There is so much information floating around about digestive wellness that deciphering it all can make you sick to your stomach. Back in ‘the day,’ you ate what you ate and suffered the consequences. We knew little about the connection between the food we ate and how we feel, physically and emotionally. Many people are so focused on losing weight that they often forget about the general health of their body and the nutritional implications of fad diets.
The human digestive system, also known as gastrointestinal (GI) tract is comprised by the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. This is the system responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients. If any of these parts are not working properly, it could lead to discomfort, headaches, embarrassment, and nutritional deficiencies with health implications. These problems may be the result of bacteria in food, infection, stress, reaction to certain medications, or chronic medical conditions such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS. In the United States alone, over 70 million people experience digestive disorders so you are in good company.
Step 1: Listen to your body and follow your gut instincts. Digestive issues like diarrhea, heartburn, and gas are signs something isn’t right. Many things can trigger digestive upsets. Try to pinpoint your own triggers by analyzing your eating patterns. Don’t ignore them.
Step 2: Take steps to help prevent digestive problems such as:
• Don’t rush your meals, small bites, chew food thoroughly, and don’t overeat.
• Get plenty of fluids; too little fluid slows down your digestive system. Good sources include water, broth, and soups.
• Eat a variety of foods that contain 25-30 grams of dietary fiber per day. Fiber promotes digestive health and can be found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in beans, peas, and lentils
• Limit your consumption of fats and alcohol. Fat takes a long time to break down and digest, leading to constipation, gas, and indigestion.
• Experiment with probiotics; Most of the gas in your intestine is produced by bacteria, but there are also strains of bacteria that have the opposite effect. Adding probiotic foods to your diet can help populate your gut with helpful bacteria that can ease digestion and reduce gas
• Exercise daily. Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to all your organs, and stimulates muscles in the GI tract.
• Clothes that are tight on the stomach can cause abdominal problems.
• Cleanliness is essential; wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before preparing food and eating food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling garbage, handling raw meat, and handling pets or their waste.
Step 3: Partner with your doctor. Your doctor will determine the reasons for your digestive problems and will prescribe a treatment plan such as suggesting dietary guidelines, and may prescribe medication to improve your digestive problem. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before trying over-the-counter remedies or supplements to determine possible side effects and drug interactions. Be careful who you accept advice from; always consult your doctor before trying any alternative therapy or supplement.
Eat, drink and be merry!