Maintaining good GI health goes beyond just eating the right foods. While diet is certainly important, many of the decisions that you make on a daily basis affect the health of your gastrointestinal tract. Here are a few healthy bowel habits to promote good GI health.There are many things that you can do to promote good GI health, including talking to your doctor! Click To Tweet
Healthy bowel habits
- Include fiber in your diet; the FDA recommends 25 grams of fiber each day. The average American eats closer to 16 grams of dietary fiber per day.
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine from coffee, sodas, energy drinks, etc. is a diuretic that draws fluid from colon and hardens stool.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water each day to help soften stool and facilitate bowel movements.
- Stick to an eating schedule. Try to eat meals around the same time of day, and eat similar amounts of food during meals. Your lunch might be smaller than your dinner but keep each type of meal consistent from day to day. Also, don’t skip meals.
- Avoid foods if they cause digestive problems. Maybe certain foods give you heartburn, or maybe you don’t respond well to dairy. Identify foods that cause digestive problems and avoid them.
- Physical activity every day. Exercising and being physically active every day is important for your overall health, and it’s a healthy bowel habit.
- Avoid straining during bowel movements; waiting until you have the urge to use the bathroom can help with this.
Know when to talk to your doctor about GI health
Another great habit that can significantly improve your GI health is knowing when to talk to your doctor about GI health.
Take colon and rectal cancers for example. Unlike many cancers, colorectal cancer is almost entirely preventable. Screening for colorectal cancer allows for the removal of precancerous polyps before colon or rectal cancers occur.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over the age of 50 had regular colorectal cancer screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at an average risk begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 45.
It’s also important to recognize warning signs and symptoms for digestive disease and gastrointestinal disorders:
- unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- pain in the abdominal region
- difficulty swallowing
Talk to your doctor if you experience signs or symptoms of GI disorders or digestive problems. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a physician that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of digestive diseases.