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For Improved Digestion, Start with the Basics

Nov 29, 2022, 13:40 PM by Christina Dominguez, MS, RD, IFNCP


For most of us, the past two years have caused a lot of shifts and changes in our lives and as a result, some may have noticed changes in their digestive patterns.

Illustration of digestion

It has become increasingly common for my patients to report varying degrees of abdominal distention (bloating), increased flatulence and upset stomach after eating. With the increase in advertising on social media for direct-to-consumer food sensitivity kits, some have asked if food intolerances could be causing their symptoms. While food sensitivities are a possibility, it is a good idea to assess the basics first.

Here are 7 strategies that can help decrease gas, abdominal bloating and improve your overall digestion:


How long does it take you to finish your meal? It can take our stomachs at least 20 minutes to sense fullness. If you finish your meal sooner than this, there is a chance of accidently overeating before sensing this cue, leaving you feeling uncomfortably full and bloated. Eating large meals can also trigger acid reflux in some people. To help you slow down, imagine your meal divided into four sections. Consume 1/4 of your meal and then pause for 2-3 minutes before beginning to eat the next section. During each pause notice any sensations in your stomach that indicate you are approaching fullness.


Eating on the go, in the car, or in a rush sets you up to swallowing bites of food that have not been chewed very well. Try taking smaller bites and chewing them to a paste texture before swallowing. This might take 20-40 chews depending on what you are eating. You may notice the flavor of your food more, too.


Smaller meals are easier to digest. If you typically eat three large meals per day, try making them a bit smaller and eat a small snack between meals if you get hungry.


Think of digestion as a top-down process that starts in your brain. Thoughts and feelings significantly influence your ability to digest food. For example, if you are struggling with anxiety or stress, some foods may cause gas, nausea, or feel as if they are “sitting” in your stomach after eating them. Deep breathing prior to meals can help calm the nervous system and allow the body to enter into a state of “rest and digest”. Start by breathing in through your nose as you count to four, then hold your breath for a count of four and breathe out again for a count of four. Repeat these steps at least three times prior to meals.


If you are not evacuating your bowels on a regular basis, food will stay in the colon longer contributing to bloating and gas. Work to increase the amount of unsweetened liquids you drink and slowly increase your intake of fiber from whole grains, fruit with skins on and vegetables. If this is a chronic issue, speak with your doctor and a registered dietitian for individualized guidance.


Keep a food record for 1-2 weeks to help identify the cause of your bloating. Make notes about where you ate, what you ate and drank, emotional state (e.g. stressed, anxious), when your symptoms began and how long they last. If you start to see a pattern, ask your doctor for a referral to speak with a registered dietitian; they can help you develop a safe and effective nutrition plan.

Some healthy foods naturally produce more gas in our digestive tract and it may help to reduce the portion size or how often you consume them. Be sure to speak with a registered dietitian prior to making any changes to your diet.


  • Common food triggers: beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, lactose containing foods, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners
  • Common beverage triggers: beer, sparkling water, kombucha and other carbonated beverages

Christina Dominguez, MS, RD, IFNCP, is a Registered Dietitian at Sansum Clinic. Registered Dietitians offer comprehensive nutrition education for a wide variety of health concerns. To make an appointment, please get a referral from your doctor and call the Nutrition Department at (805) 681-7522.