My 4 Secrets to Improving Digestion

My 4 Secrets to Improving Digestion

  • Healthy Living

  • Wellness

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    Are you fed up with feeling tired, lethargic and bloated after eating? If so, let me tell you that I understand very well how that feels. After battling digestive issues all my life, having seen my mother suffer from stomach ulcers and regular heartburn, I felt extremely grateful to have discovered Yoga and Ayurveda (the medical science from ancient India concerned with health in the broader sense, thus including health practices, the body but also the mind). Through practising yoga as a discipline of life and studying Ayurveda while training as a Yoga instructor, I have learned that healthy digestion is the key to good overall health. I have seen my own health improve considerably from adopting a regular yoga practice and following Ayurvedic guidelines on digestion. Today, as a Yoga instructor and co-founder of, my goal is to help people improve their health using simple techniques from ancient teachings including yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. I am therefore very happy to share some of my secrets taken directly from my yogic lifestyle to improve your digestion and consequently, your overall health.

    1) Start the day with a cup of warm water

    To stimulate bowel movement in the morning, the best Ayurvedic trick is to start the day with a cup of warm water when you wake up. This expels the impurities from the previous day. If you want to make this a more “detox” habit, you can certainly add fresh lemon juice, freshly grated ginger and honey as desired. Drinking warm water (which has been boiled for 10 minutes) is an ancient Ayurvedic method for flushing out the lymphatic system, as well as cleansing and hydrating deep tissues. It also gently heals and repairs the digestive system. It is strongly recommended not to drink cold water, as many people are accustomed to doing, since cold water (and all cold drinks) hinders digestion. Cold water effectively freezes digestive enzymes and fluids in your gastrointestinal tract, which in turn disables the body’s digestive function. It is good practice to put hot water in a thermos before leaving for the day and always have a kettle close-by.

    2) Adopt a morning yoga routine

    Yoga has definitely changed my life on all levels. My morning practice on an empty stomach allows me to very gently and peacefully wake my body up and prepare my digestive system for breakfast. The practice can vary based on your body’s needs. The important thing is to stretch the entire spinal column, since the digestive system is controlled by the central nervous system, which is protected by the spinal column. The digestive system, like all the body’s other systems, is controlled by the nervous system. Numerous scientific research studies have shown that dysfunction in the spinal column and pelvis can cause confusion in the communication between the intestine and your brain. This is why it is not uncommon for people suffering from back pain to have issues with their intestines, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. Yoga has the effect of stabilizing the nervous system’s response to stress by eliminating muscle tension and calming derivative symptoms. A 20 to 30 minute morning session is ideal for stretching and circulating energy. Below are examples of series that I particularly enjoy practising in the morning when I wake up:

    3) Conscious eating

    We learn in Ayurveda to be fully aware and in the present moment when we are eating. This means taking the time to peacefully enjoy our meal, without doing anything else at the same time, while adopting a feeling of connection to and gratitude for our food. Sitting peacefully to eat instead of eating a quick meal in front of a screen (television, computer, phone) can make an enormous difference in terms of digestive health. After battling numerous digestive issues in my past, I experienced an enormous transformation in my physical and psychological well-being when I began to see my body as my temple, and my food as a way of making offers to this sacred inner sanctum. Thinking of each meal time as a sacred experience also means slowing down our eating, taking the time to chew our food well and feel the subtle nuances of every flavor and their texture.

    4) Practising meditation with “Pranayama”

    When we think “meditation”, the common goals that come to mind are attaining a high level of spiritual awareness or calming the mental state. However, modern science has discovered a completely different set of benefits from meditation including relieving several digestive issues. The digestive system is one of the most affected biological processes when the body is tense and anxious. If we are stressed, the body automatically puts itself into survival mode and therefore, it neglects its other functions, such as digestion, to concentrate its energies on our worries. This is why it is vital to adopt meditation as an anti-stress solution. Various breathing techniques known as Pranayama are at the heart of any meditation program. Oxygen levels in the blood and circulation are multiplied during meditation, which is paramount to the digestive system, particularly for the stomach and intestines. This has the effect of making digestion easier. In addition, the effectiveness of the digestive system will collectively build up session after session, providing not only immediate relief, but also a long term solution. Below are a series of breathing techniques that I practice regularly:

    and a kundalini anti-stress meditation:

    I hope that these little life habits will make a big difference in your daily digestion as has been the case for me.

    Love and light,

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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vegetarian cooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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