stomach with fruits and veggies

Steps to boost digestive health

Fiber for constipation
When it comes to tackling constipation, it doesn’t have to be prune juice. There are plenty of other delicious, natural solutions to help keep you regular. Fill up with fiber-rich foods like cherries, peppers, beans, wholegrains, lentils, and nuts to help the digestive process. Fiber may have other health benefits too, including staving off weight gain, heart disease, blood sugar swings.

Weight loss and heartburn
Fatty foods and rising levels of obesity have been linked to the rise in heartburn cases. Carrying extra weight can worsen digestive issues like heartburn and some research suggests that obese and overweight men and women who suffer from heartburn may get relief by losing some weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise are a critical part of any weight loss program. Check with your doctor to ensure any new weight loss plan is right for you.

Eat less to beat bloating
A simple step to curb the discomfort of bloating, indigestion, and heartburn is to eat a small amount often. You can also eat smaller, more frequent meals more slowly – to avoid overloading your digestive system. Getting into a routine with smaller meals may also gradually reduce your stomach volume – making you feel full when eating less.

Fluids for constipation
Fueling your digestive system with plenty of fluids helps remove waste and curb constipation. Water and juices work well, along with foods that have a high water content, such as salad. Drinking plenty is especially important if you are increasing your fiber intake in order to counteract constipation. Talk to your doctor about how much fluid is right for you but the general recommendation is about 1.2 litres a day or 6-8 glasses.

Exercise for bloating
Staying active is excellent for your digestive health. Taking a brisk 20 – 30 minute walk, 4 times a week, can improve your bowel function and reduce bloating. Exercise, along with sufficient hydration, keeps things moving and helps eliminate waste. Exercise is also an excellent reliever of stress that can be a key trigger of digestive problems.

Friendly bacteria
Probiotics are often referred to as “friendly bacteria”. They are microorganisms that are similar to helpful bacteria found in the body.They occur naturally in fermented foods like some yogurts and may be added to juices, snacks and supplements. Some research suggests that probiotics may help stomach upsets, such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, more research is needed and it’s unclear what type of probiotics may help and the dose needed.

Stress and your digestive system
Stress is a well known trigger of tummy trouble. Intense emotional states can cause chemical changes that interfere with the normal working of your digestive system. Stress management is important to help avoid aggravating problems like IBS or indigestion. Exercise, relaxation techniques like massage or meditation, and getting plenty of sleep can all help keep stress under control.

Foods for tummy trouble
What you eat is obviously one of the most important factors in your digestive health. Avoid, or severely limit, foods that trigger unpleasant symptoms such as wind, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Foods like beans, fizzy drinks, and fatty or fried foods, can all result in excess wind. Also go easy with acidic choices like grapefruit juice, coffee, tea or foods loaded with spices, in order to reduce the risk of heartburn and tummy ache.

Heartburn and smoking
If you smoke – you increase your risk of more than 50 serious health conditions – and your digestive system is not immune from the effects. Smoking can weaken the valve at the end of the oesophagus triggering acid reflux and heartburn. Smokers also have a higher risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers as well as peptic ulcers and Crohn’s disease. See your doctor, pharmacist, or clinic for help to quit now – for the good of your gut.

Drinking and stomach problems
Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limit for alcohol compromises your health – including the health of your digestive tract. Drinking too much hinders your ability to absorb important nutrients, and can increase stomach acid secretion which can damage the lining of the stomach. Excess alcohol also increases your risk of constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and liver problems, as well as esophageal cancer.

Mindful eating for wind
Rushing your food causes you to swallow air, triggering burping or wind. Taking time to be mindful of what you eat, and slowing the pace at which you eat, will help you reduce gulping air into your digestive system. Slow down and chew each bite thoroughly. Avoid sweets or chewing gum if you find they cause you to swallow air.

Salt and bloating
People tend to have too much salt in their diet – and just a little bit can leave you bloated. It’s recommended that adults eat no more than 6 grams of salt a day. Salty foods include chips, soups, ketchup and even breakfast cereal, so check the labels – especially on processed food. Avoid adding more salt to meals and when cooking. Add flavor with alternatives like pepper and other herbs and spices.

Kitchen hygiene
Tummy trouble like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can be caused by lack of attention to food hygiene resulting in food-born illnesses. Abide by the basic rules and ensure foods are cooked and stored at the correct temperatures. Separate meat and vegetable chopping boards.

Lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance – the inability to digest the natural sugar in milk – can cause painful symptoms including nausea, cramps, wind, bloating, or diarrhea. Culprits include milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods. The treatment is to avoid triggers, or reduce intake to a level that alleviates symptoms. There are also a variety of lactose-free foods from soy milks, yogurts, and cheeses to milks made from rice, oats, quinoa, almonds, and more.

When to seek medical advice
Most digestive problems are not serious and can be treated easily but when pain or discomfort disrupt your everyday life, it’s time to get medical help. Symptoms that are a cause for concern include pain, persistent bloating, difficulty breathing or swallowing, fever, inability to keep food down, blood in vomit or stools, or unexplained weight loss. Severe abdominal discomfort may indicate a number of conditions including food poisoning, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, or IBS.

Source: Web MD; Steps to boost digestive health slideshow