Woman drinking a glass of water after a meal to help digestion

What to Drink After a Meal to Help Digestion

Medically reviewed on July 11, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

After consuming food or liquid, it travels from the mouth to the esophagus and into the stomach, where it’s broken down by stomach acid and additional digestive enzymes. It then enters the small intestine, which absorbs nutrients into the bloodstream, where they’re dispersed throughout the body. [1]

Digestion is important in supporting and maintaining overall health and well-being. It ensures that your body receives the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed for growth, energy production, and various bodily functions. [1]

It’s also believed that some drinks may effectively aid digestion by promoting better nutrient absorption, soothing the digestive tract, and encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. In this article,what to drink after a meal to help digestion is explored.

1. Water

A recent study found that drinking warm water, rather than cold, may improve mammal gut microbiota—the collection of bacteria, archaea, and eukarya that live within the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the: [2]

  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine

The gut microbiome, and its microbiota composition, is a multifaceted component of overall well-being. This is largely due to what’s called the ‘gut-brain axis’, which refers to communication between the nervous system and intestinal functions.3 As such, gut microbiota can influence mood and immune, digestive, and mental health. [3]

Consequently, a disruption in the microbiome or an influx of bad bacteria can negatively impact health and may be associated with several metabolic and gastrointestinal diseases and/or conditions, such as: [2]

  • Obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • Crohn’s disease (CD)

The aforementioned study found that cold water can contribute to an imbalance in gastrointestinal bacteria, specifically in farm animals. But the same is believed to be true for humans and may be the cause of symptoms like diarrhea, low growth rates, and poor immunity. [2]

The study found that warm drinking water can alleviate digestive issues, such as diarrhea, and actually optimized gut microbiota in mammals. [2]

Additionally, drinking water will not dilute the digestive enzymes and juices. In fact, it actually aids digestion by assisting in the breakdown of foods in the stomach, and softens stool in the large intestine, which can mitigate constipation. [4]

In addition to drinking the recommended 9 to 13 cups of water a day alongside or after your meals,5 you can also add water-rich foods to your diet to aid digestion, such as: [5]

  • Lettuce
  • Leafy greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Celery
  • Berries
  • Melon

2. Herbal and Spiced Teas

Similar to warm water, herbal and spiced teas can help break down food and prevent gastrointestinal issues. For thousands of years, teas have been brewed to assist in the treatment of: [5]

  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea

A variety of teas can assist with the above symptoms, including:

  • Peppermint tea – Peppermint oil, which comes from the Mentha piperita plant, contains a compound called ‘menthol’, which may improve digestive issues and functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs). It can also help relax the intestinal muscles and esophagus and relieve bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and any abdominal pain related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). [6]
  • Turmeric tea – A spice of the ginger family, turmeric, contains cucumin, which is believed to have many health benefits including being an anti-inflammatory agent. As such, it’s believed to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including abdominal pain and diarrhea. [6]
  • Cannabis tea – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a component found in the Cannabis sativa plant. This may help improve appetite, prevent vomiting, and improve nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in people experiencing gastrointestinal issues. [6]
  • Ginger tea – Ginger is known to improve gastric motility—the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract—in some mammals. Drinking ginger tea may also help reduce pain in those experiencing digestive inflammation, such as the inflammation that occurs in individuals with IBS. It can also ease digestive discomfort, bloating, indigestion, nausea, constipation, and feelings of fullness in some cases. [6] So, if you’re asking “Why do I bloat after eating?”, you may want to try ginger tea.
  • Gentian root tea – One study found that drinking 100 milliliters of gentian root tea (bitter teas) increased blood flow to the digestive system, thus improving digestion. [7] It’s also been used in traditional medicinal practices to treat diarrhea, inflammatory diseases, anorexia, and digestive problems, helping by increasing digestive enzymes and acids. [8]
  • Fennel tea – The licorice-tasting herb is believed to be an anti-inflammatory agent and can be infused into teas to prevent the development of ulcers, improve bowel movements, and prevent constipation. It may also be a diuretic, helping to increase urine production. [9]
  • Angelica root tea – The plant may ease constipation and protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage in those with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that impacts the large intestine. [10]
  • Dandelion tea – Extracts from the dandelion flower may stimulate blood flow and muscle contractions to move food more easily from the stomach to the small intestine, thus improving digestion and nutrient absorption. [11]
  • Senna tea – Senna is an herb that may have laxative effects, increasing muscle contractions within the bowel. As such, senna tea may assist in treating those with constipation. [12]
  • Marshmallow root tea – Marshmallow root may increase the amount of mucus that lines the gastrointestinal tract, which protects the digestive system from foreign microorganisms and food-associated toxins.13 The mucus also coats and preserves digestive enzymes, food particles, and bile. [14]
  • Black tea – Black tea, like Earl Grey and English Breakfast, may improve indigestion and protect against stomach ulcers by way of its antioxidant properties. [15]

See related: How to Speed Up Digestion

3. Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that’s historically been used to topically treat skin conditions and burns. However, its juice—made from mixing the gel with water—may also provide benefits for healthy digestion. [6]

Primarily, aloe vera can soften and lubricate stool to help prevent constipation. It may also be able to ease the severity of IBS symptoms, such as pain.6 However, another study found that regularly consuming aloe vera juice caused some participants to experience nausea and vomiting,6 so you may want to talk to your healthcare provider before opting for aloe vera juice to aid in digestion.

4. Kombucha

Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, may benefit digestion. This effervescent drink is made through the fermentation of sweetened tea with the help of symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).

As the fermentation process progresses, a range of organic acids, probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins that aid in digestion are produced. [15]

One of the primary benefits of kombucha for digestion is its probiotic content. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. When consumed, these beneficial bacteria can help to populate the gut with good microbes, supporting efficient digestion and nutrient absorption. They may also help ease gastrointestinal disorder symptoms. [16]

Kombucha is also known to be rich in organic acids, such as acetic acid, lactic acid, and gluconic acid.15 These acids are byproducts of the fermentation process and can help to support digestive processes. For instance, acetic acid may aid in the breakdown of proteins, while gluconic acid can enhance the body's ability to absorb minerals, thus optimizing nutrient utilization from the foods consumed. [15]

The enzymes present in kombucha can further assist in breaking down complex molecules into simpler forms, making it easier for the body to digest and assimilate nutrients. Enzymes play a crucial role in supporting various metabolic processes and can be beneficial for individuals who struggle with digestive issues. [15]

5. Green Juice or Smoothies

Dietary fiber isn’t digested by the body; however, it can help support digestion and the movement of food particles through the digestive tract to reduce constipation.17 You’ll find fiber in various fruits and vegetables, including: [17]

  • Apples
  • Raspberries
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots

As such, combining a few of these ingredients in a juice or smoothie may increase the size and softness of your stool, thus decreasing the chance of constipation. High fiber foods have also been shown to be more filling, to help keep you fuller longer. [17]

Generally, it’s recommended that women consume 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber daily. [17]

Prune juice is another high fiber option to add to your smoothies, as it can also help regulate, and significantly increase, bowel movements. That’s because it contains a component called ‘sorbitol’, which draws water into the colon to create a laxative-like effect. [18]

Drinks to Avoid: Alcohol

In some people, consuming large amounts of alcoholic drinks after eating may cause intestinal inflammation and cause significant damage to the gastrointestinal tract. It may also negatively impact gut microbiota. More specifically, alcohol consumption can promote bacterial overgrowth and gut microbial imbalance (dysbiosis). [19]

Consequently, this imbalance can lead to inflammation throughout the whole body, potentially leading to: [19]

  • Organ dysfunction
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers
  • IBS

For Digestive Health, Consult With Everlywell

Overall, it’s believed the best drinks for digestion are water, teas, aloe vera juice, kombucha, and green drinks—all of which are known for their digestive benefits and overall health-promoting properties.

If you’re uncertain about how to support your digestive health, Everlywell provides telehealth services for those looking to learn more about how to address gastrointestinal symptoms and make lifestyle appropriate changes. You’ll speak to a licensed healthcare provider, who will be able to assess your medical history and current condition and provide possible treatment options.

To further dive into your digestive health, understand your body’s needs with the convenient, at-home Food Sensitivity Test, Food Allergy Test, or Metabolism Test.

  1. NIDDK. Your Digestive System & How It Works. NIDDK. URL. Published May 11, 2023.
  2. Wang Q, Fu W, Guo Y, et al. Drinking Warm Water Improves Growth Performance and Optimizes the Gut Microbiota in Early Postweaning Rabbits during Winter. Animals: an Open Access Journal from MDPI. 2019;9(6):346. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060346. URL.
  3. Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology. 2015;28(2):203-209. URL.
  4. Water after meals: Does it disturb digestion? Mayo Clinic. URL.
  5. Harvard School of Public Health. Water. The Nutrition Source. URL. Published September 24, 2019.
  6. Fifi A, Axelrod C, Chakraborty P, Saps M. Herbs and Spices in the Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Review of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1715. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111715. URL.
  7. McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Whitton PA, Towell A. Bitter tastants alter gastric-phase postprandial haemodynamics. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2014;154(3):719-727. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.041. URL.
  8. Mirzaee F, Hosseini A, Jouybari HB, Davoodi A, Azadbakht M. Medicinal, biological and phytochemical properties of Gentiana species. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2017;7(4):400-408. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.12.01.
  9. Badgujar SB, Patel VV, Bandivdekar AH. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014. doi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/842674. URL.
  10. Wong VKC, Yu L, Cho CH. Protective effect of polysaccharides from Angelica sinensis on ulcerative colitis in rats. Inflammopharmacology. 2008;16(4):162-167. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10787-007-0026-5. URL.
  11. Jin YR ., Jin J, Piao XX ., Jin NG. The effect of Taraxacum officinale on gastric emptying and smooth muscle motility in Rodents. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2011;23(8):766-e333. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01704.x. URL.
  12. Wang X. Screening and identification of proteins mediating senna induced gastrointestinal motility enhancement in mouse colon. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2002;8(1):162. doi:https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v8.i1.162. URL.
  13. Asnaashari S, Dastmalchi S, Javadzadeh Y. Gastroprotective effects of herbal medicines (roots). International Journal of Food Properties. 2018;21(1):902-920. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2018.1473876. URL.
  14. Herath M, Hosie S, Bornstein JC, Franks AE, Hill-Yardin EL. The Role of the Gastrointestinal Mucus System in Intestinal Homeostasis: Implications for Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 2020;10. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00248. URL.
  15. May A, Narayanan S, Alcock J, Varsani A, Maley C, Aktipis A. Kombucha: a novel model system for cooperation and conflict in a complex multi-species microbial ecosystem. PeerJ. 2019;7:e7565. doi:https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.7565. URL.
  16. Verna EC, Lucak S. Use of probiotics in gastrointestinal disorders: what to recommend? Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2010;3(5):307-319. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283x10373814. URL.
  17. Mayo Clinic. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published 2021.
  18. Does Prune Juice Help Relieve Constipation? Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published February 21, 2023.
  19. Bishehsari F, Magno E, Swanson G, et al. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol research: current reviews. 2017;38(2):163-171. URL.
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