The start of a new year is the perfect time to reassess what didn’t work in the past and create and prioritize new goals. If your 2018 resolutions include living a healthier lifestyle, don’t forget that your digestive health is directly impacted by the foods you eat and the lifestyle you live. Consider incorporating these digestive HEALTH tips into your daily routine.
- Hydrate. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients and move out waste and toxins. Drinking water during or after a meal aids in digestion; drinking too little will slow down the digestive system significantly because a harder stool is more difficult to pass. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water is the recommended daily amount an average person should drink.
- Eat slowly. Take your time when eating your meals – your digestive system doesn’t like to be rushed. Did you know that a person should chew each bite at least 20 times? That gives your stomach plenty of time to prepare to properly digest the nutrients you are giving it, and it gives your body enough time to recognize that it’s full. Try to avoid eating in front of the TV or on the computer. Studies show that when people are distracted while eating they eat significantly more than when they are only focusing on their food.
- Activity is key. Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to your organs and stimulates muscles in the GI tract, helping your organs work more efficiently. Incorporate a regular exercise schedule into your daily routine to keep food moving through your digestive system and to reduce constipation, bloat and indigestion. You’ll be feeling slim, healthy and better than ever in no time.
- Limit fats. Be careful about the fatty foods you ingest. There are four types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans. The last two fats tend to slow down the digestive process and raise “bad” cholesterol. There are many ways to limit your intake of high fat and processed products. Try switching to lean cuts of meat, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and replacing butter with olive oil.
- Try incorporating probiotics. Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria that are naturally present in your digestive tract. These “good bacteria” are used to prevent and alleviate many different conditions, but particularly those that affect the gastrointestinal tract. They help regulate the amount of healthy bacteria in your system, normalize bowel movements and strengthen your immune system. Add more probiotics to your diet to help boost your gut health.
- High-fiber diet. Consuming a diet that’s high in fiber and rich in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits can improve your digestive health. Benefits of a high-fiber diet include normalizing bowel movements, lowering “bad” cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and aiding in achieving a healthy weight. Keep this in mind when you are looking for a healthy snack or side dish; it’s easy to choose tasty foods that also provide a great source of fiber.
You are six steps closer to improving your digestive health and overall sense of well-being. Remember, more than 100 million Americans have digestive problems. If you are struggling with digestive issues, don’t be afraid to contact a professional. Trust your gut; your gastroenterologist will be able to help you identify causes of your digestive symptoms, as well as offer options for treating them.