Most people suffer digestive stress at one time or another. Regularity of the digestive system is important for the proper metabolism of the foods you eat so they can be utilized by the body. Here are our top 10 tips for improving your digestive health.
- Eat a high-fiber diet
One way to help your digestive system is to eat foods with lots of fiber. The average diet consists of about 10 grams of fiber a day—far less than the 25 to 40 grams per day that your body needs. Boos your fiber intake by adding superfood fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes to your diet. The following list contains just a few superfoods that are high in fiber
- Black beans
- Lima beans
- Soy beans
- Consume both insoluble and soluble fiber
If you aren’t sure what fiber is and why it’s good for you, you’re not alone. Fiber is the part of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) that can’t be broken down by your digestive system. Fiber is important for your health—it keeps your digestive system healthy and helps to control blood sugar levels.
There are two types of fiber:
- Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and cannot be digested. It absorbs water and bulks the stool to help regulate bowel movements. Insoluble fiber is found in grains and some vegetables
- Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance that moves through the intestines. Found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, soluble fiber is associated with lowering cholesterol and controlling blood sugar.
A food is considered to have a high fiber content when it has more than five grams of fiber per serving.
- Limit foods that are high in fat
Many foods that are high in fat slow down the digestive process and can actually make you more prone to constipation. It is best to avoid high fat foods altogether. When consuming fats, try pairing them with food that are high in fiber to ease the digestive process.
- Eat only lean meats
Meats that are high in fat can often lead to uncomfortable digestion. When eating meats, opt for lean cuts such as pork loin and skinless poultry.
- Incorporate probiotics into your diet
Probiotics are living microorganisms that positively benefit you. They improve the health and functioning of your gastrointestinal tract (GI) and may help boost your immune system. Probiotics such as bacteria and yeast help balance the flora (microorganisms) found in your intestinal tract, killing off the bad bacteria and allowing the good bacteria to flourish. Probiotics are found in some yogurts and dairy products as well as in supplement form.
- Eat on a schedule
Eating on a schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape. Try to avoid eating on the go and opt to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.
- Stay hydrated
Water isn’t on our list of superfoods, but it’s a great addition to your diet to help some of the super-fiber foods work better. Drinking half your body weight (in ounces) of water each day helps counter the fluids that fiber absorbs. If you weigh 120 pounds, for example, you should aim to drink 60 ounces of water a day.
- Avoid bad habits: Smoking, excessive caffeine and alcohol
Among many other health problems associated with tobacco, caffeine and alcohol use, liquor, coffee, and cigarettes can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system, and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn.
- Exercise regularly
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are both good for your digestive health. Exercise keeps foods moving through your digestive system, which reduces constipation. Find an activity you can do consistently. A daily walk for 20 minutes is an example of something most people can easily incorporate into their routine.
- Reduce your stress
Too much stress or anxiety can cause your digestive system to go into overdrive. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis. Check out some of our top tips for managing stress: Decreasing Stress to Live a Longer, Better Life
*Agin, B., & Perkins, S. (2008). Healthy aging for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub.
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