Digestive health isn't exactly the sexiest topic, but it's something that's crazy important to each and every one of us. It's also why simple ways to improve our digestive health can make a giant difference to our overall quality of life (because I think we can all agree that life just isn't very happy when we're dealing with stomach issues).
According to the American Nutrition Association, approximately 70 million Americans suffer from some form of digestive issue, from acid reflux, to constipation, to just a general upset stomach after eating certain foods. And they also noted that many people resort to a reliance on over-the-counter drugs to control the problem, or even resort to more powerful medications that can have unwanted side effects.
What's more, the American Nutrition Association noted that a lot of the problems people face when it comes to their stomach health aren't caused by genetics, but are caused by things we are doing in our day-to-day lives that can be changed or altered relatively easily.
I personally have had several bouts of digestive trouble in my life — each of which I was able to fix merely by altering my diet. If you've been feeling like your stomach issues are starting to get the best of you and you want a way to feel better fast, here are eight tips that should improve your digestive health in less than a week.
1. Drink More Water
According to a piece reviewed by Sanjai Sinha, MD in Everyday Health, hydration is a super important part of healthy digestion. The article states that literally every part of the digestion process relies on an adequate supply of water, from chewing, to breaking down foods in our stomach, to smoothly moving nutrients through our digestive track. It also majorly helps with constipation (and who wants that?).
2. Get Your Greek Yogurt On
In a piece in U.S. News and World Report, nutritionist Toby Amidor explained that Greek yogurt contains probiotics that help our digestion, as well as noted that it contains less sugar and more protein than regular yogurt. "Eating greek yogurt with probiotics helps increase the good bacteria in your gut. And the more good bacteria you take in, the less room there is for the bad varieties to grow," she wrote. "Maintaining this healthy balance of friendly bacteria can help with several digestive issues. For example, it may help keep you regular and fight the bad bacteria that can cause diarrhea."
3. Eat More Pickles
Greek yogurt isn't the only food that contains healthy probiotics. In a piece for Oprah.com, Beth McDonald, an integrative and sports nutritionist at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing, noted that pickles are also a great source of probiotics and will help to ease stomach discomfort and keep you regular. She noted that if you're not a fan of yogurt you may also want to try sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as miso soup and tempeh.
5. Drink Chamomile Tea
McDonald also noted that chamomile tea has been used as a digestive aid for centuries, and studies show that it may indeed have a calming effect on the stomach. The herb has been known to help with acid reflux, cramping, and nausea. So keep some on hand for days when your stomach is feeling unsettled.
5. Make Sure You're Getting Enough Fiber
In another piece in Everyday Health, registered dietician Maria Adams stressed the importance of consuming enough fiber, as found in fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. "A high-fiber diet helps to keep food moving through your digestive tract, making you less likely to get constipated." If you've been experiencing digestive trouble lately you might want to take stock of what you've been eating and make sure you've been getting enough.
6. Limit Fatty Meats
"In general, fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making you more prone to constipation," said Adams. She instead recommended opting for lean meats when you can, or pairing fatty options with high fiber foods when you do eat them.
In a piece for Bodyecology.com, health coach Nancy Spahr reminded us that digestion begins with chewing, and so it's genuinely important to make sure we're doing it thoroughly, even if we're scarfing down lunch in front of a computer. "Digestion of carbohydrates (starches, sugars) starts in your mouth with saliva and enzymes," she wrote. "The enzymes not only help break down your food, they also attack bacteria. Most people don't chew thoroughly, which makes digestion of food much harder when it reaches your stomach. Chewing is stage one of proper digestion."
8. Read Labels Carefully
Finally, a compilation piece on Eatingwell.com on ways to improve your digestion stressed the importance of reading labels, especially if you have trouble digesting dairy. "Although milk and foods made from milk are the only natural sources of lactose, milk derivatives are often added to prepared foods, including bread and other baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, lunch meats, salad dressing, candy and powdered meal-replacement supplements," they wrote.
Digestive issues shouldn't take over your life! If you've been feeling less than awesome about how your body has been processing food, try incorporating the above tips into your routine and you'll likely start feeling a huge difference.
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