5 Tips to Improve Digestion

Sarah Greenfield | August 29, 2017

Do you suffer from stomach aches, bloating, cramping and digestive discomfort? These are all common concerns and symptoms I hear from many of my clients. Here are the five top tips I give them to help decrease the bloat and improve digestion!

1. Increase Probiotics

Bacteria play a huge role in digestive health. The average person has about 3 to 5 pounds of bacteria in their gut. About 80 percent of immune function begins in the gut, and having the right balance of bacteria is critical for a healthy body. Healthy bacteria help move food through the gastrointestinal tract, decrease unhealthy bacteria that cause bloating and gas production, and may even help with weight loss.

When selecting a probiotic supplement, look for a high count of lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium as those can help with gut health. Include foods that are high in probiotics like kefir, kombucha, miso soup, kimchi, live-cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickles.

2. Increase Magnesium

Magnesium is necessary for over 300 physiological reactions in the body, and more people are finding that they’re deficient in this vital mineral. The digestive system needs magnesium to regulate blood sugar levels, control blood pressure, make proteins and activate enzymes that are needed for energy production. The chemical process needed to breakdown and utilize carbohydrates, protein and fats depend on magnesium.

Aim for 300 to 400 milligrams of magnesium per day. Include these high magnesium foods in your diet: seaweed, coriander, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, bananas, avocado, walnuts, cashews, cacao, dried basil, flax seeds, dark leafy greens, and almond butter.

3. Eliminate Common Inflammation Triggers

By excluding foods that may be causing inflammation from your diet, your body will be able to absorb more nutrients. An inflamed gut leads to weakened immune function, poor digestion and increased stress markers throughout the body.

Start a food journal where you record not only what you are eating, but also your digestive symptoms. Eliminate eggs, wheat, dairy, soy, nuts and processed sugars for two weeks. Add them back one week at a time and journal your symptoms. If you notice anything that causes discomfort, it may be the root of your digestive issues.

4. Stay Hydrated

Drink 24 to 32 ounces of water first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. This helps your body naturally detox while improving digestion and nutrient absorption. Staying adequately hydrated improves the gut’s ability to move food through the intestines and promotes better regularity. Everyone loves to stay regular!

Continue to drink water throughout the day. Get a reusable water bottle that’s easy to carry and bring it with you everywhere you go. This encourages you to drink more water and ensures you stay hydrated. Add some cucumber slices, a couple of raspberries and half a lemon to your water bottle. This can get even the most resistant water drinkers to enjoy their daily water intake!

5. Focus on Healthy Fats

Fiber is the main nutrient people are told to increase when they’re experiencing digestive issues, but this can be tough on the digestive tract. If you’re not used to fiber in your diet, adding more can actually increase bloating and gut pain.

Focusing on healthy fats in the diet can help improve the function of the GI tract. For example, I like to have a warm cup of tea with one teaspoon of coconut oil. This is a great way to start the day or a great mid-afternoon snack! Also include foods like grass-fed butter, cod liver oil, unheated extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.

These are just some tips to help combat digestive issues. I like to start with a food-first approach, add in some supplements and then do functional testing. If you’re still experiencing discomfort after a food-based approach, you may want to consult with a functional medicine practitioner for some higher-level testing. They can look at the makeup of your gut microbiome, inflammatory issues, malabsorption, and bacterial imbalances, and identify the root cause of your digestive issues.


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Sarah Greenfield

Sarah Greenfield studied nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, got her RD through UCLA and worked as a dietitian with a focus on ICU, trauma, digestive disease and wound care.

She created a nationwide school nutrition program and a nutrition-focused marathon training program for NutriBullet. Having completed several marathons, she got an advanced certification in sports nutrition to further her knowledge on coaching athletes to better health.

She started her own company, Fearless Fig, as a way to connect with people on a deeper level. She works with clients one-on-one, integrating advanced testing to restore digestive health, fuel endurance athletes, and make healthy eating achievable. She has been featured on Men's Health, Self, NBC with Lester Holt, KTLA with Lori Corbin and Dr. Hyman's Blog for her recipes and meal prep tips.

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