7 Drinks for Better Digestion
If it feels like your digestive system is—uhh—underperforming, these drinks might help. That's right, elements of each of these drinks could help you get your digestion back on track and, pun intended, running smoothly. Your gut health plays a role in many other parts of your body—your mood, your heart, your immunity—so keeping it in good shape is important. While what you eat matters, drinks can help too. Whether you're feeling bloated, backed up or nauseous—try one of these 7 research-backed drinks to help improve your digestion. One word of caution: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing in this category. So, start slow. And maybe roll your cart through the paper goods aisle too for some extra TP. (Yep, we went there.)
7 drinks for better digestion
1. Prune Juice
If you thought this was an old wives' tale, guess again. Turns out prunes, and the juice they're made into, are a great source of sorbitol—a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol that is typically not absorbed and draws water into your large intestine. And that extra water helps to keep things moving along through your GI tract. Prune juice also retains some of the fiber from the whole fruit: in a cup of prune juice, there's about 3 grams fiber.
This fermented tea beverage is loaded with probiotics—and a recent study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming probiotics reduced 'gut transit time' (aka how long it took for things to pass through subjects' systems), upped stool frequency and decreased bloating. But the findings were most significant when multiple strains of probiotics were consumed (not just one). Fortunately, kombucha offers various probiotic strains and a high quantity.
Related: Is Kombucha Healthy?
Similar to kombucha, kefir delivers probiotics, and more than one strain. That alone is good for digestion. But also, another recent study— in the journal Nutrients—looked at kefir specifically. When animals were fed kefir every day for a month, the makeup of their gut microbiome improved, and that has big-picture gut and digestive health benefits. Try kefir in this Berry-Mint Kefir Smoothie recipe.
The key to making a smoothie good for your digestive tract is to make sure it delivers a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. Research shows that combination helps with consistency and improves gas. In fact, that combination is just as effective, if not more so, than a psyllium fiber supplement (a common OTC laxative).
Soluble fiber absorbs water and softens things, and makes it easier to pass. It's in fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Insoluble fiber is in the skins of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, and it doesn't absorb water, but acts as 'roughage' in your GI tract and shuttles things through.
Want to up your smoothie for better digestion? Add a couple of kiwis: eating 2 a day for two weeks helped participants of one study boost their bowel movements without causing adverse GI symptoms.
Try this Clean Breeze Smoothie, made with kiwis.
5. Chia seed tonic
Similar to how smoothies (with the right ingredients!) can be beneficial for your digestion, so can chia seeds. That's because they deliver both soluble and insoluble fiber—and you now know that combination helps to keep your digestive tract humming along as it should. But also, chia seeds are really quite high in fiber. In a single tablespoon, there's about 4 grams fiber, which is 14 percent of your daily recommended amount. Our chia seed tonic uses a whole tablespoon of chia seeds, so you get all that healthy fiber when you drink up.
6. Ginger tea
Well-known for its ability to quell nausea (which is scientifically accurate, btw), ginger has also been found to help with digestion. According to a 2020 review study in the journal Nutrients, ginger helps with digestion by encouraging GI function and emptying, while also stabilizing overall GI motility so it's not over- or under-active. Stick to ginger tea, as most ginger ales aren't made with real ginger.
Related: Health Benefits of Ginger
We left the most basic (and best) for last. But sometimes the most expected and common advice is truly the best. Water falls into that category. Not drinking enough water or other liquids is the second-listed contributor to constipation, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. So, stay hydrated by aiming for about 15½ cups a day, men. Women, your target is around 11½ cups a day, per the The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. That said, about 20 percent of our water needs comes from foods, so you can probably knock off 2 to 3 cups from that total count.