such as jogging and cycling can reduce the digestion time or gut transit time by 14.6 hours and 17.2 hours, respectively. 

In another study from the Netherlands, it was reported that walking or at-home exercises can help patients improve their symptoms, especially those with constipation.

Additionally, keep in mind that when you have some digestive issues including slow digestion, you are prone to gut inflammation.

Because of this, healthcare professionals from Poland recommend that people should exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to reduce the inflammation in the gut.

So, starting today, stop making yourself a couch potato and spend some minutes exercising to improve your general health.

2) Eat More Fiber

Dietary fibers from fiber-rich foods allow you to have a better diet quality. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetes, eating soluble fiber and insoluble fiber can help you improve your digestive health in two ways: 

  • Soluble fiber absorbs water so that it will be easier for your stool to pass.
  • Insoluble fibers regulate the movement of material and push food through your digestive system and the bulk of your stool will increase.

Based on a study from Virginia, a high-fiber diet can improve digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, and can prevent digestive system disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.

Some of the soluble fiber-rich foods include oat grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, while some of the insoluble fiber-rich foods include whole grains, leafy vegetables, and fresh fruits.

3) Consume Some Yogurt

Probiotics occur naturally in the gut and these probiotics can promote healthy digestion by balancing your healthy and bad live bacteria cultures.

However, there are times when the healthy bacteria and bad bacteria become unbalanced.

Thus, boosting your probiotic levels would be needed for you to experience improved digestion, and one way to boost these levels is by consuming yogurt.

According to a study in Malaysia, probiotic supplements have lots of health benefits such as they can prevent gut disorders and can strengthen the gut immune system.

Eventually, when the gut immune system is increased, digestive tract disorders like leaky gut will be prevented.

Aside from yogurt, you can also try foods rich in probiotics such as sauerkraut, miso, and soft cheeses. Kimchi, a Korean spicy food, would also work.

As cited in the study in Canada, mixing yogurt with fruits like bananas, nectarines, and raspberries is better than yogurt alone because combining these two also boosts prebiotic levels.

If you like to take some probiotic supplements, the product 1MD Complete Probiotics is highly recommended. 

4) Stay hydrated

Drinking 8 glasses of water per day can truly give you many health benefits.

Hydration supports your immune system and one great thing about staying hydrated is that it keeps your feces moist.

Eventually, when your feces are moist, the gut transit time can be reduced.

In a clinical report from Spain, it was stated that constipation and slow digestion are associated with low fluid intake. Thus, drinking more water is recommended for both children and adults.

Also, keep in mind that aside from water, non-water beverages can also be consumed. Some of these include:

  • Fruits like strawberries, melons, grapefruits, and peaches
  • Vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, and celery
  • Herbal teas
  • Non-caffeinated sugary drinks

If you want to take rehydration liquids, you might want to consider Liquid IV products.

These are non-caffeinated and convenient electrolyte drinks that can improve both your overall gut health and energy levels.

For the association of hydration and intestinal permeability, according to a study in the United States, it was reported that dehydration does not affect gut permeability.

Dehydration only slows down gastric emptying.

 5) Choose the Healthy Fats

Choosing healthy fats means going for a healthy diet – minimizing your fast-food diet and avoiding fatty foods. Your favorite pizza we talked about above? Let it go! 

According to a study from Greece, unhealthy fats from a fast-food diet and fried foods cause gut inflammation and constipation.

Aside from containing unhealthy fatty acids and fewer fibers, they slow down your digestion.

Thus, it will take more hours and days than usual for you to completely digest these unhealthy fats. Also, these unhealthy fats have high-salt content that can reduce the water content of your stool.

So, what are these healthy fats? Healthy fats provide good health to your body and these include the following:

  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Fish oil
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines

Gastroenterologists from Boston report that healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids can reduce not just your digestive symptoms but also prevent inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

Again, for those who want to consider taking some supplements, the product OmegaXL can be considered.

This supplement is rich in omega-3 as its ingredients are sourced from krill fish.

Furthermore, choosing healthy fats also means avoiding trans fats – fats found in many processed foods like canned goods, hotdogs, chocolates, and sausages. 

If you are having poor digestion and you want to speed up digestion, say farewell to these processed foods for a while.

6) Less stress

Who wouldn’t want to live a stress-free life? No one! 

Stress has been associated with lots of mental and physical health issues.

According to a study from Kentucky, it weakens the immune system and affects gut health by making it more vulnerable to digestive system disorders like leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome.

Personally speaking, stress causes some grumbling stomach, upset stomach, and appetite loss. It slows down stomach functioning, thereby increasing the activity in the large intestine.

This means that frequent bowel movements can be experienced and not the love butterflies you get from your crush!

Furthermore, stress, gut, and brain are all associated.

According to the American Psychological Association, stress, either acute or chronic, affects your gastrointestinal health, specifically, the brain-gut communication, making it easier for you to feel digestive discomfort easily.

Additionally, when you are stressed, the gut microbiota balance in your digestive tract is altered. Other changes that occur caused by the brain-gut miscommunication mainly from stress include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Cortisol levels increase
  • Muscle contractions
  • Faster heartbeat

Researchers from Belgium report that anxious patients are more vulnerable to experience increased digestive tract symptoms like bloating and fullness compared to calm ones.

Moreover, in the same study, if patients with pre-existing digestive tract disorders like acid reflux and inflammatory bowel disease are stressed, their conditions may exacerbate.

Stress Management

So, if you are stressed and you are feeling all of these gut discomforts, the best thing you can do is do some stress management.

There are many techniques to reduce your stress, including:

  • Meditation or yoga
  • Belly breathing or deep breathing
  • Stretching

According to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, women are most at risk of general discomfort due to stress. Fortunately, stress management can help them reduce their irritable digestive symptoms and achieve a healthy digestive system. 

Moreover, patients with these symptoms may consider reaching out to a body-mind therapist for optimal stress therapy. If possible, patients can also try acupuncture therapy.

7) Increase Sleep Quality

Sleep indeed affects your brain health and energy. But, did you know that it can also cause a slow digestive system?

In a comparative study from Arkansas, it was reported that if you have poor sleep habits, you are putting your digestion and bowel movements at risk.

Sleep deprivation makes you delay your digestion, increase your abdominal pain, and give you frequent distension.

In another study from Washington, aside from causing a slow digestive system, it was found that disturbed sleep is associated with the following digestive disorders:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Peptic ulcer disease (PUD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Having all of this scientific evidence, it is enough to say that sleep can be associated with poor digestion and several digestive disorders.

How to Increase Quality Sleep

Keep in mind that even if you sleep 8 hours a day, as long as the sleep is not of great quality, you are still considered sleep-deprived.

So, what are the ways to improve your quality of sleep?

1) Pay attention to what you drink

Have you heard of the quote “what you drink is what you get”? If you want to enhance your quality of sleep, you have to avoid some beverages that can stimulate you.

The most common one is coffee. In a study from Australia, it was reported that caffeine can improve daytime functioning but it can decrease quality. So, for coffee-lovers, it is advised not to take this drink 6 hours before nighttime!

2) Establish a pre-sleep routine

Establishing a pre-sleep routine means doing some relaxing activities one hour before going to bed. The best routine includes:

  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a book or writing in your diary
  • Dimming your lights

It is highly advised to keep away from your devices such as smartphones, tablets, and TV, one to two hours before your sleep time.

3) Consider a restful environment

If you want to increase your quality of sleep, you must make your bedroom a fantastic one by cultivating peace and quietness. Also, you can try these health tips:

  • High-performance mattress and pillow
  • High-quality bedding
  • Comfy sheets
  • Reduce excess lights
  • Regulate the room temperature
  • Use some aromas

In short, make your room your comfort zone. Design it in a way where you can feel peace and comfort.

4) Try some sleep supplements

There are many sleeping pills or supplements available in the online market today. Some come in the form of a capsule and others in the form of powders.

However, before taking one, it is recommended to seek advice from a medical doctor to get the best drug administration option and avoid other health complications.

Do not worry about sharing personal data because a medical doctor will keep it private at all times.

Final Thoughts

Finding out the best effective way for you to speed up your digestion requires you to understand the digestive process.

Usually, it will take up to 3 days for you to get complete digestion. However, this period varies from one person to another, depending on many factors.

Some of these factors include the genetics and the heaviness of the food a person takes.

Furthermore, patients who are experiencing slow digestion may feel some discomforts such as abdominal pain, gastroesophageal reflux, constipation, and irritable bowel movement.

The good news is there are many ways to improve this indigestion or slow digestion, and usually, these include eating healthy, getting proper sleep, considering stress management, and exercising regularly.

Looking at these, it can be concluded that for you to speed up your digestion, you must focus on changing your behavior towards your health.

Lastly, patients may try aiding digestion supplements or products like probiotics, prebiotics, and sleep supplements for additional support.

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