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How To Improve Your Digestive Health

Updated on March 27, 2015
Do you sometimes feel like this?
Do you sometimes feel like this? | Source

Digestive Problems

If you are experiencing heartburn, gas, boating, stomach cramps, constipation, or diarrhea it could mean that your digestive system is not working as healthily as it could or should be.

Eating properly, exercising, maintaining the proper weight, getting the proper amount of sleep, and reducing stress are all factors in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Choose healthy foods
Choose healthy foods | Source

Eating Healthy Foods

To coin a phrase, "You Are What You Eat", applies to everyone. If you eat junk all the time and don't take care of yourself, over time your health will suffer and this includes your digestive system. Eating healthy foods is the first place to start to improve your digestive health. A well balanced diet that includes dietary fiber, fruits, vegetables, grains and protein is a must.


Legumes contain healthy dietary fibers.
Legumes contain healthy dietary fibers. | Source

Getting Enough Fiber Every Day

There are two types of fiber: insoluble fiber that acts as roughage, which helps to regulate bowel movements. Some of the foods that contain this fiber are: whole wheat, corn bran, whole bran, whole grain, brown rice, tomatoes, raisins, broccoli, onions, cabbage and dark leafy vegetables.

The second type of fiber is soluble fiber, which consolidates with water forming a gel, slowing down digestion and making you feel full. This fiber is in foods such as: lentils, dried peas, beans, oatmeal, oat bran, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, apples, cucumbers, carrots and celery.

Most people in general do not have enough fiber in their daily diet. Adults should have at least 35 grams of dietary fiber per day.

Various High Fiber Foods

(click column header to sort results)
Food  
Measurement  
Fiber in Grams  
Split Peas
1 cup
16.3
Lentils
1 cup
15.6
Black Beans
1 cup
15.0
Lima Beans
1 cup
13.2
Bran Cereal
1/2 cup
10.4
Artichoke
1 medium
10.3
Peas
1 cup
8.8
Rasberries
1 cup
8.0
Whole Wheat Spaghetti
1 cup
6.2
Pear
1 medium
5.5
Bran Flakes
3/4 cup
5.3
Broccoli
1 cup
5.1
Turnip greens
1 cup
5.0
Apple
1 medium
4.4
Oatmeal
1 cup
4.0
Sweet Corn
1 cup
4.2
Brussels Sprouts
1 cup
4.1
Sunflower seeds
1/4 cup
3.9
Strawberries
1 1/4 cups
3.8
Amonds
1 ounce
3.5
Air popped popcorn
3 cups
3.5
Brown Rice
1 cup
3.5
Orange
1 medium
3.1
Banana
1 medium
3.1
Pistachio Nuts
1 ounce
2.9
Pecan Nuts
1 ounce
2.7
Rye Bread
1 slice
1.9
Whole Wheat or Multi-Grain Bread
1 slice
1.9
Carrot
1 medium
1.7
Please note that the actual grams can vary slightly

Heartburn

Heartburn in most cases is acid reflux. This happens when digestive juices or stomach acids in the stomach back up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation. If you frequently suffer from heartburn it is best to discuss this with your family doctor or a health care provider.

Remedies and Ways to Avoid Heartburn

  • Chewing antacids such as Rolaids, Maalox or Tums is fine for occasional heartburn.
  • While eating a meal have a glass of water mixed with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
  • Don't smoke, and avoid smoke filled rooms.
  • Eat at least 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications, as this could be the cause of your. heartburn.
  • When lifting anything be sure to bend at the knees. Bending over can cause the acid in your stomach to be forced upwards.
  • Avoid lying flat, and elevate the head of your bed 4-6".
  • Try to avoid stress.


Foods to Avoid if You Suffer from Heartburn

  • Greasy, fried and fatty foods
  • Spicy Foods
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Desserts that are rich in butter
  • Peppermint
  • Any foods that are acidic such as tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages

Foods that Can Cause Gas and Ways to Avoid Gas

Beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and apples are among some of the food that may cause you to have gas.

You may find you are lactose intolerant and have to cut out all dairy products.

Ways to try to Avoid Gas

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently. Don't inhale the food, eat slowly.
  • Avoid eating high fat meals and snacks.
  • Cut back on your salt intake.
  • Figure out what foods are causing the gas and avoid them.
  • There are over-the-counter medications that you can purchase but again check with your doctor to rule out any serious problems.


Gas and Bloating

The average person will pass gas 20 times a day either by burping or via flatulence. We get gas by swallowing air when eating or drinking, which will sometimes go into the small or large intestine. The only way for it to leave is to be released by flatulence. Eating carbohydrates and not having enough enzymes to aid in digesting them will cause the food to go from the small intestine to the large intestine undigested. Bacteria then goes to work which in turn causes gas.

One of the symptoms of gas is a bloated feeling and can cause stomach cramps. If this is happening quite often, one should seek medical advice as it could be a sign of a serious medical problem that needs to be treated.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is loose or watery bowel movements that is caused by a stomach flu, and can last a few days. Other causes include: Food poisoning, medications, too much fiber in your diet, allergies to certain foods, consuming too much alcohol, radiation therapy or an underlying medical condition that may be serious. If you experience diarrhea for more than a few days and it is accompanied by a fever, vomiting, pain, blood in the stool or sudden weight loss you should immediately seek medical attention.

Treating Diarrhea

Over the counter medications are available.

Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juices, broth to avoid dehydration.

Avoid caffeine.

Probiotics, which are added to some yogurts, juices and snacks have been know to help treat diarrhea. Check with your doctor to see how much you should consume.



Constipation

Having a bowl movement less than three times a week can be a sign of constipation. Some people have daily movements and others every second day. If the stools are small, hard and dry, and cause you pain when you go to the bathroom chances are that this is due to:

  • Diet
  • Medications
  • Not enough exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Dehydration
  • Age
  • Problems in the colon or other medical issues

Treating Constipation

If this is not an ongoing issue there are ways in which you can treat constipation.

  • Add more fiber to your diet
  • Drink more water
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Exercise

Constipation can be caused by diseases or other medical problems.



Your Health

Do you suffer from any of the digestive problems that are listed in this article?

See results

Eating properly, adding the right amount of fiber to your daily diet along with exercise will help in achieving a healthy digestive system.

Thank you for visiting, and if you'd like to read more HubPage articles by Just Ask Susan, please visit my profile page. Have a great day!

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    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Crafty, I hope that the links helped and hope that your daughter is doing better.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Great Hub! I've started incorporating more protein from nuts in my diet. I make homemade trail mail now with dried fruit, and an assortment of almonds, cashews, honey roasted peanuts. Eating it as a snack helps me stop craving sweets which I used to divulge in daily.

      I also want to thank you for those emails! I looked at all the links you sent me. Thank you so much for taking the time to do that.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you sasta, Hope that you're feeling better soon.

    • sasta10 profile image

      sasta10 4 years ago from Manchester, UK

      A great hub and thanks for the list of high fiber food. I was looking for some tips as I am going through some health problems. Thanks for sharing.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      sfrentz, Thanks so much.

    • sfrentz06 profile image

      sfrentz06 4 years ago from Sterling Heights, MI, USA

      Very useful hub. Glad you posted this!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Natashalh, Yes it is sad as you'd think peppermint would sooth heartburn.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Peppermint can exacerbate heartburn? That's sad.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Judi, Thanks for sharing.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Janis, Thank you glad you found it to be a helpful hub.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      GoodLady, So glad that you found this hub useful. Thank you for reading and for commenting.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      I've got a few friends who seem to experience ongoing stomach problems, so I'll share this, thanks.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 4 years ago

      Drinking lots of water really does help--64 fluid ounces daily, in addition to whatever else you drink. Exercise helps--the deep breathing stimulates the intestines and colon through the massage effect of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Yogic twists and inversions are really effective for digestive health.

      Thanks for sharing this, Susan. It's a helpful hub.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I don't have heartburn but I'm slow to metabolize. Diet and the right balance is so important isn't it, getting those pulces in. This is such a helpful hub. I had no idea that we pass gas 20 times a day. Must tell my son who loves farting that it's quite normal after all!!!

      Thanks.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      raciniwa, Thank you. I too have to watch what I eat because of heartburn.

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 4 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      what a great and useful hub Susan...i used to experience heartburn...change in eating habit of course is the cure...

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Alex.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Lela, Heartburn can be a pain, hope that some of these tips help Bob.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Now I know why Bob has so much trouble with heartburn. I'll try to get him to try these tips. Thanks!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      kjzeek, Nice to meet you and thanks. Yes a fairly new hub.

    • kjrzeek1 profile image

      kjrzeek1 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Nice hub. I make a mean split pea soup, and it is so good for you. New hub?

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Arieanna, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Glad to know that lifting weights aided in getting your digestive health back on track.

    • profile image

      Arieanna 4 years ago

      Your tips on are point. For a long time, I seemed to be eating all the right things like drinking half my weight in ounces of water per day and eating fruits and vegetables and was still constipated until I started lifting weights at the gym. That exercise seemed to be what I was missing and what put my digestive health on track.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Tina, That's a funny saying, but it does make sense.

      Glad you liked the hub and thank you.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 4 years ago from Sweden

      Interesting and very good information You have covered the subject so well!

      A Swedish professor is said to have created the saying, ”a good bowel movement is the best pillow”! It makes sense since it is hard to sleep with a bad digestive health:) Brilliant hub Susan, I am sure many will benefit from this hub!

      Tina

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Kevin, I didn't know about cloves but thank you for adding that.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      sholland, Thank you. My husband calls me the turtle when it comes to eating. He'll have his first plate of food eaten and be on his second helping when I'm only 1/2 way through my dinner.

    • Alex Jose profile image

      Alex Jose 4 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Really health is something that everyone is looking forward to these days and this certain hub is exactly perfectly describing it...loved it so i vote for a thumbs up.

    • KevinMillican profile image

      KevinMillican 4 years ago from Stilwell, OK

      Did anyone mention that cloves is a natural laxative for constipation?

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Susan, this is great research and helpful to so many. I love your layout, and believe the chart is informative and interesting for a guide on what to eat and how much fiber it includes. Personally, I keep Maalox on hand. As you stated, we need to slow down when we eat. It not only helps our digestion, but it also makes us feel full faster. As a teacher with a 22 minute lunch period, eating slow is a hard one for me to master. Great hub! Votes and shares! :-)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      tillsontitan, Thanks so much.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you pandula.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Peanutritious, I would find it very difficult to give up cheese, and hope I never have to. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Sharyn, and glad you found some fiber ideas.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Good information and covered well. People have so many ailments and don't know what cause them. You have pinpointed some of the few that are more common than many realize. Voted up.

    • pandula77 profile image

      pandula77 4 years ago from Norway

      Thanks for sharing such valuable information. Its great to find almost all the answers for most digestive problems in one place. Voted up!

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      An informative article. I have been a vegetarian for almost 30 years so eat very healthily but get cramps and wind when I've had lots of pulses, milk or cheese. I think I'm lactose intolerant but love cheese too much to cut it out altogether! I just try to only have it every now and again. I just have to hope that when the wind strikes, it's a night my partner is working a night shift!!!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Speaking of "you are what you eat." Does that mean I am a "hot fry?" Hmmmm . . . great research here Susan. And I love the chart because it includes so many more fiber ideas that just "cereal" which is the first thing that I think of.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      vocalcoach, Thank you, glad you found this useful.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      These Tips are so helpful Susan. You have given information that goes beyond a "Doctors Visit." I especially like knowing preventative measures. Voted up and across, but not funny!~

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Jan,

      Sorry to read that you have coelaic disease. Glad that you liked the hub and thanks for letting me know.

      Take care

    • profile image

      Janhorner 4 years ago

      Hello,

      Your article is really good and informative. I have coelaic disease and sometimes it's a bit of a nuisance. Your article has provided lots of info on a healthy life style and I loved the table.

      thanks Jan

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you indesign.

    • indesign profile image

      indesign 4 years ago

      Hi Susan, Nice tips and and great information. Thanks for this awesome hub.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sue, Thanks and I hope you're having a nice Victoria Day weekend too.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Susan,

      Great advice and tips. This one was easy to digest. ;)

      Hope you are enjoying the long weekend. :)

      Voted up and awesome.

    • profile image

      Daffy Duck 4 years ago

      I like to take vanilla ice cream and mix it with peanut butter. Sometimes I'll add some chocolate sauce on top.

      You're welcome! :)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Daffy, I know I'd be lost without garlic and onions ... they're a staple and used almost everyday in my cooking. I used to eat chocolate ice cream with peanut butter right out of the jar added to it, Haven't done that in awhile. Thanks for reminding me :)

    • Daffy Duck profile image

      Daffy Duck 4 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

      Fried foods, garlic, onions, chocolate, butter rich desserts, foods with tomatoes--spaghetti, caffinated drinks. If I get heart burn I might as well kill myself. :)

      I put onions in almost every protein and pasta. I use tomatoes and garlic in spaghetti and eat pizza. Pies are so delicious. Peanut butter without chocolate. What's the point in living? Soda twice a week and with pizza once a month.

      I choose death! LOL!

      I have to admit this is a very useful, and depressing hub. :)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks so much Brenda, I'm glad you liked it. I would rather fix any problems when it comes to health the natural way rather than buying an over the counter product if it can be helped.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Hello Susan. Many people can benefit from this Hub. One day at the local pharmacy, I saw an entire row of products designed to fix these problems. I do believe most can be-er-eliminated with proper diet. I am a fan of fiber and tout the health aspects to everyone I can. Many feel they don't have time to eat well but the consequences of a poor diet are serious. Thanks for educating us on the issue. You did it well and in an interesting manner.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Alicia.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Golfgal, Thank you. Acid reflux is nasty.

      Pamela, Thank you. I have a huge container of flax seed and do the same thing.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you writer20, glad you liked it.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Ruby, Chocolate does that to me too. At Christmas when I make shortbread I have to be careful not to overindulge as brings on heartburn so quickly.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      barbergirl, Kelly and Lesley, Thank you.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Cardisa and RH

      Thank you both, and I'm glad you found this informative.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the useful information, Susan. Your tips could be very helpful for someone suffering from digestive problems!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      Excellent hub on digestive health. I have found adding a little ground flax seed to cereal or on a salad prevents constipation. Awesome hub.

    • Golfgal profile image

      Golfgal 4 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Hey Susan, Nice job covering a subject so near and dear to our....well you know. smiles. Acid relux can also give signs of heart attack. I had this just recently. I truly appreciate the contents. That no-no list is everything I eat. Shucks.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great hub thank you for doing such good research for all your hubbers.

      Voted up useful and interesting.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I am not having any problems with digestion now, but i have in the past. I still am bothered when i eat too much chocolate. ( I love it ) Thank's for a great hub..

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Angela, Thank you. I'd forgotten about BRAT food, thanks for adding that.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Susan, a very helpful and useful hub.

      Thank you and voted up

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Susan, Great hub packed with useful information! Thanks for sharing this! Voted up and useful! Take care, Kelley

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Great research on a "shitty" topic! Ha ha - sorry couldn't resist. Luckily, I am not ailing from any of these currently. Which is a good thing... because I enjoy my alcohol and soda way too much! Great hub and you can really tell you did your work. Although - I never knew that tomotoes were considered a fiber. We learn something new every day!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This is very informative! I do know someone who has terrible issues - I'm so excited to pass this along. I bet a few of the tips - are really going to help. It's a friend of mine (on FB too) and I know she has a terrible diet! I've been telling her this stuff - maybe she will hear you!

      Thank you!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Susan, this is truly awesome. You have covered bowel problems very well. In most cases these problems are caused through poor diet or indigestion as in the case of gas. Thanks for a very informative hub.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 4 years ago from Canada

      Hi Susan...excellent info here, a one stop-shop for all things digestion related. Thank you for sharing!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image
      Author

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Bill, Glad to hear your not having any digestive problems, and thank you.

      Rebecca, Thanks so much!

      TToombs, I used to get heartburn all the time, and learned that I had to stay away from rich foods.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Thank you Dr. JustaskSusan, this is actually very helpful.. and considerate.. bless you Frank

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 4 years ago

      Very helpful hub. Thank you. Voted up interesting useful

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 4 years ago from United States

      Very informative, great topic. Also to treat diarrhea, you want to eat BRAT foods, that's Banana, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. This foods will bulk up the stool.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Great hub and very helpful. I, for one, will be following the advice on heartburn. :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great advise! I think that we all get digestive problems more often than we want to admit. You have outlined the signs and symptoms so well. Thanks, voted up and useful!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, gratefully, I'm not experiencing any of those things, but great hub and well-researched. If I ever do have any of those symptoms I know where to turn for info.

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