Easy Ways to Improve Your Digestive Health (and Lose Weight)

The idea that your digestive system plays a role in your ability to lose weight makes sense when you take a moment to think it through. When you overeat or consume foods that are hard for your body to break down, your digestion slows and the waste gets compacted within your body. If you’ve ever felt bloated, constipated, or suffered from heartburn or diarrhea, chances are you’re feeling the impact of poor digestive health.

What you may not notice is that over time, a sluggish digestive system and waste buildup leads to weight gain. Follow these tips to ensure that the food you eat today isn’t sitting around inside your body tomorrow night.

1. Get enough digestive enzymes

Sauerkraut

Load up on foods that aid in digestion. | iStock.com

By sticking to a diet high in digestive enzymes and fermented foods, you can keep your system running smoothly. Raw fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi are high in these enzymes, as is miso soup and yogurt. Herbs like peppermint and ginger can be boiled in water to make a tea that will also help move things along.

2. Increase physical activity

young man running on the beach

Exercise basically helps everything. | iStock.com

Not only does exercise burn off those excess calories, it’s also a secret tapping into your body’s healthy digestive process. Being active keeps your digestion moving, resulting in more frequent elimination and weight loss. When you feel constipated, the first thing some doctors recommend is exercising to help move things along.

3. Drink plenty of water

Man wearing gym clothes and a gym bag grabs fruit and a bottle of water for after his workout

Don’t skimp on your water intake. | iStock.com

Being properly hydrated keeps your body functioning properly and helps to flush waste out of your system. The secret is to drink most of your water on an empty stomach or before you eat, which allows the water to go straight to your cells. Drinking water with meals or after a meal can actually dilute your solid foods and hinder your stomach’s ability to digest them quickly and efficiently.

4. Pay attention to food combinations

Steak and potatoes

Some foods contain little to no fiber. | iStock.com

You’ve probably noticed that certain food combinations leave you feeling bloated and upset. This is because while we’ve been told a balanced meal contains protein, starch, and a small serving of vegetables, in reality protein and starch should never be eaten together.

Fruits and vegetables are digested the quickest, then carbohydrates, and finally protein.

5. Healthy amounts of fiber

salad

Always choose fiber-packed foods for consistent digestive health. | iStock.com

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain ample amounts of fiber, which is one way to speed up your digestive system. Fiber improves your digestion by pushing food waste and toxins through the body to increase and improve your elimination, resulting in weight loss.

People between the ages of 19 and 50 should eat between 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily. Get your dose of this digestive-friendly substance by loading up on sweet potatoes, beans, carrots, lentils, peas, dates, pears, and apples.

6. Eat on schedule

Couple in home kitchen

Plan to have regular meal times. | iStock.com/Goodluz

Numerous studies have backed the importance of eating consistent, planned meals to keep your weight loss goals in tact. Turns out, consuming your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape as well. The National Weight Control Registry makes a good case for eating a high-protein breakfast between 6 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. to jump-start both your metabolism and your digestive system.

Restrict nighttime eating to before 7 p.m. While a few slip-ups and late-night snacks won’t hurt you, studies show that setting a cut-off point for your last meal of the day leads to efficient weight loss. Registered dietician Farah Fahad suggests having dinner three hours before your bedtime, “It is a good amount of time … your food gets to digest and you’re not sleeping on a full stomach.”

7. Limit your caffeine intake

woman siting at cafe

Caffeine is fine in moderation. | iStock.com/Astarot

While caffeine is debatably good for your metabolism, it can wreak havoc on your digestive tract. Caffeine acts as a laxative, however it also increases your production of stress hormones. According to Livestrong.com, these stress hormones — cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine — cause your heart to beat faster through increased blood supply.

This decreases the blood supply to your intestines, slowing digestion. Try digestion-friendly teas instead of coffee to get your morning caffeine fix and boost your metabolism.