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Did You Know?
In order to improve digestion problems, commonly associated with intestinal disorders, having homemade plain yogurt everyday is often recommended. This dairy product is full of good bacteria that aid in digestion as well as reduce abdominal discomfort, bloating and gas.

The food that we consume is absorbed and its nutrients are subsequently sent to different organs through the blood. All this can happen only when the digestive system is working at its best. Digestive system for kids or adults is a complex structure and its proper functioning is very important for overall health. However, a slow or sluggish digestive system isn't able to perform its assigned function effectively. That is why a person experiencing a bout of slow digestion is bound to feel extremely uncomfortable post lunch or dinner. Nausea, bloating and vomiting are the most common symptoms of sluggish digestive system that occur after having meals.

Causes

Constipation or common digestive problems like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome can make the digestive system sluggish. However, if none of these digestive disorders are present, then a slow digestive system can be due to the following reasons:

Too Much Protein in the Diet
Although protein is good for health, excessively high amounts of protein in the diet can slow down the digestive health. This is because, the body has to really work to digest protein. Unlike simple carbohydrates, proteins are heavy, hence are not easy to digest and so when its presence is alarmingly high in everyday meals, the consequence is a slow digestive system.

Intestinal Disorders
People with intestinal problems such as Crohn's disease tend to have a sluggish digestive system besides bowel dysfunction (diarrhea or constipation), vomiting and stomach pain. In this condition the lining of the small and large intestine are inflamed. However, in most cases, the swelling infiltrates in the inner layers of the bowel tissue. This chronic inflammatory disease considerably slows down digestion as the food tends to move at a very slow pace through the intestine.

Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is a condition that is typically marked by poor functioning of the muscles. As we all know, the ingested food passes through the stomach and eventually enters the intestine, where digestion takes place. A point to note that although food is digested in the stomach, most of the digestion occurs inside the intestine. Experts say that the intestine is the place where nutrients are observed and eventually circulated in the bloodstream to various parts of the body. However if the food stays for longer time in the stomach, this can affect the digestion process. This condition is known as gastroparesis, in which the stomach takes more time to transfer the ingested food to the intestine. This happens because the stomach muscles that are assigned the task of pushing the food to the intestine, lose their ability to work efficiently. Gastroparesis is the result of malfunctioning of the vagus nerve that regulates movement of muscles lining the stomach wall.

Deficient in Stomach Acids and Digestive Juice
The bile, a yellowish brown fluid manufactured by the liver promotes breakdown of fats, thereby playing a key role to keep digestive health in optimal condition. However, if the liver is damaged, it can decrease the bile production. Liver diseases like jaundice and hepatitis are likely to interfere with the normal digestive rate. This can slow down the digestion process substantially. The stomach cells also release certain acids for better digestion. However, insufficient production of stomach acids can have a negative impact on the digestion rate.

Medication
Patients taking certain medication like antibiotics and painkillers on a regular basis can reduce the population of good bacteria residing in the stomach and the intestine. Good bacteria aid in digestion and so when their presence decreases, it can slow down the digestive system.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on what is making the digestive system so slow. The underlying cause has to be identified, so as to begin the treatment in the right direction. A well-balanced diet high in easily digestible foods may help to resolve the issue associated with high protein. The doctor may also prescribe digestive enzymes that are available in the form of tablets to kick-start the digestion process. For gastroparesis, patients are advised to modify their diet. Usually, the diet for gastroparesis, involves inclusion of foods easy to digest. Also avoiding heavy meals is necessary as it can aggravate gastroparesis symptoms. Having 4-5 small-sized meals, instead of two large meals is the best way to manage gastroparesis.

Avoid or Minimize Consuming Cold Drinks
Drinking soft drinks or normal chilled water can also make the digestive system sluggish. After having a heavy lunch or dinner, many have the habit of grabbing a bottle of water from the refrigerator to quench their thirst. This can hinder the digestion of ingested food. Usually, the food consumed stays in our stomach for at least 2 hours, which is necessary for proper digestion. However, the ingested food does not spend much time in the stomach (hardly 20 minutes) when people drink cold water during or immediately after meals. This is why, digestion can become slow, so one should opt for water that is stored at normal room temperature.

Ditch Caffeinated Beverages
Coffee consumption and even soda, too can be detrimental to digestive health. To be honest, drinking coffee can reduce your ability to digest food. Indigestion is a common complaint in people who have been taking coffee for quite some time. Coffee is basically an acid forming beverage and it is a common knowledge that acidic foods are notorious for causing digestion problems. It is observed that drinking coffee increases the production of HCl in the stomach. So, every time you drink coffee, the stomach responds by producing more than normal amounts of HCl. Over time, the stomach loses its ability to produce adequate HCl, which impedes digestion.

Go For Fresh Foods
The habit of eating packed and processed foods should also be stopped as it can damage the digestive system and cause gas and bloating. Organically grown foods are found to be higher in essential vitamins and minerals in comparison to foods that involve use of synthetic pesticides. Eating foods that are fresh and properly cooked can go a long way in maintaining digestive system. On the whole, a healthy diet that focuses more on eating well-cooked vegetables, fruits and whole wheat products can correct a sluggish digestive system.

On the whole, an easy solution to boost digestive health, is to follow a suitable diet and lead an active lifestyle. High fatty foods such as hamburgers and pizza need to be either avoided or consumed in moderation. Raw foods are also difficult to digest, so make sure that the food is properly cooked. Eating habits like chewing the food properly and following a regular exercise routine can also contribute immensely to keep digestion problems at bay.