Simple Tips To Help Improve Digestive Health

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Digestive Problems

We are quickly winging our way to the big holiday meals of the year. I believe good digestion is foundational for health. In that spirit I thought I would share my thoughts on how to protect this system and curb digestive problems as we begin to enjoy the holiday season.

Tips for Improving Digestive Problems

Avoid Drinks at the Dinner Table

Every romanticized picture and painting of the American family table includes a big glass of something next to the plate. This is so unfortunate. Liquid should be available for occasional sips, or to help in case of choking, during a meal. The more we drink, the more we dilute our already depleted digestive juices. Truthfully, if you find yourself needing to drink to get your food down it’s a sign that you’re eating foods that are not right for you (this happens with a lot of bread products that act like glue) or that you have dried out your digestion and need to do some work.

Add Bitters

We have a bitter receptor on our tongue that no longer gets stimulated with the American diet. This taste is very important to digestion, stimulating the production of bile. Eating food that is bitter increases nutrient absorption and decreases acid reflux, inflammation, and dysfunction in the digestive tract. Bitters like dandelion greens, radicchio and bitter melon can be added to the diet. We went for ease of use and created several bitters formulas for our household and our customers.

You can learn how to make your own simple bitters for better digestion, or you can purchase them here.

Sit Down

I would also add to this that you need to sit up straight. We tend to stand, run, drive, or recline on a sofa while eating. In order for food to travel from the mouth to the stomach without interruption or back-up of stomach acid, we need to work with gravity.

Chew Slowly

I believe the process of chewing is taken for granted. It seems that we throw some food into our mouth, bite it a couple of times, and swallow it down. Chewing and tasting are an important first part of digestion. It is critical that we chew our food slowly and completely. The more our food is broken down in this first step, the easier it will be in the next couple stages to absorb nutrition.

Eat with Friends

How you feel while you are eating contributes to how well you digest your food. In college, my friend Sharla and I had a running joke that anything eaten with friends was calorie-free. In a small way, we were correct. Food is not calorie-free, but we absorb the nutrition better and it causes less weight gain. If we are under stress, pressure, or if we are angry, our adrenal glands trigger hormones that shut down our digestion. Focus on a calm, happy, and relaxed atmosphere when you eat if you want best results.

Don’t Talk While You Chew

That’s right, just like your mother told you! Don’t talk with your mouth full! Only I’m not saying this just because it is rude and disgusting. When we talk while we chew we tend to swallow air. This is one of the reasons people tend to burp after eating.

Skip the Ice

Ice in your drink slows down your metabolism. It is a stress on the kidneys and causes your body to fight for temperature balance. It is especially troublesome in the winter when your body really needs to stay warm. Ice in your drink is the fastest way to blow out the candle that is your digestive fire.

What do you do to improve digestion?

Share your tips with the community in the comment section below.


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. LINDA ADSIT says

    There are only two things with which I’ve had success in regulating digestion. First is fermented vegetables. They occupy No. 1 in my arsenal. They are easy to make, and can be delicious when made from organic vegetables like cabbage, celery, radishes, carrots, etc. They are a far sight cheaper than probiotic pills and capsules. And their nutritional content is out of this world. For me, their effect at producing normal bowel function is overnight, with no distress.

    Second is Raw Milk. Your body needs to acclimate to it, since drinking regular milk all your life has probably compromised your intestions. And many people who are lactose intolerant have no trouble with raw milk. However, it can be devilishly difficult to find. Raw milk cheeses are a good substitute. But obvously, they should not be cooked.

    So, if anyone asked me, I’d say fermented vegetables, right off the bat.

  2. Lorna Wood says

    I’ve heard eating yogurt with added bacterial cultures is useful. Is this true? Using a low fat variety with fresh fruit makes an attractive non-fattening desert, adding fibre to your diet. It’s a healthy choice for women who don’t want extra calories, the added calcium helps maintain strong bones, and it appeals to children who like the bright colours of the various fruit. I personally enjoy the taste, so I obviously hope it has this added benefit.

  3. Lucy says

    I always drink whilst eating because I love really spicy foods. Is milk okay to drink with foods or it is worse because it’s alkaline?

    • Dawn says

      There really isn’t a difference with what you drink. It’s in the amount. Just be sure you are sipping only a little bit of your milk during meals.

  4. Yasser says

    There is a lot of tips to improve digestion..firstly, we must drink a lot of water in middle temperature,(40 minutes maximum before meals, and 1 hour minimum after meals).
    We can use fenugrec in recipies, it has a lot of benefits.
    Sports also improve digestion.

  5. char says

    I think I may be working against my digestion by drinking a lot of water. When is the best time to get your fluid intake?

    • Dawn says

      Hi Char,
      Just avoid drinking a lot of anything 20 minutes before or 20 minutes after meals. Otherwise, go for it!