You have likely experienced digestive symptoms such as gas, nausea, heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation at one point or another. Your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat into essential nutrients that your body needs. If you neglect your digestive health, your body might struggle to absorb these nutrients.
Fortunately, a healthy diet and lifestyle can have a direct positive impact on your digestive health.
Not sure where to start? Here are 11 ways to improve your digestion to keep things running smoothly.
Consuming a high-fiber diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes can not only help you maintain a healthy weight but can also improve your digestive health. This will keep food moving through your digestive tract, preventing constipation and treating various digestive conditions, such as diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
It’s also important to consume both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber can’t be digested by the body, which helps add bulk to the stools. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include bran, whole grains, and vegetables. Meanwhile, soluble fiber can help prevent stools that are too watery. Good sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Fatty foods tend to slow down your digestive process, which can cause constipation. While you should limit high-fat, processed foods, some foods contain healthy fat that is important for a healthy diet. Healthy fat includes avocados and nuts or legumes. Pairing healthy fat foods with high-fiber foods is the best combination to ensure everything runs smoothly in your gut.
Want to learn more about the foods you should limit in your diet? Check out our blog 8 Healthy Food Myths for a breakdown of foods you thought were healthy but should be limited in your daily diet.
A diet high in refined carbs, food additives, and saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of developing digestive disorders.
Trans fats, found in processed foods, are known for their negative effects on heart and gut health. In fact, consuming too much trans fat can result in an increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis.
Additionally, processed foods like ice cream and low-calorie drinks often contain artificial sweeteners, which can cause a slew of digestive problems. For example, one study found that 70% of people who ate 50 grams of the artificial sweetener xylitol had symptoms of bloating and diarrhea. Further, 75 grams of the sweetener erythritol caused the same symptoms in 60% of people.
There are guidelines to help you watch for food that is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt, or sugar:
To learn more about sugary snacks you need to avoid, check out our blog Recommended Daily Sugar Limit And Healthier Sugar Alternatives.
While protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, fatty meats can also cause digestive discomfort. Instead, choose lean cuts of meat such as skinless poultry and pork loin. Select a smaller portion of fatty meat and fill your plate with fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as “good bacteria,” and this is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms that serve as the first line of defense in protecting your body and bloodstream. Probiotics can help combat the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress. They can also help break down lactose, strengthen your immune system, and even help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some probiotic-rich foods include:
Another great way to improve your digestive health is to consume meals on a regular schedule by aiming to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time every day.
Unequivocally the most important thing you can do to improve your digestive health is to drink plenty of water. Fiber pulls water into the colon to create bulkier, softer stools, which allows them to pass through more easily. As such, your body needs plenty of water to do this. Drink an extra 16 ounces or more of water per day (on top of your usual daily water intake) to help keep your body, immune system, and digestive system in tip-top shape.
It’s no secret that smoking, alcohol, and excessive caffeine are bad for your overall health. Liquor, cigarettes, and too much caffeinated beverages can also significantly interfere with your digestive system and lead to additional problems like heartburn and stomach ulcers.
Moving your body regularly will help keep foods moving through your digestive system and reduce constipation. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
For safe exercise tips, check out our blog Biggest Exercising Myths + How to Safely Weightlift.
Bad habits and fatty foods are not the only things that can cause digestive issues. Too much stress and anxiety can also cause your digestive system to kick into overdrive. To alleviate this, find stress-reducing activities and hobbies you enjoy and practice them regularly. Some ideas include:
Simply put, a healthy diet and positive lifestyle changes can significantly improve your digestive health if you experience occasional or chronic symptoms. Reducing your stress, ditching bad habits, and eating whole grains and foods high in fiber are great first steps you can take. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important that you speak with your primary healthcare provider to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your digestive symptoms.
If you experience more severe symptoms, such as stomach or abdominal pains, visit your nearest ER Near Me immediately.