Slideshow Pictures: Healthy Eating -- Super Steps to Boost Digestive Health
Reviewed by Andrew Seibert, MD on Friday, September 09, 2011
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Fiber Helps With Constipation
Fill up your plate with foods like cherries, grapes, crunchy bell peppers, beans, whole grains, and nuts. Fiber-rich foods like these help digestion and keep you regular. Your body needs a recommended 20-35 grams of fiber daily. Fiber can also help keep weight gain, heart disease, blood sugar fluctuations, and hemorrhoids at bay.
Chew Gum to Fight Heartburn
Chewing gum may help relieve reflux and heartburn by stimulating the production of acid-neutralizing saliva. (Since peppermint can irritate heartburn, opt for other flavors.) Skip gum if it causes you to swallow air, which may lead to belching and bloating.
Lose Weight to Cut Gas and Heartburn
Lose just 2 pounds and you could improve gastrointestinal symptoms. Extra pounds, especially around the midsection, can worsen digestive issues like heartburn, gas, and belching. Check with your doctor before starting a weight loss program.
Stop Bloat, Heartburn With Small Meals
A great way to help prevent indigestion, bloating, heartburn, and other digestive health issues is to eat smaller, more frequent meals. And eat them more slowly. This avoids overloading your digestive system and helps shrink your stomach capacity, making you less likely to overeat.
Drink to Stop Constipation
Drinking fluids helps your body get rid of waste and prevent constipation. Fluids can be found in drinks like water and juices, but can also be found in foods. The advice of eight glasses of water a day is no longer considered a goal. Talk to your doctor about how much water is right for you.
Get Moving to Beat Bloating
Exercise may help with most minor digestive problems, from bloating to constipation, say experts. Physical activity helps your body's digestive system move things along and eliminate waste. It also helps reduces stress, a prime irritant of many digestive problems.
Try Probiotics for Diarrhea
Probiotics are living microorganisms often added to yogurts, juices, snacks, and supplements. Research shows they may work -- possibly helping diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). But scientists are still sorting out which probiotics help which conditions and how much you need. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
Stress, Ulcers, and Constipation
Ever have an upset stomach due to nerves? That's because your brain and digestive system are connected. Stress can aggravate digestive problems like IBS and ulcers. Help control digestive health by controlling stress. Try physical activity, getting enough sleep, meditation, or relaxation.
Watch Your Diet for a Healthy Gut
Stay away from foods or limit ones that irritate your digestive problems. Some people have problems with gassy foods like beans and soda or fatty items like fried foods and cheese. For others, acidic foods like citrus, coffee, tea, and tomatoes can spell trouble.
Stop Smoking to Stop Heartburn
When you smoke, you wreak havoc on digestion in many ways. Smoking weakens the valve at the end of the esophagus, which can lead to acid reflux and heartburn. And it increases the risk of various gastrointestinal cancers. Smokers also have higher risks of developing peptic ulcers and Crohn's disease than nonsmokers.
Drink Less Alcohol to Ease Stomach Problems
Think twice about drinking a lot of alcohol, especially when you have digestive problems. Alcohol interferes with acid secretion, stomach muscles, and nutrient absorption. Too many drinks can contribute to heartburn, diarrhea, liver problems, and even esophageal cancer.
Don't Gulp to Stop Burping and Gas
Keep air out of your stomach by not swallowing it in the first place. Take your time and eat slowly, being careful not to gulp your food or drinks. Chew each bite thoroughly. Avoid gum and hard candy if they cause you to swallow air.
Avoid Salt to Stop Bloating
Even a little bit of extra sodium in your diet can cause bloating. It can come from your salt shaker or from processed foods like packaged snacks and cereal. Cut back on your salt intake and avoid prepackaged foods when possible.
Fight Diarrhea With Kitchen Safety
Food-borne illnesses can mean diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. To prevent them, keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Use different utensils and cutting boards when preparing fruits and vegetables and raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Make sure to use dairy products that have been pasteurized.
Maybe Dairy Is a Problem
Some people find that their bodies can't digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. The result is serious bouts of gas after eating dairy products. Try eliminating milk, cheese, ice cream, and other dairy foods if you have dairy-related gas problems. There are dairy substitutes, such as soy, on the market for people who are lactose intolerant.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
Talk to your doctor if digestive problems interfere with your daily life. Seek immediate medical help if you have problems swallowing, have episodes of choking, bloody or black vomit or stool, abdominal pain, or have lost a lot of weight. Digestive distress can point to conditions like food poisoning, gallstones, Crohn's disease, ulcers, IBS, or diverticulitis.
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