Indigestion can manifest itself as a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including heartburn, bloating, abdominal pain and nausea. Fortunately, there are various over-the-counter supplements, as well as simple techniques, that can help improve the digestion of the foods you eat. Among the most effective over-the-counter products include fiber, probiotics, licorice, artichoke and turmeric.
Fiber, the indigestible part of plant foods, aids in digestion and can prevent constipation. Psyllium is one form of supplemental fiber that can be used to increase fiber intake. Large amounts of fiber can actually increase bloating, gas and abdominal cramps, however. This effect is usually reduced once the body acclimates to increased fiber in the diet. Still, if you decide to use fiber supplements, such as psyllium, it is best to start with a small dosage and gradually increase.
Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria that live in the human gut and are found in various foods, such as yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables. According to Virginia Common Health, probiotics can aid in the digestive process and boost immune function. For those who do not consume dietary sources of probiotics, these friendly bacteria can be purchased as dietary supplements. According to MedlinePlus, one type of probiotic commonly found in supplement form, lactobacillus, is used to treat digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, inflammation of the colon and diarrhea.
New York University Langone Medical Center notes that artichoke was considered a valuable digestive aid by ancient cultures and is used today to treat various digestive problems, including bloating, stomach discomfort, constipation, diarrhea and lack of appetite. Licorice, a plant found in foods, beverages and tobacco, has been used as a treatment for digestive problems, including stomach ulcers, colic and inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Licorice is also rated as "possibly effective" by MedlinePlus for treating heartburn. Curcumin is an antioxidant substance that can be purchased as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin can stimulate bile production, which may improve digestion.
More Tips for Improving Digestion
In addition to over-the-counter products, there are some simple techniques you can use to improve the digestion of your food. According to Jamie Corroon, naturopathic doctor at the Bastyr University Center for Natural Health, chewing your food more gives the enzymes in your saliva more time to break down carbohydrates. It is also important to be in a relaxed state of mind while eating, as stress can block the production of gastric acid, a substance required to break down food and absorb nutrients. Eating bitter foods, such as unsweetened cocoa, citrus peel and bitter herbs like chamomile, can increase the production of gastric acid. Finally, keeping a food diary is an easy way to pinpoint and eliminate problem foods from your diet.
- MedlinePlus: Fiber
- Virginia Common Health: Probiotics for Healthier Digestion and Increased Immunity
- MedlinePlus: Lactobacillus
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Artichoke
- MedlinePlus: Licorice
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- Bastyr University: 4 Natural Ways to Improve Digestion
- MedlinePlus: Indigestion