Taking care of your digestive system is an important element of maintaining your overall sense of well-being and health, so here are our top tips on how to keep the digestive system healthy.
Why is Taking Care of Your Digestive System Important?
The digestive system breaks down food that you eat into nutrients essential for your body.
Neglecting your digestive system’s health could result in absorption of these nutrients becoming problematic for your body, which in turn could lead to all sorts of health issues.
Ensuring your digestive systems functions effectively is consequently important if you wish to maintain good overall health.
How to Keep the Digestive System Healthy
Your lifestyle and the foods you eat directly impact your digestive health. This means there are several steps you can take to improve your digestive system’s function and health:
Eat More Fibre. A high fibre diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains can improve digestive health by helping food to keep moving through your digestive tract and consequently making constipation less likely.
It can also help prevent or treat diverse digestive issues including, for instance, haemorrhoids, diverticulosis and IBS, as well as being helpful in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
It is important here to ensure that you eat both insoluble and soluble fibre, because these two fibre types aid your digestive system in different ways:
- Insoluble fibre (or roughage, as it is also called) cannot be digested by your body and consequently adds bulk to your stools. Good sources of this type of fibre include vegetables, wheat bran and whole grains.
- Soluble Fibre dissolves in and “draws” water, which helps prevent excessively watery stools and has beneficial effects not only on your digestion but also on your metabolism and long-term health. Soluble fibre sources include legumes, nuts, oat bran and seeds.
You can learn more about the importance of fibre in your diet at Nutrition.org.
Eat Less Fatty Foods. Fatty foods generally tend to slow digestion down, which could lead to constipation. You do, however, need to include some fat in your diet, as the fatty acids it contains help your body absorb vitamins A, D and E.
The “secret” to striking the right balance is to eat the right type of fat ((learn more) and pair any fatty foods you do eat with high fibre foods to make it easier for your digestive system to deal with them.
Eat Lean Meat. Meat is an excellent source of protein, which is essential for a healthy diet.
Fatty meat can, however, cause uncomfortable digestive issues. To prevent such issues, choose lean meats like skinless poultry or red meat (beef, pork, etc.) with the fat trimmed off.
Create a Schedule. Creating a regular eating schedule and sticking to it can also help your digestive system stay in top condition. The goal is to eat your meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) and in-between snacks at roughly the same time every day.
Drink Plenty of Water. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is good for your digestive system because as the water is drawn into your colon by the fibre in your diet, it helps create softer, bulkier stools than can pass easier through your system. This also makes it less likely that you will become constipated.
Give Up Bad Habits. Alcohol, excessive caffeine intake and smoking can interfere with your digestive system’s function.
This can lead to heartburn and other, potentially serious, stomach problems. Giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake can prevent such problems.
Exercise Regularly. Exercising regularly reduces constipation by keeping food moving through the digestive system. It also helps you achieve and maintain a healthier weight, which is good for both your digestive and overall health.
Keep Stress at Bay. Excessive stress and/or anxiety can both cause and worsen symptoms of digestive disorders. Managing your stress levels by finding and regularly practising stress-reducing activities you enjoy will consequently help improve your digestive health. You can learn more about stress-reducing activities in our Health Hub’s “Exercise & Nutrition” section.
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