Improve Digestion Without Changing Your Diet

Digestion isn't all about your diet—there are plenty of non-dietary changes you can make to your lifestyle, instead.

published on Oct 23, 2022 by Christine Cernera

Digestion isn't all about your diet

Eating whole, minimally processed foods is always a priority when it comes to good health.  However, if you are not ready for that change there is still a lot you can do to improve digestion.  Not coincidentally, all of the ways to improve digestion listed below work hand in hand.  For instance, moving more improves sleep, sleeping better/more improves our energy so we will move more, reduced stress will help us sleep better and moving more reduces chronic stress.  I could go on but I think you get my point.

Here are my top non-food related tips:


Our body detoxifies and repairs while we sleep.  The migrating motor complex which basically cleans out our small intestines with a downward sweeping motion is most active when we are asleep.  If we are chronically sleep deprived this process will not be efficient and we put ourselves at risk for unwanted bacteria hanging out in our small intestine.  Nobody wants that!

Some tips for better sleep:

  • Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime
  • Stop using electronics 2 hours before bedtime
  • Make sure your room is very dark
  • Cooler temperatures, about 65 to 68 degrees, support better quality sleep

Get Moving

Exercise has been shown to improve the beneficial flora in our microbiome.  The more beneficial flora we have, the healthier our digestive tract and the better we digest our food and absorb nutrients.  Exercise also enhances our assimilation of nutrients and is a driver of elimination.  So the more we move, the better we get rid of metabolic waste and the better our bowel movements.

Some tips to get moving:

  • Take a brisk walk
  • Dance to your favorite song
  • Get up and do some jumping jacks
  • Walk around your house if you cannot get outside.  You get extra credit if you carry something heavy, like dumbbells in each hand.  Just make sure the weight is heavy enough to be a challenge but not too heavy.  

Manage Your Stress

Chronic stress increases our cortisol levels and engages our sympathetic nervous system, which is the  “fight or flight”  part of our autonomic nervous system.  When we are in sympathetic mode, our digestive system does not work properly.  The parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest”  is when our body is ready to digest our food, break it down thoroughly and absorb nutrients.

Some tips to reduce stress:

  • Deep breathing - take time a few times per day to stop and take intentional deep breaths
  • Get regular massages
  • Take a warm epsom salt bath (this helps with sleep too!)
  • Sing your favorite song loudly

You don't have to implement all changes at once. Pick one, practice it, and move on to the next!