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How to improve your digestive system

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Here’s how to improve the flow of your digestive system, naturally.

Your mother probably told you to eat plenty of fibre. Turns out she was right. Getting the proper amount of dietary fibre is one of the best ways to ensure healthy digestion. Dietary fibre is essential for helping food move through the digestive system and preventing constipation and obstructions. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grain foods such as bread and pasta are all excellent sources of fibre.

Women should strive to eat at least 26 grams of fibre per day while the recommended level for men is 38 grams per day. But that doesn’t mean you should start tomorrow by dramatically increasing your levels of fibre.

A sudden fibre increase can have the opposite effect on your digestive health—causing problems such as gassiness, bloating and constipation. In- stead, slowly increase your fibre intake over a period of weeks. It’s also important if you’re increasing your fibre intake to increase your fluid intake at the same time. Fibre and water act in combination with one another.

Keep in mind there are actually two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble fi- bre. Your mother likely called the insoluble kind “roughage.” Insoluble fibre is difficult for your body to digest but it plays a vital role in keeping things moving and promoting a healthy digestive tract. Soluble fibre draws water from the body and prevents diarrhea and it can reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body. Vegetables, bran oatmeal, cilium (found in All Bran cereal) and whole grains contain insoluble fibre while nuts, legumes and, seeds are great sources of soluble fibre.

Medical researchers are just now becoming aware of another important food for dietary health: resistant starches. These dietary components have physiological effects on the digestive system that are similar to fibre. Unlike regular starches, resistant starches don’t break down into sugar in the body. They are fermented in the colon and create an environment that’s beneficial for healthy bacteria to grow. Resistant starches are found mainly in starchy foods that have been cooked and cooled. This includes foods such as potato salad, pasta salad, and sushi rice.

Probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir are also known to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Most people love high fat foods like hamburgers, ice cream, French fries, and deep-fried foods. They’re cheap, easy and tasty. But, they are also ex- tremely hard on our digestive systems— in part because they tend to be low in dietary fibre and nutrients, and high

in calories. Reducing high fat foods from your diet in favour of increased amounts of fruits and vegetables can have a dramatic effect on your overall digestive health.

At the same time, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Both tend to dry out the digestive tract, making digestion less efficient and in- creasing the risk of constipation. Al- though moderation is the key, you can also counteract the effects of caffeine

and alcohol somewhat by drinking plenty of water whenever you indulge.

In fact, drinking water can be one of the best natural ways to boost healthy digestion. The popular adage of eight glasses of water per day is a good guideline. And smaller, more frequent meals are better for digestive health than large meals.

There are a number of ways that can help improve your digestive health that don’t just involve diet. Stress reduc- tion is a big one. Stress and anxiety can have a significant effect on the diges- tive process, making stress reducing activities such as meditation and yoga helpful. And while you’re signing up for that yoga class, remember that 30 min- utes of exercise every day is very good for the bowel—and your overall health as well!

More Inspiration: You may also find this article on the health benefits of fermented foods very helpful!

Author: Tom Mason is an OptiMYz writer and writes on topics relating to lifestyle, health, nutrition, travel.


  • Tom Mason is a freelance writer and editor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He occasionally writes for OptiMyz Magazine.

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