7 Old Wives' Tales About Digestion That Are Actually True
While science is always coming up with new and effective ways to keep your gut healthy, sometimes old-fashioned advice can be a big help, too. For example, you've likely heard about eating more apples, chewing food carefully, and getting three square meals a day as a way of having better digestion. And that's because, in many ways, these tips really do work.
Even though they've been around forever, old wives' tales like these tend to stick for a reason. "Generally, [they are] based on practices that are less likely to be harmful or have high risks associated with them," registered dietician Lisa Hugh MSHS, RD, LDN, tells Bustle. And there's also something kind of comforting about them.
"'Old-fashioned' advice is often things that are easy and somewhat pleasant," Hugh says. Few people may struggle with eating an apple a day, or chewing their food more carefully. And yet making small changes like these can actually also be quite beneficial.
While you should always take personal advice from your doctor first, old time-y tricks often help, too. "Old-fashioned advice is more general and applies across the board," Hugh says. So, with that in mind, here are a few old-fashioned pieces of advice that can help with digestion, according to experts.
1. Eat Prunes To Fix Constipation
Grandparents the world over have long suggested we eat prunes to clear up constipation. And with good reason. "Prunes have a reputation for helping pass stool, and they actually work for many," Ysabel Montemayor, lead RD at Fresh n' Lean, tells Bustle. "They are a promising solution for those who are constipated because they are rich in fiber and contain sorbitol."
These are two things that can get your bowels moving. "Fiber helps move food through the digestive system and add bulk to stool while sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, acts as a natural laxative," Montemayor says. "Prune juice also helps because it retains the sorbitol, but will not provide as much fiber."
2. Have An Apple A Day
We've all heard the classic saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." But did you know there's some truth to it? "Having fruits and vegetables daily is very important when it comes to antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber," nutrition expert and certified health coach Josh Holland, tells Bustle. "Why is it still accurate today? These aspects of digestive health have and always will be important. Eating whole foods like an apple's pulp and skin are super beneficial."
3. Chew Your Food Slowly
Chewing food slowly is an age-old piece of advice that's stuck around, and one we should all be more mindful of. "The more we chew the more we absorb the nutrients from our food with increased saliva and enzyme production," holistic mindset and transformation coach Melissa Wolak, MS, CCC-SLP, tells Bustle. "It also increases the ease in digesting the food and maximizing your energy in the process."
4. Eat Three Square Meals A Day
While everyone needs different amounts of food, there is some truth to the basic idea of having three square meals a day.
"People rarely have consistency in terms of the food groups that make up their meals," Hugh says. "Some meals are just fruit, or just vegetables, or [vegetables plus] protein or starch only. This is hard on the body in a lot of ways — energy is low, belly feels upset, and people are often constipated."
To keep yourself from feeling sluggish, focusing on the "square" part of this old saying can help. Start by following a basic meal pattern, Hugh says. And make sure you have multiple food groups on your plate. "This helps [you] feel more energetic and helps [you] eat whole foods, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and other nutrients so that [you] have less constipation and other digestive symptoms."
5. Take Fennel For An Upset Stomach
Fennel, a licorice-flavored vegetable, has long been suggested as a remedy for upset stomachs. And for many people, it really does help. "Fennel works to alleviate many digestive issues by relieving the build-up of gasses which can lead to flatulence and belching," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. "Additionally, fennel has been shown to minimize stomach cramps, nausea, and indigestion."
6. Drink Hot Water After A Meal
There's a reason why so many folks reach for a glass for warm water after a meal. "Drinking hot water or tea after a meal will help aid digestion by hydrating your intestines and aiding in mucus production, as well as breaking down food and guiding it through the digestive tract," Ashley Moellering, founder of Digestion in Retrograde, tells Bustle. It's also just a nice way to end a meal.
7. Get Plenty Of Fiber
The advice to "eat more fiber" is and always has been true, as few things help your digestion more. "Insoluble fiber helps move things along in your digestive system and can be a huge game changer to those who often experience constipation," registered dietician Lorraine Chu, MS, RDN, tells Bustle. Fiber can come from whole grains, nuts, beans, and high-fiber veggies, she says. Eating foods like these, along with plenty of water, can keep your gut happy.
Advice like this may seem old-fashioned, but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true. Sometimes, simple is best when it comes to maintaining good digestive health, whether it's by eating an apple, drinking prune juice, or having a glass of warm water after dinner. These tips have, after all, stuck around for a reason.