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8 Tips to Improve your Digestive Health

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Jan 22, 2018

Your lifestyle and food choices have a strong effect on how your body digests what you eat. You have to eat in order to live but when digestive issues arise such as bloating, constipation, gas, and pain, what normally should be a pleasurable occurrence can take a turn for the worse in a stressed-out stomach looking for relief.

A study from the Technical University of Denmark found that what is referred to as transit time or basically the faster your food can move from the time you eat it to the time of what’s left of it leaving our body, the better for your gut health.  The longer food stays in your digestive tract, the more harmful bacteria degradation products are produced.  A shorter transit time means a healthier digestive system helping you feel better.

Your digestive health is a basic fundamental of keeping you healthy and feeling good each day.  Having a persnickety turbulent tummy can ruin the best of days for you.  By knowing certain tricks to eliminate or at least greatly reduce symptoms, you can avoid tummy troubles and begin to improve digestion today.

1. Eliminate too much sugar and fat

Too many calories from sugary, fatty or fried foods are hard to digest.  They can irritate your stomach by slowing down the process of digestion creating a very full, uncomfortable feeling.  Excess sugar makes your blood sugar skyrocket setting up an unhealthy duo of too much sugar in the bloodstream and too much insulin being pumped by the pancreas to compensate for the situation.  The excess insulin means extra storage of calories contributing to weight gain.

The solution? Choose more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and choose meats lower in fat such as fish, poultry, lean beef and pork.  Replace butter and margarine with olive oil.

2. Fill up with water

In order to digest food water is necessary.  Good digestive health will not happen without adequate water intake.  Water helps speed transit time of food through the digestive tract and prevents constipation by creating a softer, bulkier stool.  Aim for 9-13 cups of fluid each day or until your urine looks clear.

3. Move more

What all see what exercise can do for how we look on the outside but keeping active also does wonders for us on the inside.  Physical activity is vital for good digestive health. Blood flow improves to all organs including the gastrointestinal tract, and it stimulates and tones muscles within the stomach and intestines keeping contents moving quickly.  Aim for at least 30 minutes each day but avoid strenuous workouts right after eating.

4. Include probiotics

Your gut needs to be feed healthy food but it also requires live microorganisms for the good bacteria to nibble on.  The best source of this is supporting your immune system and achieving a digestive tract in tip top shape.   Best food sources containing probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses like gouda, sour pickles, tempeh, or acidophilus milk.

5. Slow down when eating

Your digestive system doesn’t like to be rushed so that means to slow down eating.  Taking time gives the stomach ample opportunity to properly digest and absorb the nutrients within food allowing your body and brain signaling when you’ve had enough.  Turn off the TV and resist looking at your computer or smartphone while eating – distracted people will eat significantly more food than when they put the focus just on eating.

6. Chew your food well

Once you take a bite of food your digestive process begins.  Saliva produced when you chew food contains an enzyme called amylase that helps break down the food.  Chewing food thoroughly results in smaller food particles entering your stomach.  This means less energy and digestive enzymes are needed which means better digestion of food.

7. Eat more fiber

For a substance that really doesn’t get absorbed in your body, it’s necessary for keeping your digestive tract purring like a kitten.  Fiber comes in two types – soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water helping slow down digestion and absorption making you feel fuller longer.  It also slows down the amount of glucose entering into the bloodstream keeping blood sugar levels at a more even level.  Insoluble fiber passes through unabsorbed but it attracts water to it in the colon creating a softer, bulkier, easier-to-pass bowel movement, reducing constipation and pain.

8. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight

A healthy body weight is associated with less symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).   This condition allows contents from the stomach to backflow into the esophagus due to a weak valve that doesn’t close completely between the stomach and esophagus.  The strong stomach acid backs up into the esophagus causing unpleasant symptoms of pain, burning and irritation of the lining of the unprotected esophagus.  Losing excess weight reduces the pressure and can help avoid heartburn and other discomfort.

Learn how to achieve a healthy body weight by visiting here.

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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