While certain nutrients are key to digestive health, there's more to it than just what you eat. Good digestive health starts with an overall healthier lifestyle. These five habits are a few ways to embark on that lifestyle and, in combination, they can vastly improve digestive health.
- More fiber. One of the most commonly recommended ways to improve digestive health is through high fiber diets. This is because fiber affects the rate at which food is digested and helps move waste through the colon. It's typically recommended to consume about 25 grams of fiber per day and to also get enough of both types: insoluble and soluble, as both perform different functions in the digestion process. Insoluble fibers, found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains, attract water to the intestine, and soluble fibers, found in oat ban, nuts, seeds and legumes, soften stools.
- Less caffeine and alcohol, no smoking. Bad habits like excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol can cause a lot of harm to your digestive organs, such as ulcers and heartburn. Reducing how often you drink these substances can prevent this kind of damage to your body and smooth your digestion. Smoking can be a difficult habit to kick, but quitting can mean avoiding a lot of health problems, especially in your digestive tract.
- Drink more water. Water is essential to any healthy lifestyle, but when it comes to digestion, water eases passage in your colon and intestines by dissolving fibers and fat. The amount of water you should drink a day may vary, but the rule is usually the more the better. One way to determine how much water in ounces is right for you is to take your weight, multiply by 67 percent and adjust that number by how much physical exercise you get, because you expend more water in sweat. You can add 12 ounces for every half hour of exercise.
- Manage stress. Your emotional health is also tied to digestion. Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system, which communicates with the central nervous system. When you're stressed, your body responds physically and can affect the process of digestion by contracting the muscles in your stomach, reducing blood flow and blocking the production of necessary secretions. Stress can also cause nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Managing your stress and adding relaxing activities to your daily routine can prevent the kinds of physical side effects that deter digestive health.
- Exercise. A regular exercise routine not only improves your health overall by managing your weight and increasing your metabolism, it also helps pass food through your digestive tract and prevents constipation. Just about anyone can suffer from heartburn, acid reflux and bloating, but these complications are more prevalent in people who are overweight. Exercise can reduce the pressure of excess weight on your abdomen and prevent these digestive issues.
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