Your digestive health is directly impacted by your lifestyle and the foods you choose to eat. By taking steps to improve your habits, your digestive system will function more efficiently, improving your overall health.
1. Manage your stress. When you are in the fight-or-flight mode of high stress, your digestive system slows down because blood is being diverted away from the digestive tract and into the muscles. Take time to relax, breathe and reduce the stress in your life.
2. Get regular exercise. Exercise reduces stress, increases blood flow to all your organs and stimulates muscles in the GI tract. This keeps food moving through your digestive tract and reduces constipation. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day.
3. Take your time. Slow down and chew each bite at least 20 times. That gives your stomach time to prepare to properly digest the nutrients you are giving it and allows your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough. Also, try to avoid eating in front of the TV or the computer. Studies show that when people are distracted while eating they eat significantly more than when they are at a dinner table.
4. Eat more fiber. A high fiber diet of 25-35 grams per day is excellent for digestion. It keeps food moving through your digestive tract and helps to prevent conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids. Berries, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and beans are some great options for increasing fiber.
5. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is good for your digestive health. Water in your digestive system helps dissolve fats and soluble fiber, allowing these substances to pass through more easily. Most of your water should be between meals, not with your meals because it can dilute your stomach acid too much.
6. Incorporate good bacteria into your diet. Healthy bacteria are naturally present in your digestive tract, and they enhance nutrient absorption, help break down lactose, strengthen your immune system and possibly even help treat irritable bowel syndrome. Add foods like yogurt or kefir (unsweetened), and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha tea to your diet. If you do not like these foods, take a probiotic supplement.
7. Take supplements. Some people can’t, or won’t eat the foods required for healthy digestion. There are great supplements available ranging from enzymes to probiotics. Your health care professionals can help you choose the right products.
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For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Wendy has a master’s degree in nutrition and offers a full range of whole food supplements.