How To Digest Food Faster For Less Bloating & Constipation
If you’ve spent your evening feasting on fried chicken and wine, you might feel bloated, tired and uncomfortable. And perhaps you’re dreading the idea of going to bed with a mini food baby inside you. Or maybe you’ve been eating all the broccoli in the world…but things just aren’t moving…hello constipation! Either way, you’re in luck, because in this article we’re going to look at 7 ways to digest food faster. First, I’ll show you the #1 thing you can do before eating to speed up your digestion. Then I’ll reveal the best ideas you can try while eating. And finally, we’ll look at one idea researchers think could help after eating, so you can beat bloating and get things moving!
Table of Contents
Now, let’s get into it by looking at the number 1 thing you can do before eating. And I know this might sound boring, like the type of advice your mom might text you while munching on her afternoon snack of prunes. But here it is…
Drink Enough Liquids
Especially water, throughout the day. In other words, stay well hydrated.
And I know this is probably not the revolutionary idea you were hoping we’d start with. But here’s the thing: drinking enough liquids can help you digest food faster and poop it out easier.
- It helps with the production of digestive enzymes in your saliva, so you can start digesting food the minute it enters your mouth.
- It makes food soft and slippery, so it slides down your GI tract easier.
- And just as crucially, it makes your stool soft, so it also slides down your colon gently.
In fact, in a 2010 study published in Nutrition Reviews, researchers found: “Inadequate fluid consumption is a common culprit in constipation, and increasing fluid intake is a frequently recommended treatment…which works for people in a hypohydrated state”.
Meaning people who have not consumed enough liquids.
Now in terms of how much you should drink - well, fluid recommendations can vary based on exercise level, what climate you’re in as well as a host of other factors.
But our research team at Essential Stacks found some fantastic guidelines in this book by the National Academy of Medicine where they suggested:
- Men drink about 13 cups or 3 liters per day
- While women should aim to get 9 cups or 2.2 liters
Now let’s move onto the best tips to try while eating. And the first idea is to…
Eat More Fiber Rich Foods
During your meal, such as vegetables, beans or legumes. And this idea is actually a really interesting one, because most people think fiber SLOWS down digestion. So what’s the truth here?
Well it turns out fiber does slow gastric emptying, meaning the time it takes food to leave your stomach. Something we’ve seen in many studies, including this one from 2014.
But once food moves out of your stomach and into your intestinal tract, fiber does a fantastic job at SPEEDING things up, allowing you to pass a bowel movement more quickly and easily. In other words, it increases intestinal emptying. And it does this in 2 ways…
- First, soluble fiber - the kind that dissolves in water - makes your stool moist or less dry, so it is easier to pass.
- And second, insoluble fiber - the kind that doesn’t dissolve in water - adds bulk to your stool, helping it to move along faster.
So you’re now probably wondering if fiber slows digestion in the STOMACH, but speeds it up in the INTESTINE, does it have a net positive impact on overall digestion speed?
Well, if you read our article on How long does food take to digest, you’ll know that the vast majority of digestion actually takes place in the intestinal tract - like over 90%. Meaning, even if fiber slows down STOMACH digestion a little, it helps speed up the MAJORITY of the digestion process.
In terms of how much fiber you should aim to eat:
- If you don’t currently eat a lot of fiber, adding too much all at once will likely cause bloating - the very digestive symptoms we’re trying to AVOID.
- So, it’s best to gradually increase daily fiber intake. And we cover how to do this, plus the optimal daily target for men and women in our article on How much fiber per day.
Now, let’s look at the next big idea to try white eating…
Keep Stress & Distraction Levels Low
Now without getting too Dalai Lama on you, if you’ve ever experienced a loss of appetite or the need to run for the bathroom before a nerve-wracking event…hello public speaking…you probably know just how much stress can affect your digestive system.
And the reason for this is that when you’re in an adrenaline-pumping state of fight-or-flight - or even when you’re simply distracted - your body diverts energy AWAY from digestion. And as you can imagine this SLOWS digestion drastically and increases the likelihood of bloating and constipation, or even diarrhea if your body decides it can’t deal with the food whatsoever.
As the authors of a 2011 paper published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology say,
“It is well known that exposure to stress may lead to the manifestation of different symptoms within the gastrointestinal tract… such as dyspepsia…meaning indigestion… diarrhea or abdominal pain."
Although it’s easier said than done, eating meals in a low-stress and low-distraction environment can significantly help digestion. Some simple tips to help with this include…
- Not watching TV or scrolling your phone while eating
- Sitting down at a table for meal time…as opposed to your desk or car
- Sharing a meal with a loved one
- And focusing on each bite in a mindful way
Which leads us into the next idea…and that is…
Chew Your Food More
And yes, I know this sounds rather trite - like something you might see on a poster at an aged care center - but here’s the thing; If you’re someone who wolfs down each bite within milliseconds, you might be able to win the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, but you certainly won’t have comfortable digestion.
And that’s because chewing is the first and arguably most important step in the digestive process.
- Your teeth work hard to crush up the food
- Which mashes it into a pulp
- This is then sent down into your GI tract where gastric juices and digestive enzymes continue breaking it down
- And the MORE work your teeth do, the LESS work the rest of your digestive system has to do
- In other words, digestion can be more efficient and smoother
And if you want another reason to chew more, and I love this point, we found this fascinating research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014. And it turns out chewing thoroughly also prevents overeating, which is a common cause of indigestion and bloating.
In this study adults were asked to eat pizza for lunch until they were full, and to experiment with chewing it more than they usually do. The researchers concluded that:
“Food intake in the sessions with 150% and 200% of their baseline number of chews…was reduced significantly, by 9.5% and 14.8%.”
So in plain English, what they found is that chewing twice as many times as usual can reduce overeating by almost 15%. And this means less uncomfortable bloating and indigestion.
Now onto the next idea…
Try Digestion Aids
In other words, supplements that can help the digestion process. And there are 4 main ones to consider. The first 2 I’ll show you help with proteins. The 3rd one helps with fats. And the 4th one helps with carbs, as well as protein and fats.
- So the first one is Betaine HCl and it supports stomach acid, which in turn helps with pepsin production to break down proteins. So it’s really helpful when eating meat, seafood and dairy products for example.
- You can also take supplemental Pepsin with your Betaine HCL, to make this even easier.
- Meanwhile, when it comes to fats, Bile is the ideal supplement, as it can help speed up digestion of fatty foods like guacamole, salmon and even glorious hamburgers.
- And finally, digestive enzymes can help break down all types of foods. And while they help mainly with carbs, they’re also great for protein and fats.
So as you can see, these supplements basically just supply your body with more of the good guys it already uses for digestion. And here at Essential Stacks, while we hope that all the other ideas in this article can get your digestion up to speed, we know that nobody is perfect and sometimes digestion can use a little helping hand. And in those situations we think these supplements are a really simple way to support your digestion.
But since it’s rather inconvenient to take all these different supplements every time you eat, we decided to combine or “stack” them and so we created these 2 products.
- Upgraded Betaine HCL combines HCL, pepsin and bile…as well as ginger and digestive bitters.
- While Pure Enzymes combines 18 different digestive enzymes in 1.
Just 1 capsule of each with your meal can make a big difference.
We even have a special offer for our blog readers, which we think you'll like. Simply buy 1 bottle of enzymes and 1 bottle of HCL, and use code DIGESTFAST2022 to get 50% off the bottle of HCL.
And now the last idea to try while eating is…
Eat More Bitter Foods & Herbs
Unfortunately, in our modern world that prioritizes sweet and fatty foods, the taste of bitterness has fallen to the wayside. But, as research has shown bitter foods and herbs have been used for thousands of years to improve digestion. Not only do they stimulate saliva and gastric juices, but they also help stimulate digestive enzymes. In other words, they help speed up digestion.
And if you want to geek out with us for a second, let’s take a look at how this happens. So researchers in this 2015 paper noted:
- Bitters stimulate the nerves in your mouth
- Which then increases the release of gastric juices and bile
- Meaning food can be broken down more easily
- These same researchers also noted how bitter and sour tastes can also increase saliva production
Bitter foods and herbs include arugula or rocket, dandelion greens, apple cider vinegar, gentian root, as well as mint, ginger, and parsley.
And finally, to wrap this article up let’s look at what you can do after eating to speed up digestion.
It turns out the most effective idea researchers have found is to do some light exercise. You see, it turns out walking after a meal can aid digestion by stimulating movement in the stomach and intestines, which in turn helps food to move through the digestive tract more rapidly.
This was seen in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, where men who ate a 576-calorie meal and then walked slowly afterward, reduced their average gastric emptying time from 123 minutes to 107 minutes. Meaning the food left their stomach faster.
And as an interesting side note, this study also looked at whether alcoholic digestifs like brandy also sped things up. But unfortunately they found they did not help.
And now, if you’re wondering how light the exercise should be, we found this research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology which stated;
"...gastric emptying is increased during both moderate-intensity walking or running exercise as compared to resting conditions. However, gastric emptying DECREASES during high-intensity exercise.”
In other words, don’t have to go full Usain Bolt after a meal and do heavy exercise, as that might actually slow digestion.
And now to wrap up our article let’s look at a quick summary and the main takeaways.
Quick Summary & Main Takeaway
Before eating / during day
Drink more liquids, especially water
Eat more fiber
E.g. vegetables, beans, legumes etc
No distractions or stimuli (e.g. TV, work, walking etc)
Chew food more
150 to 200% more than normal, e.g. 10 chews → 15 to 20 chews per bite
Try digestion aids
Eat more bitters
E.g. arugula, dandelion greens, ACV, gentian root, ginger etc
Walking is best
So as you can see from our summary table, there are 7 things you should focus on to speed up your digestion. Drinking enough liquids throughout the day is key. And then when you sit down to eat your meal making sure it contains some fiber and ideally even some bitters will really help.
Meanwhile, eating your food without stress or distractions, and focusing on chewing your food more, will further help.
Of course, for extra protection it can be worth trying digestion aids like the supplements listed above. And once you’ve finished eating, consider getting a light walk in 20 to 30 minutes later.
Now we want to hear from you…
What’s the #1 thing that helps your digestion?
Let everyone know by leaving a comment below.
An evidence hierarchy is followed to ensure conclusions are formed off of the most up-to-date and well-designed studies available. We aim to reference studies conducted within the past five years when possible.
- Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Controlled trials without randomization
- Case-control (retrospective) and cohort (prospective) studies
- A systematic review of descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method studies
- A single descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method study
- Studies without controls, case reports, and case series
- Animal research
- In vitro research
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