Nutrition & bone health
10 steps to better digestion
By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
When it comes to getting the most from your digestion, it’s more than “you are what
you eat” — it’s “you are what you absorb.”
That’s because even if you eat the highest quality foods, you need to digest and
absorb their nutrients to get the benefits. Digestive problems keep you from doing
this, plus lead to distressing symptoms like gas, diarrhea, bloating, constipation,
weight gain and more.
You can take simple and practical changes to improve digestion and get the nutrients
you need. Here are my top 10 steps for better digestion:
1. Drink hot water and hot herbal teas.
Both help detoxify the body and build digestive strength. Simmering a few slices
of ginger root in boiling water makes a ginger root tea that stimulates digestion.
Ginger in food has the same effect, as does candied ginger root eaten after meals.
Other herbs that promote good digestion and make excellent herbal teas are chamomile,
peppermint, and cinnamon.
2. Eat freshly cooked foods.
Freshly cooked foods are the most nourishing and are free of molds or staleness.
It’s better to eat a simple, freshly cooked meal than a complicated one made of
3. Chew your food well and eat at a moderate pace.
Ideally, you should chew each mouthful some 30 times, breaking the food into small
particles and allowing the salivary enzymes to begin their work digesting the food.
Try putting the fork down between each mouthful and swallowing one bite before taking
another as a way to slow down if you’re accustomed to “bolting” your food.
4. Eat simply.
Mixing many different types of foods taxes the digestive system. Experiment with
simple meals of just two or three different foods.
5. Eat cooked foods instead of cold or raw foods.
As traditional Eastern medicine explains, food must be “burned” in the “fire” of
digestion. Cold and raw foods must be “heated up” more than cooked foods and as
such they dampen and weaken the fire of digestion. People with weak digestion would
do well to eat no or little raw or cold food or drinks. This means favoring cooked
vegetables and fruits over raw produce, and using hot soups, casseroles, or grain
and bean dishes in place of sandwiches or snack-type meals. Avoid cooling the “fire”
with cold drinks or ice water during meals.
6. Eat in a peaceful and relaxed environment.
If you do a little comparative test, you will note that you feel better and your
digestion is smoother when you eat in a quiet, peaceful environment. Avoid watching
television, reading, working, or arguing with others when you eat. You will see
Read more: Gut microbiome as a new organ
Research on our gut focuses on trillions of gut bacteria, their 10 million genes
and the complex role they play in helping to prevent obesity, diabetes, intestinal
issues, and so much more.
Read Dr. Brown’s blog
to see what research says we can do today.
7. Eat fruit between meals, not with meals, and choose cooked fruit.
Raw fruit dampens the digestive fire, especially during the winter when we are already
cold. As such, those with weak digestion might find that eating raw fruit with meals
causes intestinal gas and bloating. Cooked fruit is a fine dessert, and you can
still use raw fruit for snacks — but know that even as an occasional snack, fruit
might be a problem if your digestive fire is smoldering rather than blazing.
8. Avoid overeating.
Excessive intake of food greatly burdens the entire digestive system. Ancient Ayurvedic
medicine recommends consuming the amount of food that will fit into two cupped hands
at any meal. Practice moving away from the table while you are still a bit hungry.
9. Sit still and relax a few minutes after eating.
Digestion is an amazing process — it turns tofu enchiladas into blood and tissue
cells. Resting a few minutes after eating gets this very complicated process off
to a good start by allowing your body’s resources to focus fully on the digestive
10. If all else fails, seek professional help to determine the source of the problem.
If these simple self-help steps do not resolve your digestive problems, you should
consider consulting both a physician and a nutritionist. A nutritionist can help
you figure out if probiotics and other nutritional digestive aids would be useful.
Your physician can investigate the possibility that a medical problem is affecting
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Original Publication Date: 04/11/2000
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD