Supporting Better Digestion

Supporting Better Digestion

Digestion. For most, it’s not a topic that often crosses our minds…until something goes awry and we’re forced to pay attention. While often overlooked, healthy digestion is vital for our very survival and affects every part of our wellbeing. In recent years, research into the importance of the digestive system has boomed, and our understanding of the pivotal role the gut plays in our health is growing every day; we now know it not only impacts how we feel physically, but also our immunity, emotional wellbeing, disease risk, skin health and more – which is why supporting the digestive process is essential for everybody. Before we dive into how we can promote better digestion, let’s briefly recap how the system works…

The Role of the Digestive System

The digestive system’s roles can be split into two main categories; digestion and absorption. During the digestion process, various organs (including the mouth, stomach and small intestine) work to break down food into its constituent macro-and micro-nutrient molecules, allowing them to be absorbed and utilised by the body. This is completed with muscle contractions, called peristalsis, to mechanically break them down, in combination with the release of acids and digestive enzymes, digesting food chemically[1]. Nutrient absorption can then take place, primarily in the small intestine, before waste products are transported through the large intestine and to the rectum for excretion. Mechanical methods of digestion do not break food down small enough for absorption, hence why chemical digestion is such an essential part of the process. Without it, nutrients vital for our health cannot be utilised and over time, malnutrition may occur. Furthermore, insufficient digestive enzymes can cause a range of uncomfortable physical symptoms, including bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.

Supporting Digestion Through Diet

Digestive symptoms like these may not be life-threatening, but they can be debilitating, embarrassing and have the ability to negatively impact quality-of-life for those affected. They are also incredibly common; in fact, it is thought that up to 40%[2] of the UK population suffer from at least one symptom of a digestive problem at any one time. Fortunately, for most people digestive complaints are often mild, and better digestion can be easily achieved through appropriate diet and lifestyle management. Some of the main drivers of digestive symptoms include:

  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Food sensitivities
  • Inflammation
  • Antibiotic use
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Ageing
  • Gut dysbiosis

Most drivers of digestive complaints cause issues by affecting gut function and creating imbalances within the microbiota, in turn reducing the output of digestive enzymes. As such, the aim of digestive support is to improve gut function, promoting microbial balance and increasing digestive enzyme production. This in turn will aid in the breakdown of nutrients and increase their bioavailability for absorption leading to improved digestion and a feeling of increased wellbeing. As triggers of digestive issues are so vast, it is important to approach the management of them from a holistic perspective, addressing physical, psychological and emotional stressors.

Alcohol and caffeine-containing foods and beverages have been shown to increase gut motility thus reducing intestinal transit time[3]; while this may be of benefit for those struggling to stay ‘regular’, habitual consumption may result in nutrient deficiencies due to lack of absorption. It is also worth noting that alcohol and caffeine both activate cortisol production, which may adversely affect the gut microbiome by increasing levels of inflammation. As such, reducing consumption or switching to decaffeinated options would be advisable to support better digestion. For similar reasons, limiting consumption of ultra-processed foods, often containing high levels of refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, salt, and chemical additives, should be encouraged; in the PREDICT study[4], higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was positively associated with an increase in intestinal microbial species known to be markers of inflammation. As inflammation itself can reduce microbiome diversity and digestive enzyme production, their consumption is problematic for gut and overall health, especially for those experiencing digestive issues.

Fibre and Probiotics

Instead, emphasis should be on eating foods supportive of gut health, such as those rich in fibre and protein, along with pre-and probiotics and foods rich in naturally-occurring enzymes to aid healthy digestion. High-fibre diets have been linked to increased microbial diversity[5], in turn promoting the production of digestive enzymes. Furthermore, fibre intake modulates systemic inflammation by keeping the gut lining healthy, lowering circulating oestrogen concentrations (which may be pro-inflammatory if reabsorbed) and regulating blood sugar balance[6]. Adequate consumption of protein is vital due to the high presence of l-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid shown to both support microbiome balance and increase the expression of tight junction proteins, therefore promoting integrity of the intestinal lining[7] and promoting improved digestion.

Probiotics, present in fermented foods such as kombucha, miso, kimchi, live yoghurt and kefir (and may also be supplemented), promote digestive health by populating the gut with beneficial microbes, while inhibiting the growth of harmful pathogens. Finally, choosing foods rich in naturally-occurring digestive enzymes is a useful technique to promote better digestion. Sauerkraut, mango, raw honey, papaya, pineapple and avocado contain varying amounts of these enzymes: for example, diastase (amylase), esterase, catalase, glucose oxidase, invertase and other enzymes that support digestion are all present in raw honey[8]. If these foods are not available or palatable, supplementing with digestive enzymes can be a great alternative. Nutrigold Digestive Support capsules contain amylase, lactase and protease among other enzymes, to support the breakdown of starches, proteins and fats.

Supporting Digestion Through Lifestyle Factors

Although food choice is a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to gut health, addressing lifestyle factors is paramount to support better digestion. The practice of mindful eating has been demonstrated to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress hormones and increasing production of digestive enzymes, in turn reducing symptoms of digestive discomfort[9]. As emotional stress plays such a pivotal role in digestion, adopting stress management techniques is encouraged to reduce cortisol production and dampen systemic inflammation. Finally, as antibiotics can reduce diversity of bacterial species[10], including those of benefit, their use should be limited to only when absolutely necessary to prevent dysbiosis of the microbiota.

To conclude, supporting better digestion is key to tackling digestive issues and promoting overall health and wellbeing; for the best chance of success, it is important this is approached holistically, through a combination of diet modification and lifestyle adjustment.


[1] Your digestive system & how it works (no date) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: (Accessed: February 13, 2023).

[2] Gut health (no date) Nutritionist Resource. Available at: (Accessed: February 13, 2023).

[3] González, S. et al. (2020) “Long-term coffee consumption is associated with fecal microbial composition in humans,” Nutrients, 12(5), p. 1287. Available at:

[4] Asnicar, F. et al. (2021) “Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotyped individuals,” Nature Medicine, 27(2), pp. 321–332. Available at:

[5] Cronin, P. et al. (2021) “Dietary fibre modulates the gut microbiota,” Nutrients, 13(5), p. 1655. Available at:

[6] Myhrstad, M.C. et al. (2020) “Dietary fiber, gut microbiota, and Metabolic Regulation—current status in human randomized trials,” Nutrients, 12(3), p. 859. Available at:

[7] Perna, S. et al. (2019) “The role of glutamine in the complex interaction between gut microbiota and Health: A Narrative Review,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(20), p. 5232. Available at:

[8] Cianciosi, D. et al. (2018) “Phenolic compounds in honey and their associated health benefits: A Review,” Molecules, 23(9), p. 2322. Available at:

[9] Cherpak CE. Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2019 Aug;18(4):48-53. PMID: 32549835; PMCID: PMC7219460

[10] Ramirez, J. et al. (2020) “Antibiotics as major disruptors of gut microbiota,” Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 10. Available at:

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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