Many people suffer from digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, nausea, intolerance and other digestive issues. Many of these conditions can be avoided by following a healthy diet. You can slowly change your habits to include fiber, probiotics, water and more and find that your symptoms can abate or go away entirely. With any of these methods, it is a good idea to add slowly to your diet and do them one-at-a-time. Any great changes in diet can cause nausea, gas, bloating and changes in bowel movements. Your symptoms may abate in time and lead to healthy levels of microorganisms and gas in the bowels. Below are 14 Tips for Digestive Health.
1. Add a probiotic to your diet. Common probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, coconut water, miso, soy and other fermented foods. These foods are filled with bacteria similar to your body’s own microorganisms that are needed for digestion, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
A good way to start is to ensure you get at least 3 tbsp. (44 ml) of yogurt per day. Plain yogurt is best. Although most yogurt should have active organisms, you will want to check on the label to ensure it contains the necessary microorganisms.
2. Begin adding soluble and insoluble fiber to your diet. Most people get only a small portion of the 20 to 35 mg of fiber that is recommended for healthy digestion. If you are only eating small amounts of beans, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, begin adding them little by little until 75 percent of your diet is filled with these foods.
Soluble fiber includes carrots, cucumbers, lentils, oats, other cereals and fruits like strawberries, pears and oranges. They attract water and form a gel that helps to fill you up more quickly with fewer calories.
Insoluble fiber includes nuts, seeds, chia, whole grains, brown rice, celery, bulgar, onions, vegetable skins and dark, leafy vegetables. These types of fiber do not absorb water. They help the food move through your digestive system more quickly.
Some of these types of fiber are called “prebiotics.” They are found in some greens, onions, garlic, artichokes and bananas. They contain a type of helpful bacteria similar to probiotics. Studies have shown that a lack of fiber can lead to an overabundance of harmful gut bacteria, which can be painful, and slow digestion.
3. Reduce fat and sugar in your diet. Not only can these substances cause stomach aches in high quantities, but they slow digestion, causing constipation. One way to ensure you are reducing fats and sugars is to reduce the amount of processed food that you eat, as these tend to have hidden chemicals and sugar.
4. Drink plenty of water. The combination of high-fiber and water will increase the efficiency of your digestion. Most doctors recommend eight 8 oz. glasses per day (1.9 l). Experiment with this amount to see if your body requires more.
People who exercise regularly should increase the amount of water they consume. For example, they may want to consume an extra 16 oz. (0.5 l) of water for every 30 minutes of intensive cardiovascular exercise.
5. Try eating several small meals per day. Your body is better at digesting smaller quantities at a time. After you figure out the amount of food that works well per meal, try to keep a regular schedule that your body can adjust to.
6. Eat lean proteins, such as fish and lean cuts of meat. These proteins are essential for healthy muscles, but lean cuts are less likely to cause heartburn and are also quicker to digest. In general, high-fat foods take longer to digest than low-fat foods causing digestive issues.
7. Exercise. What is good for the entire body is good for the digestive system. Exercise and movement help food move through your system and aid in weight loss, which can also help digestion.
8. Avoid the consumption of cigarettes and limit alcohol and caffeine. The chemicals contained inside these substances can cause nausea and they can also erase the effects of good diet choices. Caffeine may also cause an increase in acidity in the stomach that can lead to high levels of heart burn and acid reflux.
9. Reduce stress in your life. Stress has been shown to cause weight gain, constipation, diarrhea and a lowered immune system. It will leave you prone to the dangerous h. pylori bacteria that causes ulcers.
Yoga, meditation, massage, baths and other relaxation techniques can help you to handle stress and inadvertently help your digestion.
10. Keep track of your digestive habits. Use a journal to write down what you eat and any increase or reduction of symptoms that you experience. You may only need to change 1 to 2 things about your diet to improve your overall digestion.
11. Go to the doctor, if you have improved your eating habits but you feel that you are still in ill health; you may have a food allergy, intolerance or disease. Make an appointment for your doctor to test you for allergies or put you on an elimination diet.
During an elimination diet, you slowly take away 1 factor, such as dairy or wheat, that may be causing your trouble. After 2 to 4 weeks without this type of food, you start to add it back and see if your digestive problems return. This should only be done under the advisement of a doctor.
Seek a doctor’s help immediately if you believe you have celiac disease. This auto-immune disease happens when the gluten protein is ingested. This induces a reaction for the immune system to attack the bowels.
Adapted from How to Improve Your Digestive Health.