The digestive system is an important part of the body and any problem related to it can cause a lot of discomfort. Its primary functions are to help your body absorb essential nutrients and get rid of waste products.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 60 to 70 million Americans suffer from some kind of digestive problem.
Some common digestive issues include indigestion, bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, peptic ulcers, lactose intolerance, food intolerance, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While the causes of digestive problems vary, some common factors are poor diet, improper hygiene, lack of exercise, dehydration, excessive smoking, excessive alcohol intake, stress, lack of sleep and nutritional deficiencies.
As there are different types of digestive problems, proper diagnosis and treatment is essential. However, you can use home remedies and lifestyle changes to treat some common digestive issues, such as indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. Serious digestive problems, however, may need treatment by a specialist.
Here are the top 10 home remedies to treat digestive problems.
To improve digestion and prevent digestive problems, you must include ginger in your diet. It stimulates digestive juices and the flow of enzymes needed to properly digest food. It is effective for preventing and reducing nausea, vomiting, flatulence, indigestion, bloating and diarrhea.
In addition, it has carminative, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent digestive problems.
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. To make the tea, boil 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger in 1½ cup of hot water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, strain out the ginger, add some raw honey and enjoy your tea.
- Alternatively, add 2 teaspoons of ginger juice and 1 teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm water. Drink it once or twice a day.
- To improve digestion, chew a small piece of ginger after your meals.
2. Probiotic Foods
Probiotic foods help keep your digestive system healthy and functioning efficiently. Probiotics contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria (good bacteria) that help restore the natural balance of your gut bacteria. They can help treat and prevent digestive problems like diarrhea, abdominal bloating, flatulence and IBD.
A 2010 study published in the Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology journal highlights the efficacy of probiotics, as either a single strain or a combination of probiotics, in treating several digestive issues.
Some of the best probiotic foods include Greek yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, buttermilk and sour pickles. You can even take probiotic supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
The herb peppermint also aids digestion and prevents digestive disorders. Its carminative, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties help treat gas, bloating, intestinal cramps as well as nausea and vomiting.
In addition, it helps calm an upset digestive system and accelerates healing.
A 2007 study published in the Digestive and Liver Diseases journal suggests that this herb helps improve abdominal symptoms in people suffering from IBS. It can even treat similar symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease.
- Drink peppermint tea once or twice a day. To make the tea, add 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink it.
- Eat fresh peppermint leaves daily by sprinkling them over your dishes or add them to your salads.
- Another option is to take enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules 3 or 4 times a day for a few weeks.
4. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds also support digestive health. You can use them to treat heartburn, indigestion and low stomach acidity. These seeds also provide relief from intestinal spasms and bloating commonly associated with IBS.
A 2003 study published in the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine journal concluded that fennel seed oil (emulsion) helps decrease the intensity of infantile colic.
- Chew 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds after eating your meal to aid digestion.
- To treat indigestion, drink fennel tea or take ½ teaspoon of fennel seed powder along with a glass of water twice daily. To make fennel tea, steep 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds in a cup of hot water for about 5 minutes.
The potent-smelling spice asafetida is good for your digestive health due to its antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiflatulent properties.
It is highly effective in treating gas, flatulence, upset stomach, stomach pain and food poisoning. You can also use it to treat colic pain in small babies.
- To improve digestion, mix a pinch of asafetida in a glass of warm water and drink it after your meals. Also, include this spice in your daily cooking.
- For small babies, you can rub a little asafetida mixed with water around the navel to reduce stomach pain and gas.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Another ingredient that helps keep your digestive system in good health is apple cider vinegar. Though acidic in nature, it has an alkalizing effect in your body.
This helps improve digestion and treat problems like indigestion, gas, bloating, stomachaches and heartburn.
In addition, it has pectin, a water-soluble fiber that regulates bowel movements.
- Add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water.
- Mix in a little raw honey.
- Drink this 2 or 3 times a day to maintain a healthy digestive system.
7. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk, also known as isabgol, can help promote regularity and overall digestive health. This natural laxative contains insoluble fiber that adds bulk to your stool and makes bowel movements easier. It even helps prevent constipation, gas and flatulence.
- Thoroughly mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk in a glass of warm water or milk.
- Drink it before going to bed.
- Repeat daily for smooth bowel movements.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has powerful laxative properties that support the proper functioning of the digestive system. Plus, compounds called polysaccharides in it help treat different digestive disorders, including stomach ulcers.
In addition, aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties that help soothe irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract.
- Add 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel to a cup of water or orange juice.
- Blend it in a blender.
- Drink it every morning on an empty stomach.
Note: Do not consume aloe vera if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Another herb used to treat common digestive disorders is turmeric. Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, stimulates the gallbladder to release bile.
This aids digestion and improves liver function. Its anti-inflammatory property also helps reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
A 2013 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found turmeric to be an effective therapeutic approach to both functional and organic digestive diseases.
You can use this popular herb to treat several digestive disorders, including dyspepsia, peptic ulcers, IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Drink ½ teaspoon of turmeric juice with a glass of water a day to prevent digestive problems. You can also include raw turmeric in your regular cooking.
- Another option is to take curcumin supplements. For proper dosage and suitability, consult your doctor.
Oatmeal promotes intestinal health due to its high fiber content. Fiber helps maintain bowel regularity and prevents constipation. Oatmeal can even reduce symptoms like heartburn and nausea associated with GERD.
In addition, being a bland, low-fat food, oatmeal is easy to digest, which means you can enjoy it even when suffering from diarrhea.
- For a healthy digestive system, start your day with a bowl of oatmeal. You can add fruits and nuts to enhance its nutritional value.
- You can also try oat flour and oatmeal cookies to improve your digestion.
- Know your digestive triggers and try to avoid them.
- Instead of eating 2 large meals, eat 4 or 5 small meals to avoid overeating.
- Never skip breakfast and be sure to have healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.
- Avoid lying down immediately after eating, which increases the risk of heartburn and nausea.
- As stress can cause or aggravate digestive problems, try to manage stress with yoga or meditation.
- Practice proper hygiene to support better digestion and to avoid food poisoning and diarrhea.
- If you are lactose intolerant, find your lactose threshold. Although you will have to limit your intake of milk and other dairy products, you do not need to eliminate them completely. For instance, you can still enjoy a little yogurt at a time.
- Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly for proper digestion.
- Eat more fiber-rich foods to prevent digestive problems by regulating the system. You can find fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. It helps in the process of digestion and also prevents constipation.
- Make time for moderate exercise, which is known to fight stress and aid digestion.