Digestive health is essential for whole body health. Everyone experiences digestive issues like an upset stomach, gas, and bloating from time to time, but if these symptoms are frequent, it can disrupt your everyday life and lead to health issues down the road. Diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your gut health. Here are 18 tips and foods for digestive health!
Digestive Health 101
Digestive health, also known as gut health, is vital for our overall wellness. Your gut microbiota refers to a community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live inside your intestines and stomach. Everyone’s microbiome is unique, and your gut health refers to the health of these microorganisms. Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include frequent diarrhea or constipation, regular bloating, excessive gas, and abdominal discomfort.
Digestive health is also linked to many aspects of your body and brain. The microbiome is an ecosystem that impacts the immune system, blood pressure, blood sugar, hormones, and your central nervous system. An unhealthy gut can increase your risk of diseases including diabetes, heart, and neurological diseases, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease. On top of staving off uncomfortable digestive issues, this is why having good gut health is so important.
10 Tips to Improve Digestive Health
- Get enough sleep – seven to eight hours per night is ideal.
- Regular exercise – aim to get 30 to 90 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise three times per week, plus daily movement.
- Manage stress – with yoga, exercise, deep breathing, and getting outside.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol intake.
- Stay hydrated – water helps your body break down and digest food.
- Cut down on fatty foods like chips, burgers, and fried and processed foods.
- Eat more probiotic foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and Greek yogurt.
- Prioritize high-fibre foods to reduce constipation and regulate bowel movements.
- Cut down on red meat, and prioritize fish and lean meats, which are easier to digest.
- Go easy on spicy and acidic foods, which can irritate the stomach.
5 Worst Foods for Digestive Health
1. Fatty/Fried Foods
Fatty foods like burgers, chips, and fried foods are harder to digest and can cause stomach pain and heartburn. Greasy and processed foods skyrocket your stomach’s workload and are hard for your body to handle.
Dairy is one of the hardest foods for people to digest due to lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. When lactose isn’t digested properly, it results in symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
3. Acidic Foods
Acidic foods like lemons, limes, and tomato sauce can irritate the stomach lining and cause digestive issues. If you have an upset stomach, be sure to avoid these foods.
4. Processed Foods
Processed foods lack fibre, so stay away from them if you’re constipated. Fibre helps regulate bowel movements and is essential for good digestion. Processed foods also contain preservatives and food colouring, so people with sensitivities or allergies to these additives will likely experience digestive problems.
Caffeine stimulates gastrointestinal mobility, making food move more quickly through your system. Excessive amounts of caffeine can give you diarrhea, and if you already have diarrhea, caffeine can make it worse. Coffee, tea, and soda are all sources of caffeine.
8 Best Foods for Digestive Health
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, oats, and brown rice, are a great source of fibre, which plays a key role in digestive health. Fibre is the fuel the colon cells use to keep them healthy, and it also helps keep the digestive tract flowing by keeping your bowel movements soft and regular.
Sauerkraut is a fermented food that contains beneficial bacteria for your gut. This makes it easier to digest, as its prebiotic fibres feed the helpful gut bugs living in your colon. If you don’t eat many fermented foods right now, make sure to go easy on them at first. Too much too fast can lead to stomach issues like cramping and diarrhea.
Oats are a prebiotic food, and contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which helps feed the good gut bacteria. The fibre in oats helps keep you full by slowing down digestion, and keeps your bowel movements regular. Pairing oatmeal with sources of insoluble fibre, like sliced apples, nuts, or raspberries, can help keep things moving in the digestive tract and make things easier in the bathroom.
Beans are full of fibre, and fibre is essential for digestion. Dietary fibre increases the weight of your stool and softens it, making it easier to pass and decreasing your risk of constipation. On the other hand, if you have loose, watery stools, fibre can help solidify the stool by absorbing water and adding bulk to your bowel movements.
Kimchi is another fermented food that’s high in probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that play a role in your digestion, support the immune system, and manage inflammation. Since kimchi is fermented, it creates an environment that allows other friendly bacteria to thrive and multiply. It’s perfect to add to dishes from your morning eggs, to your favourite noodle dishes, to tofu rice bowls.
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt, along with other probiotic foods like kefir and kombucha, contains live cultures that add beneficial bacteria to your microbiome. These good bacteria may restore a healthy bacterial balance within the gut. Be sure to select unsweetened yogurt as sugar can have a negative effect on your digestive system.
Ginger is known as one of the best natural remedies for nausea and tummy aches. It’s a super powerful anti-inflammatory, making it great for digestion and a natural digestive aid. It helps digestion by speeding up the process that moves food from the stomach into the upper small intestine. Use it in tea, add it to stir fries, and use it in soups to get your ginger fix!
8. Fish and Lean Meat
If you’re a meat eater, stick to chicken, fish, and other lean meats to help with digestion. Your body can handle lean meats and fish better than red meats, which tend to be fattier. Leaner meats, with lower fat content, tend to be tolerated better than fattier meats and animal products.
If you want to improve your digestive health, make sure to add these tips and foods into your diet!
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