Digestion is one of the essential metabolic activities of your body. A healthy digestive system indicates improved health and a reduced risk of diseases. However, in today’s world, many people face digestive problems, including bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, constipation, or diarrhoea from time to time. At the same time, its symptoms are troublesome and can cause pain and irritability. Several factors, including diet and stress, can lead to digestive issues, creating severe life disruptions. Fortunately, by altering your diet and lifestyle, you can enhance your gut health and get rid of these digestive issues.
You cannot absorb any nutrients or get energy from your meals without the digestive system. If you’re concerned about your digestion, start by learning how your digestive system works and taking action to ensure that all of your food passes through your gastrointestinal tract smoothly and at the proper pace. There are natural ways to improve your digestive system, like consuming certain food items and making other simple changes in your routine.
Our Digestive System: An Introduction
The digestive system is also known as the gastrointestinal system. Several organs in your body make up your digestive system. The mouth, pharynx (throat), oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus are all part of this system. In addition, the salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, all of which produce digestive juices and enzymes to help with food and liquid digestion, are also included.
The Digestion Mechanism Explained
Food is broken down into tiny pieces during digestion, allowing your body to absorb all of the energy and minerals it contains. Different foods degrade in different ways, with some breaking down faster than others. Although your body’s natural mechanisms play a large role in digestion speed and quality, there are certain things you can do to improve the speed and quality of your digestion.
The digestive process is a complex movement in which your body executes several different moves. Knowing which organs are involved in your digestive system is the first step in understanding it. Next, the foods and beverages you consume break down into nutrients, including carbohydrates, lipids (fat), and proteins.
The digestive system is responsible for this process. Once the foods and beverages break down and convert into nutrients, your body uses these nutrients for energy, growth, and tissue repair. Each organ of the digestive system has a vital role in digestion, and here’s how the digestive system works:
The Organs Involved in Digestion
The teeth chew food into tiny pieces when someone eats. In addition, the glands produce saliva in the cheeks and beneath the tongue, and it coats the food, making it easier to chew and swallow.
After eating the food, the oesophagus transfers it from the mouth to the stomach.
After the food enters your stomach, your stomach functions as a mixer, it churns and mixes it with gastric juice to make chyme, a thick, soupy liquid that slowly moves into your small intestine.
The gallbladder’s bile and enzymes in the pancreas’ digestive juices flow into the upper region of the small intestine, where they help in the breakdown of protein and fat. These tiny particles and carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals are absorbed into the circulation by the small intestine wall. Then, the large intestine receives the waste products of the digestive process.
Undigested food pieces, fluid, and older cells from your Gastrointestinal tract lining are examples of waste products from the digestive process. The large intestine absorbs water and transforms liquid waste into faeces. Soon after, the peristalsis helps in the movement of the faeces into the rectum.
The rectum at the bottom of your large intestine retains stool until a bowel movement forces it out of your anus.
How Long Does the Digestion Process Take?
Individuals, both men, and women, digest at varying rates. After eating, food takes about six to eight hours to move through your stomach and small intestine. Then, the food travels to the large intestine (colon) for further digestion, water absorption, and the elimination of undigested food. Finally, it takes anywhere between 24 to 72 hours for the food to move entirely through the stomach. Overall, the process takes two to five days, depending on the individual, from when you consume food to when it leaves your body as faeces.
Factors that Affect Digestion Time
Besides age and gender, several factors determine the digestion duration. For example, diet composition, exercise, functional illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), thyroid dysfunction, and metabolic disorders like diabetes are factors that impact it. Our gut lining and healthy gut bacteria also impact the breaking down of food in our systems. Some nutritionists believe that our physiological and mental conditions also affect our digestive timing. Furthermore, some food items and their quality also play a crucial role.
Some Foods that Help Improve and Fasten The Process of Digestion
Various foods can aid the digestive process at multiple stages. For example, some foods enhance the stomach’s health while others support the intestines. So, if you wish to include quickly digestible and healthy foods in your diet, here are the foods you can consider.
Proteins that Digest Quickly
Proteins contained in many forms of meat take a long time to digest, so substitute them with meals like:
The process of fermentation helps make tempeh. In addition, it contains probiotics that can assist with indigestion and nutrient absorption. One hundred grams of tempeh offers 20 grams of protein.
Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and aid digestion. One hundred grams of salmon contains 19.8 grams of protein.
Beans contain insoluble fibre that your body cannot digest. However, it aids digestion by allowing faeces to pass through your gut more rapidly. These protein-rich black beans offer 8.86 grams of protein in a hundred-gram serving.
They are high in fibre, which helps you have regular bowel movements by adding weight to your stool, promoting good gut bacteria, and ensuring regular bowel movements.
Vegetables are the real heroes of fast digestion. Green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach, collard greens, kale, artichokes, etc., are best for digestion. They’re high in magnesium and fibre, and they help keep your digestive system healthy by promoting good bacteria in your gut.
You can also choose fermented vegetables to quickly get your digestive system up and running. Some of them are:
- Natto (fermented soybeans) has a high probiotic content that helps have regular bowel movements while preventing constipation.
- Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is high in probiotics and fibre and beneficial to gut health.
- Sauerkraut (finely chopped raw cabbage) is another good source of probiotics and enzymes, which aid in the breakdown of nutrients into smaller molecules that are easier to digest.
Fruits can help you digest faster because many of them are rich in fibre, and they also have vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium. All of this is beneficial for your digestive health. Some fruits that you should include in your diet are:
- Unpeeled Apple
It is also essential to understand that citrus fruits are acidic and can irritate the stomach lining. So if you already have stomach issues, consume them in moderation or avoid them altogether.
Whole grains provide a good source of fibre which aids digestion. It is no secret that fibre aids digestion. It takes your body longer to break them down, which helps you control your blood sugar levels. Furthermore, fibre bulks up your faeces, making it simpler to travel through your body.
Some of the best whole grain options to add to your diet are:
- Brown rice
- Bran flakes
- Whole wheat bread
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds help improve your digestive health. The natural oils present in them are beneficial to your digestion. To make them simpler to digest, soak them first to remove the phytic acid, indigestible to humans. The best seeds that can help improve your digestion are flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and almonds.
Water, of course, is the simplest drink to digest, especially on an empty stomach. It flows through your body in less than a second. The more fluids we take, the better our health is. You can even try fruit and vegetable drinks without pulp. You can also choose prune juice, which combats constipation.
Natural Ways to Improve Your Digestion
Now that you know pretty much everything there is to know about meals that boost digestion and foods that digest quickly, there are a few general tips you should be aware of if you want to enhance your digestion naturally.
Consume More Fibre
Fibre is essential for digestion and your wellbeing in general. However, the two types of soluble and insoluble fibre benefit differently. According to studies, soluble fibre absorbs water and makes it simpler to evacuate your stool. On the other hand, insoluble fibre pushes food through your digestive tract and keeps things moving. In one research, a lower incidence of digestive problems such as ulcers, reflux, haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are all linked to a high-fibre diet.
Remember that adding fibre to your diet too quickly might cause gas, cramps, and bloating, so go slow when adding new foods, especially if you’re not used to them. Also, fibre absorbs water to add bulk to your stool; you should drink enough water to avoid constipation.
Include Probiotics in Your Diet
Yoghurt, sauerkraut, soft cheeses, and other probiotic foods are high in live bacteria cultures that benefit your gut and support healthy digestion. Various studies claim positive effects of probiotics are gaining traction in the scientific community. The benefits include improved gut health, enhanced immune response, and cancer prevention.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Water is beneficial for various reasons, one of which is the fact that it aids digestion. Water keeps your faeces moist, which helps the faeces transit faster. Conversely, constipation is related to a lack of water consumption. According to research for healthy digestion, experts recommend consuming 50–66 ounces (1.5– 2 litres) of water every day.
Being physically active has numerous benefits, one of which is a healthier digestive tract. Food and digested matter travel through your body when your muscles tense if you exercise for 30 minutes every day (i.e., peristalsis). According to one study, cycling and jogging regularly can lower gastrointestinal transit time by 14.6 and 17.2 hours, respectively. So, if you have poor digestion, make sure you get up and move!
Manage your Daily Stress
Your digestive system can be affected by stress. Stress hormones influence your digestion. When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, your body believes you don’t have time to rest and digest. As a result, blood and energy are diverted away from the digestive system during stressful situations. Your gut and brain are inextricably linked, so whatever affects your brain could also affect your digestion.
Stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, constipation, and IBS are linked to stress in one of the studies. As a result, stress management, meditation, and relaxation training can help those with IBS symptoms. Reportedly, yoga helps with digestive issues in one of the studies. As a result, stress management techniques can help you with your mentality and digestion.
Practice Mindful Eating
If you’re not paying attention, it’s simple to overeat too fast, which can cause bloating, gas, and indigestion. In addition, overeating affects your digestive tract and slows digestion. You may believe that sluggish digestion is your “normal” if you tend to overeat at every meal. However, you may experience quick digestion by paying attention to all aspects of your food and the eating process. In addition, research has demonstrated that mindful eating helps persons with IBS feel better.
Chew Your Meals Properly
The process of digestion begins in the mouth. Your teeth break down the food into tiny bits, making it easier for the enzymes in your digestive system to break it down. Nutrient absorption slows down due to poor chewing. The longer you chew, the more saliva gets produced. It aids digestion by breaking down some carbs and lipids in your food in your mouth. It also serves as fluid in your stomach, mixing with solid food to help it flow through your intestines properly.
When you chew your food thoroughly, you ensure sufficient saliva is available for digestion. It may help to reduce indigestion and heartburn. Your stomach works less to convert the solid food into the liquid mixture that enters your small intestine when you chew your meals properly. Furthermore, chewing is linked to lower tension in one of the studies, which may help digestion.
Follow a Proper Sleep Schedule
Sleep is crucial for digestive health because it allows your organs to repair themselves, improving your body’s capacity to digest food swiftly and efficiently. Taking care of your sleep patterns and getting enough rest will help you digest food more effectively. A study says that IBS, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are all associated with poor sleep quality.
Improve Your Diet with Healthy Fats
Eating good fats may be necessary for good digestion. Fat keeps you satisfied after a meal and is essential for efficient nutrition absorption. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory bowel disease as per studies. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, nuts (particularly walnuts), and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Weight fluctuations and gut health:
As a result of your digestive system’s failure to effectively break down nutrients, poor digestion can lead to weight gain. This causes poor nutrient absorption and a decrease in the body’s ability to eliminate wastes and toxins, resulting in constipation and bloating. Inability to absorb important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals has an impact on the body’s metabolism, slowing the rate at which calories are burned and resulting in extra body fat and weariness.
If you have frequent or even chronic digestive issues, simple dietary and lifestyle modifications may help improve your digestion. It may appear overwhelming at first, but you can start simply focusing on just one or two. The first step toward an excellent digestive system is to eat a whole-food diet rich in fibre, healthy fats, and nutrients. Healthy habits include mindful eating, moderated sleep schedules, stress reduction, and exercise. These minor adjustments will eventually lead to a healthier and better quality of life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What helps to digest food faster?
A. If you want to digest food quickly, the best strategy is to eat thoughtfully, avoid overburdening your stomach with substantial fatty meals and follow the guidelines for quicker digestion, including exercise, more water intake, and quality sleep.
Q. How long does it take to digest food?
A. Food passes through your digestive system in 24 to 72 hours. The period depends on how much and what kind of food you’ve consumed. Your gender, metabolism, and whether or not you have any digestive problems are the characteristics that influence the rate.
Q. How do tablets digest?
A. Most drugs are taken by mouth and broken down in the gastrointestinal tract. So when the drug comes, stomach acids break it down before going through the liver and bloodstream.
Q. How do you fix digestive issues?
A. Your digestive health gets influenced by the things you eat and how you live. Adding extra fibre to your diet, choosing lean meat, and consuming probiotics will help your digestive system work more efficiently, improving your general health and wellbeing.
Q. What causes poor digestion?
A. An unhealthy lifestyle, inadequate nutrition, food intolerance, or even an infection can impair digestion.
Q. Can food stay in your stomach for days?
A. Food hardens into a solid lump, called a bezoar, after spending too much time in your stomach and fermenting. It can lead to the growth of bacteria and may become stuck in your small intestine as a result of this and stay there for days.
Q. How soon after eating should you poop?
A. Food takes roughly 2 to 5 days to travel through your body as faeces after eating it. However, because many elements complicate the digestive process, it’s difficult to give an accurate estimate of poop timings.
Q. How long after eating is your stomach empty?
A. Food travels from your stomach to your small intestine takes roughly 2 to 4 hours on average. Several factors determine the amount of time it takes, including the composition and size of your food, your hormones, and your gender.
Q. Which medicine is best for stomach gas?
A. Simethicone-based Gas-X Extra Strength Gas Relief Soft Gels. These easy-to-swallow, extra-strength gel capsules contain simethicone, or you can take any other medication prescribed by your doctor.
Q. How do I clean my gut?
A. Warm water, which cleanses the stomach, boosts metabolism, and flushes out toxins, is one of the many ways to clean the gut. In addition, warm water appears to be the key to a natural detoxification system because it relieves stomach cramps and heartburn.