4 Simple and Natural Ways to Improve Digestion |

4 Simple and Natural Ways to Improve Digestion

Rustina July 3, 2023

By Rustina, Contributing Writer

You sit there contemplating what to eat for supper. You’re craving a plate of spaghetti covered in marinara or maybe a refreshing cup of orange juice. It has been on your mind all day. The problem is that if you eat it now, you’ll have heartburn all night. Is it worth the pain?

What if with a few tips and tweaks to your habits, you could have that sought-after meal? 

Digestion is so important. Not just because indigestion hurts us physically, but also because every system in our bodies depends on getting nutrition from our food. 

Poor digestion can cause mineral deficiencies as well as depression, stress, conception troubles, imbalanced hormones, sleep troubles, anemia, and a host of other diseases and issues beyond the frustration of feeling unsatisfied and controlled by limited food options.

Let’s talk about how digestion works and the simple ways to improve it!

How does digestion work?

Chewing is where it starts.

“Chew, chew, chew. That is the thing we do!” I remember singing that to each of my kids at some point. The general recommendation is to chew each bite about 30 times so it is mechanically broken down. 

While our mouths begin breaking down food with our teeth, something else is happening too. Our taste buds are paying attention to signs so it can tell the body to prepare the stomach. Bitter and sour tastes trigger saliva. This extra saliva going down kickstarts the stomach preparing all the acids needed to break down food more efficiently (1). Other tastes also begin important digestive processes. For example, a sweet taste triggers an insulin response (2). Some foods also start processes in the mouth like saturated fats bring out lingual lipase (a needed enzyme to break down saturated fats).

Interesting note: Some believe that digestion begins even before food hits the mouth. That when we stop to pray, reflect, and/or show gratitude over the food, it can help activate the parasympathetic system to prime it for digestion (parasympathetic supplies organs, blood vessels, and glands).

When the food goes down and acid gets to work

The stomach is when chemical breakdown of food starts. Our body does this to access the needed nutrients. The stomach uses acids and squeezing to do its work. Sometimes, there is not enough acid or at times too much acid (this is actually much more rare than we think). 

The extra saliva leads to the needed gastric acids and enzymes. Pepsinogen and Hydrochloric acid (these combine for pepsin to break down protein) (3). Hydrochloric acid is really important for antimicrobial purposes. This is one of our early defenses against viruses, bacterias, and other microorganisms that sneak in with food. 

Another thing happening is the intrinsic factor. This is what binds with B12 to keep it secure to make it to the end of the line without the B12 being destroyed (4). 

Proton Pump Inhibitors (prescription antacids) reduce these acids, and not only may that not be the real problem, but they also can cause damage (5). 

An interesting note: the stomach is the only place in the body that is meant to be acidic. The rest of the body functions best in an alkaline environment.

There are specific enzymes for fats, proteins, sugars, and carbs/starches. Some are released here in the stomach, and more are released by the pancreas into the next stage.

After the stomach and before its departure

As the particles of food and enzymes are leaving the stomach they enter a small area called the duodenum. This is where the gallbladder gives bile and the pancreas gives enzymes to finish breaking down the food. It also starts pulling out the nutrients for the body to use. Each main food type has its own enzymes: pancreatic lipase (fats), amylase (starch), and a couple protease enzymes for protein. Since the pancreas is so important to digestion, those who struggle with pancreas issues (or without a gallbladder) may find coconut oil a great choice for fats– the lingual lipase from the mouth can break this down.

From there, it enters the small intestine. Most nutrients are absorbed about half way through here. This is where bacteria really get involved in the food breakdown process and nutrient absorption. It creates enzymes that break down carbs and sugars (6). Bacteria also transport many of the nutrients to where they need to go (7).

Simple Ways to Improve Digestion

#1 Before sitting down for your meal, chew on some bitter herbs or take a tincture (with as little drink as possible so the bitterness isn’t washed out or the stomach acid) of bitter herbs like milk thistle, dandelions, or suck on sour foods like a lemon slice or peel. 

This bitter flavor helps your acids become activated so it can properly start to work on the food. If you have pancreatic issues, pineapple and papaya can help bring in proteolytic enzymes to help break down proteins better. 

Earthley’s Digest Support (Bitters) is formulated to promote better nutrient absorption and, as a result, can alleviate symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea. This is made with organic herbs (dandelion root, orange peel, cinnamon, fennel seed) and extracted with organic cane-derived alcohol. They are used by consuming about 20 drops alone or in a very tiny amount of water about 20 minutes before eating.

#2 Do NOT drink when you eat — not even water. Filling the stomach with fluid can neutralize and wash out the acids that you need to break down food. Drinking while eating will result in a harder work load for your stomach and possibly less nutrients extracted from the food. 

Drink plenty of water throughout the day so mucus and bile have plenty of fluids to be produced. However, take a break from drinking for a half hour before you eat and afterwards. That way the stomach is free to get acidic when it is needed and isn’t as acidic when not needed.

#3 That leads us to a common error. Many people take antacids when they really shouldn’t. Commonly, the problem is not enough acid, not too much acid! If you frequently reach for those, try the first two tips. If indigestion does occur, I like to use Digest Ease. This is an herbal tincture made with organic blackberry leaf, echinacea purpurea leaf, marshmallow root, and turmeric root (in an organic alcohol).

#4 If you have a healthy, balanced diet, but still have many signs of deficiencies, then consider your digestive tract health. Here are some ideas to help improve gut health.

  • Perhaps you need probiotic support. Use fermented foods like kombucha and yogurt.
  • Gut Health Oil can help detox your gut to eliminate candida, parasites, and other stomach issues like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and more. It’s also a prebiotic, which encourages the growth of good bacteria in your gut. 
  • Candida Cleanse helps fight yeast naturally to bring your gut health back into balance.
  • Remove inflammatory foods like wheat, conventional dairy, sugars, and wine/alcoholic beverages. That doesn’t mean they have to stay gone, but during healing the gut, it is important to seriously reduce or eliminate them. After signs of digestive problems are gone, then slowly start adding them back one at a time, except for processed sugars.
  • Read How to Heal Your Gut (Research + and A Plan) and Earthley’s Gut Health Support Guide.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything.  If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.

Do you get heartburn? How have you overcome that struggle?

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Rustina started studying herbs and natural living after allopathic medicine was unable to provide answers or support when she needed it. She is continually working on learning more and improving her and her family’s health, diving in and researching any topic. A love of learning led her to homeschool and begin working from home. She now spends each day with her husband and four sons as they travel on their home education journey together. She is thankful for the opportunity to write about these interests and passions for Earthley Wellness and Modern Alternative Mama.

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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