Tips for Maintaining Healthy Digestion

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Digestion
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

Healthy digestion is important to our overall health in a lot of different ways, so here are some tips for staying regular.

What to look for in healthy digestion

Having regular bowel movements may not always matter in your day to day, but it’s a good indicator of how healthy your diet is overall. The ideal is to have 2 or 3 movements a day. A healthy colon moves the waste of your food along, getting it out before it has time to putrefy and release toxins and cancer-causing molecules into your system.

In addition to the number of movements per day, here are a few qualities to look for in terms of healthy poop:

  • light brown color
  • doesn’t float or sink too deep – it should lay on the bottom, but not out of sight down the drain
  • no undigested food bits (except corn and flax seeds – they won’t digest)
  • about a foot long
  • about an inch wide
  • solid, but not hard

If you’re having trouble with digestion, here are some things to try…

Get Enough Fiber

This is probably the most common diet tip for constipation, but you need to make sure that you’re getting enough of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Aim for 30-50 grams of fiber per day, with half soluble and half insoluble fiber. Psyllium is the most commonly used fiber in cereals and supplements, but is soluble fiber and too much of it can actually make things worse by clogging and dehydrating the colon.

Some foods that you can add to your diet for constipation relief that are rich in fiber:

  • fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens, and fruits – keep the skins on
  • whole grains
  • seeds – particularly ground flax
  • beans and legumes

Stay Hydrated

The effects that water can have on your overall level of health is really amazing. It gets overlooked, like air, because it’s so basic – but it’s basic because it’s absolutely essential to our body’s functions.

Among its many benefits, drinking enough water keeps your colon hydrated. If your colon gets dehydrated, it won’t be able to contract and move food waste onward and outward.

Get Enough Healthy Fats

Another important food to make sure you get in your diet for constipation relief is healthy fats. If you aren’t getting enough fat in your diet, your poo is likely to be dry and hard. This type of poo is much harder for your colon to shift along. Fats will make your poo softer, and give some lubrication.

If you’re avoiding fat thinking that it will make you fat, think again. Fats are necessary for a healthy metabolism, along with proteins and carbohydrates in the proper ratio. If you avoid fat entirely, you’ll actually slow your metabolism along with your bowel movements. Always choose healthy fats from whole foods, like nuts, seeds and avocados.


The colon works through muscle contraction, and even light exercise can help stimulate your colon. If you’ve ever gone for a jog first thing in the morning, you might notice that by the time you get back your colon has woken up.

For exercise at home, try yoga or bodyweight workouts. There are so many videos, on youtube, or membership sites like yogadownload. I like doing workouts with the nike+ training app.

Think about How you Sit

This might sound crazy at first glance, but the position of your body when you sit on the toilet can make a difference in your colon’s ability to move. Putting your feet up on a stool, or even something DIY like a phone book, can really help. In places where they use squatting toilets, they aren’t really for lack of technology – they just know that the bowel moves better from that position. It also helps to give it a bit of time, don’t rush the process. Smart phones have really extended most people’s toilet breaks, and that can be a good thing!

Laxative Herbs and Foods

If all else fails, and you still aren’t seeing any movement you can use natural laxatives to get things going. Just make sure that you’ve adjusted your diet for constipation relief first, and don’t rely on laxatives all the time. They don’t fix the underlying problem, and can irritate your colon.

Cascara sagrada and senna are two medicinal herbs that are pretty powerful laxatives. Prunes (dried plums) are a tried-and-true laxative, that work both because of their fiber content and certain compounds that trigger the colon to move. Coffee drinkers will also know that a daily coffee helps keep things regular.

Further Reading:

Foods to Improve Digestion

Worst Foods for Digestion


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