Is the Word ‘Digestion’ a Sore Subject for You?

Many people struggle with occasional digestive issues from time to time, but if you find yourself habitually suffering from an upset stomach, gas, heartburn, nausea, indigestion, or constipation, you may want to make some key changes to your diet so you can boost your digestive system performance.  

One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase your digestive capability is to closely monitor the foods you’re eating. The modern Western diet, loaded with refined carbohydrates, sugars, and high-fat, low-fiber foods with harmful additives, has been linked to the risk of increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. This is because this diet is typically lacking in the beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help power and support all of the body’s organs. In addition, this inferior diet puts a large strain on your digestive system because harmful food additives can stress stomach function because they are difficult to break down and process. In contrast, scientific evidence suggests that a diet high in vitamins and nutrients can help to protect against digestive disorders.1  

Fiber is incredibly critical to digestive function. Soluble fiber (which is able to be dissolved in water) helps absorb water and promotes healthy bowel movements, while insoluble fiber (which cannot be dissolved in water) essentially “scrubs” your digestive tract, keeping digested food moving. Prebiotics, a type of beneficial dietary fiber, helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut which in turn leads to a healthier digestive system. Fiber can be found in many plant-based foods such as oats, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables. Unfortunately, meat and dairy products contain no fiber at all. 

Hydration is also key when it comes to healthy digestion. Low fluid intake is a common cause of constipation. A general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For instance, if you weigh 160 pounds, then drinking 80 ounces of water per day is considered to be a healthy fluid intake. If you exercise frequently or live in an extremely warm or dry climate, you may need to drink additional amounts of water. You can boost your fluid intake by including foods with a high-water content in your diet, such as cucumber, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, or berries.  

Another factor in optimizing your digestive health is taking charge of your stress levels. Stress has been linked to a variety of digestive conditions including ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, and IBS. The hormones that are released during stressful situations divert energy and attention from digestion. In the long term, this effect can be extremely detrimental to your digestive health. It’s a good idea to keep your stress levels in check through the practice of calming exercises such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help boost your digestive health.  

Did you know that gravity actually plays a small role in your digestion? If you are struggling to “move things along” (in your intestinal tract), you might consider getting additional exercise such as walking or a light jog, which assists gravity in helping move digested food through your system. Exercise also has anti-inflammatory benefits as well, which can help reduce the effects of inflamed bowels due to food stagnation.  

The bottom line? Beneficial changes in your diet and lifestyle can be a huge factor in optimizing your digestive health. You can promote your own best health by filling your diet with fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean, plant-based proteins. And when you manage your stress levels with calming practices along with adequate amounts of exercise, you can experience your own best digestive health.  

Resources

  1. Viladomiu M;Hontecillas R;Yuan L;Lu P;Bassaganya-Riera J; “Nutritional Protective Mechanisms Against Gut Inflammation.” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23541470/.