How to Improve Digestive System Health
More and more people seem to be suffering from digestive problems. Heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation can be irritating and annoying to live with constantly.
Below are some ways to get your digestive system in better health and to improve the way you feel. Most of these are natural aids and don't require taking chemicals with long lists of side effects.
So take control of your health and get your digestive system back on track with these easy changes and simple tips that can make a huge impact on your health.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is essential to the digestive system in several ways. Our organs need water to help them function. For instance, stomach acid is produced with water.
Blood flow is also necessary to proper organ function. Staying hydrating keeps a good supply of blood moving throughout the body.
Water helps flush food through your digestive tract. It also helps in the breakdown of food and absorption of minerals.
Not having enough water on a regular basis can lead to chronic dehydration. Some of the symptoms are constipation and stomach problems.
So keeping your digestive system working properly means getting enough water. Most doctors recommend having about 8 cups (64 ounces) of water a day.
Try these ideas to make sure you are getting enough water daily:
- Carry a 64 ounce water container with you throughout the day. When you have finished it, you will know that you've gotten in your needed water amount each day. You could also use 32 ounce (4 cup) bottle and refill it during the day.
- Drink a glass of water in the mornings to start your day off right. Some health care specialists recommend warm (room temperature) water with lemon first thing in the morning to give the digestive tract a jump start.
- Ask for a glass of water along with your other beverage when you are at restaurants. Drink the full glass before your meal.
Practice good posture! Sitting slouched can cause your intestines and organs to be scrunched together and unable to process the food properly.
Exercise is another important component of digestive health. It is beneficial for a number of reasons.
Exercise helps eliminate bloating because it gets the gas moving through the digestive tract. It also speeds digestion because it stimulates the body and the intestines.
It can even help boost metabolism. Exercise and movement also improves blood flow which in turn improves organ function. And exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight thereby decreasing the stress on the digestive system.
Get active with these manageable tips:
- Start off slow and get into an exercise routine that you can handle and that you will stick with. Most people make the mistake of jumping into a program that is too advanced and is too much for their schedule. Set a goal that is easily achieved, like exercising once a week, and then start building up to more.
- Walking at a brisk pace for just 20 minutes a few times a week can make a huge difference in overall health.
- Yoga is great for digestive health. The stretching gets blood flowing to your intestines and stomach. It is also great for stress relief, another factor in improved digestion.
Easy Massage Techniques to Help Digestion
Probiotics are "good" bacteria that are found in your digestive tract. We need a balance of bacteria in the body to stay in good health. Antibiotics, stress, and other modern lifestyle habits can cause an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria and too few of the "good" kind.
Bacteria in the body helps you break down and digest your food and they also help boost the immune system. Without the proper bacterial balance, digestive problems like diarrhea and infections can start to crop up. Lack of "good" bacteria can also lead to a feeling of fatigue, heightened allergy symptoms, and other health issues.
Taking a daily dose of probiotics can help alleviate many health problems.
Try these things to get more probiotics:
- Take an OTC probiotic supplement. They come in tablets, capsules, and more. The most effective type are the ones that have live cultures. Ask your pharmacist for more information.
- Many types of yogurt have natural probiotics in them. Look for "live and active cultures" on the label to see if the yogurt has them. Activia is a great yogurt to eat daily to improve overall digestive health.
- Probiotics are also being added to lots of other food products. Check with your local grocery store and health food store to find other probiotic choices. Some manufacturers are starting to offer drinks that have them added, some milk companies offer a type with probiotics included, and they are also added to specialty chocolate bars and other foods. Food and drinks with probiotics added are typically found in the refrigerated sections because they must stay cool to keep the cultures alive.
Sometimes the stomach needs help breaking down the food with added digestive enzymes. This is especially true as we age. Many people think they have a problem with too much stomach acid when the problem is actually that their stomachs is producing too little acid.
Boost your body's digestion by taking enzymes along with meals. They aid the stomach in breaking down the food. They come in capsule form and can really make a difference with a lot of tummy troubles.
Raw fruits and vegetables also have natural enzymes, so you can try eating more of these.
One note of caution, if you have Crohn's or regularly get diarrhea, you may not want to try enzymes or sample a very small amount because sometimes they can cause an increase in diarrhea.
Digestive Enzyme Supplements
High Fiber Foods
Fiber can help to keep your intestines functioning properly and make your bowel movements more regular.
Fiber works because it adds bulk to what is moving through your intestines. If there isn't enough substance to what your body is digesting, your muscles have to strain to push the food along. Fiber gives the muscles of the intestines something to grip and push. This speeds up digestion and helps to control bloating, gas, and constipation.
Since foods high in fiber aren't absorbed quickly, it can also be beneficial for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.
Get more fiber in your diet these ways:
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They are full of fiber, especially the skin and stringy parts.
- Nuts, seeds, and oatmeal are another great source of fiber.
- Switch to whole grains rather than the more refined types of grains. Whole grains have more fiber.
- For more fiber, you can eat products specifically made to boost fiber like Fiber One bars and cereal. Most of them taste great, which is a plus.
- If you still aren't getting enough fiber, you can take fiber supplements like Metamucil.
Chew Your Food Thoroughly
Make sure you are chewing your food thoroughly. The more the food is broken down before you swallow, the less your stomach and intestines have to work to digest it.
Chewing more will break down the food better. Your saliva also aids in digestion.
Eating slowly and chewing smaller bites can helps you to avoid over eating. It will also help you to be relax, which is good for digestion as well.
Great Tips for Improved Digestive Health
Eliminate Irritating Foods
Certain foods may be the culprit in digestive problems for some people. Food allergies and food intolerances could be what is upsetting your digestive system. Or it could just be food that doesn't agree with you.
Feeling better could be as easy as avoiding foods that cause you trouble. Dairy and gluten allergies are very common. If you suspect that you may have a food allergy, you can try an elimination diet to see how you feel when you don't eat certain foods. Or you can talk to your doctor about doing an allergy test.
If you have acid reflux or heartburn, eliminating certain foods can help ease the symptoms. Coffee, tea, sodas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and dairy are some of the foods associated with increased reflux.
Have a problem with dairy?
Stress takes a toll on the body. It can affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels, cause muscle aches, and can lead to digestive upset.
Frequent diarrhea and constipation, heartburn and acid reflux, and even a rumbly tummy can all be caused by stress.
Finding ways to reduce stress and relax can help your whole body feel better.
Cut down on stress and help your digestive system with these tactics:
- Don't eat in a hurry. Eat slowly and without rushing. Taking the time to eat peacefully aids in digestion and helps your food settle better.
- Exercise can be a great stress reducer. Take peaceful walks, try yoga, or another relaxing activity.
- Close your eyes and take deep relaxing breaths periodically throughout the day. Focused breathing can lower blood pressure, aid digestion, lower blood sugar levels, and much more.
Digestive Problems Poll
What digestive ailment do you have?
Natural Stomach Soothers
These are some natural ways to soothe the stomach:
- aloe vera juice/gel
- licorice herb
- Chew sugarf ree gum to help with heartburn and reflux.
Digestive Medicine and Medical Help
Some people may need medicine and a doctor's care to combat digestive problems.
You should seek medical advice if you have persistent problems for more than a few weeks and if you experience severe diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, stomach pains and cramps, or sharp pains.
Among other problems, frequent digestive upset could be a sign of these common problems that may require medical attention:
- H. pylori infection
- hiatal hernia
- food allergies
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Proton-pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Zegerid, Prevacid, and Nexium aren't recommended for long term use. Talk to your doctor if you are using OTC stomach medicine frequently.