Your digestive system breaks down the foods and beverages that you consume. This is how your body gets the nutrients it needs to function properly each day. Sometimes lifestyle choices, including what we eat or drink, causes problems for our digestive tract (gastrointestinal, or GI tract). Sometimes an underlying health issue prevents the GI tract from working like it should. Here are a few tips to help you manage your digestive health.Between 60 and 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health. Learn how to promote good GI health! Click To Tweet
Stay at a healthy weight
Being at a healthy weight improves your overall quality of life and decreases your risk for digestive diseases. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are key in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death. According to the CDC, tobacco use kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year. Smoking can also increase the risk for digestive diseases.
Manage your stress
As with smoking, chronic stress can take a toll on your overall health as well as your digestive health. A study from the University of California Los Angeles found that people who develop early life stress are more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome. Identify stress management techniques that work for you.
Mind your breathing
Swallowing air can lead to belching. Things such as eating too fast, swallowing too often from nervous tension or postnasal drip, eating hard candies, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages can cause you to swallow too much air.
Choose foods that are good for GI health
A high-fiber diet can promote a healthy GI tract. Fruits and vegetables are tasty, nutritious, and they provide a great source of different fibers. The American Heart Association suggests that you consume between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Most of us get nowhere near that amount. A Big Mac had just 3.5 grams of fiber. Add french fries and a milk shake and your entire meal contains less than 8 grams of fiber. Choose a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato, a bowl of bean soup, and an orange for 18 grams of fiber.
Also, choose lean protein and reduce the amount of highly-processed foods and fatty foods that you consume. The fast food lunch should be an occasional special treat.
Identify foods that cause digestive problems.
These foods won’t be the same for everyone. some people have issues with dairy, some can’t eat starches from wheat or potatoes, and others have problems with certain vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower. Keep a log or journal that can help you identify which foods cause digestive problems.
Know when to talk to your doctor
Symptoms such as occasional heartburn, constipation, belching, bloating, flatulence, or abdominal pain aren’t always cause for alarm, but they can sometimes indicate a problem with your digestive tract. If you notice multiple symptoms, chronic or frequent symptoms, if your symptoms worsen, or if they get in the way of your daily life, talk to your primary care physician. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, or a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases.