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