9 Strategies to Improve Digestion That Have Nothing to Do with What You Eat

6 min read

9 Strategies to Improve Digestion That Have Nothing to Do with What You Eat

Posted May 29, 2024 Updated May 29, 2024

Good digestion is important for everyone, whether you struggle with the occasional gas and bloating or you’re just looking to optimize your health. You’ve probably heard about all the foods you need to eat to support your digestion. But it’s easy to forget that how you eat and your overall lifestyle are just as important as the foods you’re consuming.

In honor of May 29th being World Digestive Day, we’re bringing you the tips and tricks you need to support a healthy gut before, during, and after meals… and these tips have nothing to do with what you eat. If you want to learn zero and low-cost strategies to support gut health, improve digestion, and reduce the occasional bloating and gas, read on!

Setting the Stage for Digestion: Pre-Meal Strategies

1. Keep it Consistent 

Your stomach is actually really smart! It learns to anticipate when you’ll be eating and gets ready to do its job before you’ve even lifted your fork. (Hence the grumbly tummy!) But if you don’t stick to a regular eating schedule, your body might not be as ready to digest when you want to eat. This may lead to occasional gas, bloating, and upset stomach. 

Try this: Do your best to have a consistent eating schedule on most days including weekends and eat dinner at least 3 hours before bed.1 That may require a little planning in advance, penciling it in on your planner, or setting an alarm on your phone as you’re first building the habit.

2. Hydration Hero 

Staying hydrated is key for just about every single area of your body, down to the cellular level. And your gut is no exception!2 Water plus fiber is the perfect marriage to help move everything through the intestines and prevent constipation.

Try this: Instead of waiting to drink all your fluids with meals, which can lead to feelings of uncomfortable fullness, start hydrating as soon as you wake up. Start your day with a tall glass of water to get things moving first thing in the morning. Enjoying non-caffeinated drinks like OLIPOP during the day can also make staying hydrated a no-brainer.

3. Stress Less, Digest More 

Have you gotten butterflies in your stomach when you were nervous or lost your appetite when you were upset? Then you’ve already experienced the gut-brain connection. When your body is in a stressful ‘fight or flight’ mode, the blood leaves your gut and goes to your limbs in case you need to, you know, fight off a bear.3 While this is useful short term, being in this state regularly can disrupt hormones and digestion.

Try this: Before eating, practice at least one of these tips to bring your body back into a ‘rest and digest’ mood, especially when you’re feeling stressed:

  • Take 4 deep breaths, inhaling for a count of 6, holding for 7, and exhaling for 8.
  • Go outside for a few minutes (no phones allowed!) and look around, breathe in deeply, and put your bare feet on the grass.
  • Do a 5-minute guided meditation or visualization exercise.
  • Get in a few laughs with a family member or coworker.

4. Bitter is Better

Sometimes a little signal is all we need to get ready to eat. You might have noticed that smelling your food makes you salivate or your stomach grumble. That’s great for digestion and preparing your body to eat! 

Try this: Bitterness tells your gut to get ready for incoming food which supports digestion. So I often recommend putting a few drops of Swedish bitters on your tongue a few minutes before eating or starting your meal with bitter greens like an arugula salad.4

Digesting with Ease: During-Meal Strategies

5. Chew, Chew, and Chew Some More

Did you know that digestion starts in the mouth? Not only are your teeth mechanically breaking the food down into smaller pieces but the enzymes in saliva also start to digest carbohydrates. 

Try this: Chew your food so much that it feels like you can’t chew it anymore. Aiming for at about 30 chews per bite is a good goal, and more challenging than you might think!5 This allows for easier digestion through your gut and better nutrient absorption.

6. Savor & Slow Down

When you eat while distracted, you tend to skip over many important aspects of the eating process. Not only are you missing out on the enjoyment of eating, but you’re losing some of the benefits and even causing unnecessary gas and bloating.

Try this: Turn off the TV, put away your work, don’t eat while driving, and maybe even put down your fork between bites to really be present, slow down, and savor the meal.

7. Portion Sizes Matter

Have you ever noticed that when you skip meals during the day, dinner tends to be a big feast and you feel too full after? That’s because your stomach isn’t meant to hold so much food all at once. Eating more than the body is ready for can disrupt digestion and may contribute to reflux.1

Try this: Tune into your hunger and fullness cues (which go hand in hand with eating slowly), stop eating when you feel 80% full, and don’t skip meals during the day.

Supporting Digestion After the Feast

8. Gentle Movement 

While it may be tempting to flop onto the couch after dinner or get right back to work after lunch, sitting in a hunched position prevents food from flowing through the intestines which can lead to cramps, gas, bloating, and heartburn.

Try this: Go for a short walk after eating to improve gut motility and release trapped air. As a bonus, your blood sugar will thank you too!6

9. Let it Go 

We’ve all been there: you have a delicious meal, only to experience more gas than normal. This is not only inconvenient but can be painful! Gas production is a normal process of digestion that can occur if you eat fast or when bacteria in your gut microbiome enjoy all the fiber you’re eating. While some gas is normal and healthy, too much is not pleasant.

Try this: Alternate between a few different strategies to see what works best for you:

  • Lay on a pillow on your stomach and breathe deeply.
  • On your back, pull your knees into your chest.
  • Sit in a deep squat, with your back against a wall if needed. 
  • Bounce on your toes.
  • Go for a gentle walk.

Better Digestion: The Takeaway

Now you have a better understanding of different factors that affect your gut health (aside from what you eat) as well as lifestyle strategies to support digestion and deal with the occasional gas and bloating. Remember, your body is unique so all these strategies are meant to give you options so you can experiment and find what works best for you. No need to feel overwhelmed! Instead, pick a few that seem the most relevant for you and start with those. Finally, if you are experiencing ongoing symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, or pain, consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. Found this information helpful? Share it with a friend and spread the gut love!


  1. Kang JH, Kang JY. Lifestyle measures in the management of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: clinical and pathophysiological considerations. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2015 Mar;6(2):51-64. doi: 10.1177/2040622315569501. PMID: 25729556; PMCID: PMC4331235.
  2. ​​Ma GS. [Hydration status and health]. Zhonghua Yu Fang Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2019 Apr 6;53(4):337-341. Chinese. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.0253-9624.2019.04.001. PMID: 30982263.
  3. Browning KN, Travagli RA. Central nervous system control of gastrointestinal motility and secretion and modulation of gastrointestinal functions. Compr Physiol. 2014 Oct;4(4):1339-68. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c130055. PMID: 25428846; PMCID: PMC4858318.
  4. McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504. doi: 10.1155/2015/670504. Epub 2015 May 14. PMID: 26074998; PMCID: PMC4446506.
  5. Cirino, E. (2020b, March 20). Chewing your food: Is 32 really the magic number? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-many-times-should-you-chew-your-food
  6. Hosseini-Asl MK, Taherifard E, Mousavi MR. The effect of a short-term physical activity after meals on gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals with functional abdominal bloating: a randomized clinical trial. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 2021 Winter;14(1):59-66. PMID: 33868611; PMCID: PMC8035544.
Cheat Sheet
  • Do your best to hydrate regularly and have a consistent eating schedule. This helps your gut get ready to digest!
  • Slow down and enjoy your food! Savoring can help ease the digestion process, plus it helps to chew your food a lot before you swallow. 
  • Try not to skip meals or overwhelm your stomach with a giant feast. We also recommend incorporating some gentle movement afterward to help ease any bloating or gas.
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