12 Ways to Improve your Digestive Health
Your digestive system is working nonstop to fuel every cell in your body and efficiently remove the waste. Neglecting your digestive system can have adverse effects that influence every part of your life. Your diet and other lifestyle choices greatly impact your digestive health and are often areas where small changes can have a big impact.
Here are some ways that lifestyle choices can improve your digestive health.
1. Eat fruits and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits contain healthy nutrients and fiber to support your digestive system and overall health. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables have cancer-fighting properties, and fiber lowers your risk of constipation.
Good choices are: a variety of fruits and vegetables in every color
2. Choose whole grains and nuts
Whole grains still have the dietary fiber, iron, antioxidants, and other healthy nutrients lost when grains are refined to make processed foods like white flour, white bread, crackers, and pastries. Fiber lowers your risk of constipation, and some whole grains support your good gut bacteria.
Good choices are: brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, whole wheat products, barley
3. Limit red and processed meats
Processed meats usually have an unhealthy amount of sodium, fat, and nitrates linked to colon cancer. Red meat has been linked with cancer, heart disease, and digestive issues.
Good choices are: chicken, fish, legumes, and limiting red meat to 2-3 servings per week
4. Limit added sugars
Too much sugar can upset the balance of good bacteria and cause inflammation. Added sugars are found in many products, especially baked goods, ice cream, and desserts. They are also added to many processed foods, even when you wouldn’t expect it – like pasta sauces, salad dressings, and soups.
Good choices are: fruits for a sweet treat, unprocessed whole foods
5. Cook healthier
Healthy eating isn’t only about your food choices, it’s also about how you prepare them. Fried and grilled foods are tasty treats but have a downside. Fried foods have unhealthy fats, while high-temperature grilling can create carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
Good choices are: steaming, stewing, poaching, braising, boiling, or microwaving
6. Eat foods with probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep bad bacteria in check and nourish your gut for healthy digestion.
Good choices are: yogurt, kimchee, raw apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, and sauerkraut
7. Stay Hydrated
If you get constipated, you may not be drinking enough. Drinking water helps prevent constipation and supports healthy bowel function. How much water you need per day depends on many factors like your size, activity level, and health. In general, adults need 4-6 cups of water per day.
Good choices are: water, green tea, black coffee, fat-free milk, fresh-squeezed juice
8. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps food move through your digestive system faster, reducing the risk of nausea, bloating, constipation. Regular exercise can also improve the symptoms of constipation and inflammatory bowel disease.
Good choices are: taking a walk after meals or 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily
9. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing GERD, gallstones, some digestive cancers, and more. Following suggestions for a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Good choices are: healthy weight loss if needed, healthy food, regular exercise
10. Don’t smoke
You know smoking is bad for your lungs, but you might be surprised to find that it’s also bad for your digestive system. Smoking has been found to significantly increase your risk of developing acid reflux, and quitting has been shown to improve symptoms. Research has also found a link between smoking and stomach ulcers and an increased need for surgery for gastrointestinal cancers and ulcerative colitis.
Good choices are: talk to your doctor about help for quitting, or visit Smokefree.gov for information and help
11. Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep affects every body system, including the digestive system. Sleep deprivation may lead to inflammation in the bowel, which can cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
Good choice is: aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night
12. Reduce stress
Long-term stress negatively affects your overall health and is linked to diarrhea, constipation, IBS, and ulcers. Managing your stress through stress management techniques can benefit your digestion.
Good choices are: yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, therapy
Everybody experiences digestive problems at some point. They can be uncomfortable, difficult to talk about, and disruptive to your day-to-day activities. While many intestinal problems can be improved by making certain lifestyle changes, some require a visit to a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you have digestive issues that are not corrected with lifestyle changes or are getting worse, it’s time to see a doctor.
Don’t let digestive problems linger – schedule an appointment today!