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Weak Digestion: Symptoms, Causes And Home Remedies

| Reviewed By Karthika Thirugnanam

A healthy digestive system is a result of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The human digestive system is a complex series of organs and glands meant for processing food. In order to produce energy from the food we eat, the body has to break down the food into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used for various bodily functions. It is also essential to excrete waste from our body.

Digestion problems are fairly common, especially among those who consume excessive amounts of fried and cheesy foods or heavy meals. Around 1 in 4 people in India are affected by digestion problems [1][2].

Digestive problems or weak digestion can occur when the food is not digested properly or due to underlying problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers or gallbladder disease, bile duct issues or food intolerances, which can in turn cause symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, feeling full after a meal, or burning pain in the chest and stomach [3][4].

Today, we will look at what weak digestion is and how you can improve your digestion.

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What Does It Mean To Have Weak Digestion?

I think it is safe to suggest that almost all of us have had occasional digestion issues such as an upset stomach, feeling gassy or bloated, heartburn, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. As the name suggests, weak digestion is when your digestion process does not function the same way as that of a healthy human being and causes irritability and discomfort [5].

If you have a weak digestion, where your digestive system fails to function normally, you may experience heartburn to some unexpected (and embarrassing) gas passing and more. Poor digestion silently leads to several ill-health conditions like migraines, anxiety, depression, eczema, acne, joint pain and allergies [6]. Hence foods that impair your digestive system should either be consumed in limited quantities or completely avoided.

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How does the digestive system work?

[Image courtesy: Wiki]

Before getting into the topic of weak digestion, you need to understand how your digestive system works. Digestion is a long process that involves not only your stomach but also many organs that form the digestive tract [7][8].

  • Digestion begins in the mouth, where saliva breaks down the food while you chew.
  • When the food is then swallowed, the chewed food moves to the oesophagus, which connects your throat to the stomach.
  • The food is then pushed down by the muscles in the oesophagus to a valve at the bottom of your oesophagus.
  • Upon reaching the stomach, the stomach acids break the food down and move it to the small intestine.
  • In the small intestine, digestive juices from several organs, like the pancreas and gallbladder further break the food and the nutrients are absorbed.
  • The remaining goes to the large intestine, where all the water is absorbed.
  • What is now left is the waste, which moves out of your body through the rectum and anus.

This is how a healthy digestion process normally takes place. In the case of a person with weak digestion, problems can occur anywhere along the way [9].

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What Are The Causes Of Weak Digestion?

Here is a list of some of the most common causes of weak digestion.

An unhealthy diet: A diet consisting of processed food, junk food or a one that comprises a high amount of carbohydrates, refined sugar, salt and fats can lead to an unhealthy digestive system [10]. Foods that are low in essential nutrients can slow the digestion process and cause bloating and irritable bowel syndrome [11].

The Dos And Don'ts Of Dieting

Lack of physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle can cause the development of more than forty medically recognised and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, mental illness, dementia and different types of cancer [12]. A lack of regular physical activities can weaken your digestive system [13], as studies have consistently shown that a regular exercise regimen can help treat constipation and promote healthy digestion [14].

Lack of fruits and vegetables in diet: It is no news that fruits and vegetables are essential for maintaining a healthy diet. Consuming fewer or no vegetables and fruits can lead to constipation and other digestive ailments [15]. The fibre found in fruits and vegetables plays an important role in maintaining healthy gut bacteria as well.

Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation is a major reason for increased appetite, which can directly increase the risk of weak digestion [16]. Apart from craving for unhealthy snacks while having the sleepless night, untimely these poor eating habits cause fluctuations in hormone levels as well. Not getting ample sleep can also lead to digestion-related issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia [17][18].

Insufficient water intake: Studies point out that dehydration is one of the leading causes of an unhealthy digestive system, which can lead to constipation, gastritis and acid reflux because the stomach does not have enough water to produce digestive acid required for digesting your food [19]. Most healthy adults need to drink at least 7 to 8 glasses of water daily and may require more if they live during hot weather or if one engages in strenuous activities.

Hot Water Or Cold Water: Which Is Healthier?

Overeating: One of the major causes for weak digestion, overeating slows down the digestive process causing the food you ate to remain in the stomach for a longer period of time and be more likely to turn into fat [20]. Insufficient digestion may result in various problems like heartburn and acid reflux, vomiting and nausea [21].

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What Are The Symptoms Of Weak Digestion?

Apart from your lazy habits, the modern lifestyle makes it easy for one to develop weak digestion from high-stress levels, too little sleep, take-aways etc. These are the signs and symptoms which may indicate that you have weak digestion [22][23]:

  • Upset stomach, most times during the day
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Constant fatigue
  • Skin irritation
  • Food intolerances
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

Top 9 Fruits For Constipation Relief

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How To Improve Weak Digestion | How Can I Improve My Weak Digestion?

The problem of weak digestion is not something that does not have an answer or a complicated one to crack. Adoption of a conscious and healthy way of living can help in many ways to improve your digestion process.

Here are some tips and remedies to help improve weak digestion:

Add fruits to breakfast: Addition of raw foods, such as fruits can help improve and strengthen your digestion [24]. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day which boosts your ability to function every day and adding fruits such as bananas, kiwi, papaya, cherry etc. can help with your digestion process [25].

Easy & Healthy Raw Food Ideas For Breakfast!

Drink water: Drinking the right amount of water every day is key to your digestion process [26]. One must drink at least 7 to 8 glasses of water daily [27]. Drink a glass of water with every meal, which also helps in keeping you full and speed up the digestion process.

Eat fibre-rich vegetables & fruits: Vegetables and fruits are essential for maintaining a healthy diet and a healthy digestion process. Include fibre-rich veggies and fruits that can speed up the digestion process and promote better absorption of nutrients from the digested food [28].

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Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve the digestion process with minimal effort. You do not have to do the heavy exercises as a walk for 20-30 minutes, simple push-ups and jogging are also equally beneficial in improving the weak digestion [29].

Probiotics and fermented foods: Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi. kefir etc. support healthy body systems from your mouth to your gut, and help control harmful microorganisms like germs. These foods can improve nutrient absorption and improve the digestion process.

Some of the other tips to improve weak digestion are as follows [30]:

  • Sleep well
  • Eat your food sitting down
  • Eat healthy snacks and not fried foods
  • Practice portion control
  • Eat real foods
  • Add fish oil to your diet
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Chew your food well
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Simple Exercises You Can Do At Home

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Home Remedies For Weak Digestion

Here is a list of home remedies that can help with weak digestion and provide some relief.

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1. Mint Tea

Studies have shown that consuming mint leaves can help improve digestion. The active compound menthol in mint leaves can boost digestion [31]. A go-to remedy for nausea and indigestion, mint leaves should be consumed in limited quantities. Excess consumption of mint leaves may cause heartburn or acid reflux. Studies suggest that you can drink 2-3 cups of mint tea a day for best results [32].

How to make mint tea for weak digestion

  • You can either use dried mint leaves or the fresh ones.
  • In case of fresh mint tea, take a few fresh mint leaves and add it to boiling water and boil it for a while.
  • Then steep it for about a minute.
  • Strain it and then drink.
  • In case of dried mint leaves tea, take a few dried mint leaves and then add it to boiling water. Steep it for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain it and drink.
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2. Chamomile Tea

Regular consumption of chamomile tea can help improve digestion and speed up the digestion process [33]. Drink it twice a day for positive results.

How to make chamomile tea for weak digestion

  • To prepare chamomile tea, place one or two tea bags in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • Pour in a cup and add honey, if desired.
  • Drink the tea 2 times a day to improve digestion.
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3. Ginger

Another beneficial food or herb for digestion-related problems, ginger can reduce stomach acid and promote better digestion [34]. Drink a cup of ginger tea as needed to soothe your stomach and get rid of indigestion.

How to make ginger tea for weak digestion

  • For one cup of ginger tea, add 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger to water and boil.
  • Drinking ginger tea can help soothe the stomach, especially in pregnant women.
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4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been used to manage acid reflux for a long time. When consumed, it helps treat the symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn and nausea and improve the digestion process [35].

How to use apple cider vinegar for weak digestion

  • Add one to two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and drink for fast relief or,
  • Drink this mixture 30 minutes before eating.
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5. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds also have a cooling effect on your body that helps with digestion [36]. Fennel is an antispasmodic herb which can treat indigestion and gastrointestinal problems like stomach cramping, nausea, and bloating [37].

How to use fennel seeds for weak digestion

  • Add ½ teaspoon of crushed fennel seed in water.
  • Boil for 10 minutes and let it cool before drinking.
  • You can also drink fennel tea.
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6. Lemon Water

The oldest trick in the book, lemon is the perfect answer for treating weak digestion. The citrus fruit has components that aid the liver to produce bile in an adequate quantity to facilitate digestion [38]. Lemon water also helps in curing constipation and diarrhoea. Drink a glass of lemon water daily to get rid of digestion-related issues [39].

How to make lemon water for weak digestion

  • Slice up 2 lemons in half and put them in a bowl containing 200 ml of water.
  • Boil the water for 3 minutes.
  • Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the lemon and pulp from the water.
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7. Baking Soda

Although it may come as a surprise, baking soda is beneficial for improving weak digestion [40]. It can help maintain a healthy pH balance in the digestive system for optimal digestion, minimised acid reflux, and healthy bowel functioning [41].

How to use baking soda for weak digestion

  • Take a teaspoon of baking soda and add it to a glass of water.
  • Mix well and drink for relief.
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Foods To Eat For Weak Digestion

These foods can help improve your overall digestion process [42]:

  • Apples
  • Chia seeds
  • Probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, miso etc. [43]
  • Prebiotic foods such as garlic, onion, banana etc.
  • Beetroot
  • Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley etc. [44]
  • Dark leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli etc.
  • Salmon
  • Bone broth
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Foods To Avoid For Weak Digestion

Here is a list of foods you should limit to improve your weak digestion [43]:

  • Coffee with milk
  • Fatty foods such as red meat, cheese etc.
  • Fried and processed foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
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On A Final Note...

Considering that digestion is amongst the most important functions required for you to stay alive and healthy, having weak digestion can pose several health complications. Studies point out that in some cases, weak digestion is an indication for large groups of evidently unrelated diseases. However, you can help improve your digestion by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Note: Frequent indigestion or weak digestion is often a symptom of a chronic digestive problem like acid reflux, gastritis, and even stomach cancer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I clean out my digestive system?

A: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a great way to regulate digestion. Eating foods high in water content and also help.

Q. What are the three worst foods for digestion?

A: Fried foods, citrus foods and added sugar.

Q. How do you reset your stomach?

A: Choose whole grain varieties of bread, pasta and rice over white varieties, consume more pulses, beans and lentils, eat probiotic foods, consume more veggies, and eat mindfully and manage your stress.

Q. What foods cleanse the gut?

A: Broccoli, raspberries, dark, leafy vegetables and oats are some of the most common ones.

Q. What should I drink in the morning for gut health?

A: Most dieticians recommend starting your morning with a glass of lemon juice and honey on an empty stomach.

Q. Is drinking hot water good for constipation?

A: Drinking hot water helps to break down food faster than drinking cold or warm water and reduces the risk of constipation by supporting regular bowel movements.

Karthika ThirugnanamClinical Nutritionist and Dietitian
MS, RDN (USA)
Karthika Thirugnanam