We rarely think about our digestive health, in part because it’s invisible to us. But supporting better digestion can lead to a higher quality of life and reduce your chances of developing certain illnesses and conditions.
What actionable steps can the average person take to improve their digestive health?
The Benefits of Better Digestive Health
Let’s start by describing some of the most valuable benefits of improved digestive health:
- Well-being and energy. Digestion affects us in a multitude of ways that we rarely consciously recognize. Even small digestive issues, like acid reflux and mild, temporary stomach aches, can distract and leave us unwell. Improving your digestive health is a way to benefit from more energy and an increased sense of well-being. You’ll feel better all around, and you may not realize why.
- More comfortable bowel movements. Bowel movements are the natural end of our digestive processes, so it’s no mystery why better digestive health leads to more comfortable bowel movements. If you’ve ever had to strain in the bathroom or dread voiding your bowels because of the discomfort involved, it’s time to start proactively working on your digestive health.
- Reduced risk of health complications. Better digestive health can also lead to a reduced risk of various health issues. Digestive disorders and more serious diseases like intestinal cancer can result from poor digestive health.
Simple Strategies for Improving Digestive Health
Here’s the good news: improving your digestive health is straightforward, inexpensive, and accessible. The average person can see dramatically positive digestive benefits by focusing on the following:
- Eat more fiber. Everyone needs fiber in their daily diet. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that your body uses as a bulking agent to create waste. It also comes in two different varieties: soluble and insoluble fiber. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains tend to be high in both types of fiber, so eat plenty of these materials. And if that doesn’t give you enough fiber to meet your daily requirements, consider adding a fiber supplement.
- Incorporate healthy fats. Next, incorporate more healthy fats, which your body uses for many different functions, including digestion. Healthy fats are generally unsaturated fats that come from plants, though some animal sources also provide good fats. Olive oil, avocados, and some types of fish are good sources of healthy fats.
- Consume a mix of different foods. Adding more diversity to your diet can improve your digestive health in several different ways. For starters, you’ll get a wide range of different vitamins and minerals in your body, which your body needs to digest properly. Also, eating lots of different foods diversifies the pool of microorganisms your digestive tract needs (gut flora) to break down materials appropriately.
- Chew thoroughly. It’s hard to make a firm recommendation for how many times to chew before swallowing since it will be different for different people and different foods – but on average, a typical person should strive to chew 30 times before swallowing. Chewing your food more thoroughly breaks it down into smaller pieces and allows your saliva to begin dissolving food into its constituent elements before it hits your stomach. It ultimately makes food easier on your digestive system and allows you to digest your food more thoroughly.
- Eliminate bad substance habits. Certain types of substance habits can interfere with your digestive health. For example, smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol excessively, and consuming some types of recreational drugs can impact your digestion. It’s best to eliminate these habits, but if you can’t do that, try to minimize them.
- Exercise more. Physical exercise stimulates your metabolism and encourages your digestive system to be active and healthy. It’s also an excellent healthy habit, so make it a point to exercise daily.
- Get some probiotics. Probiotics are materials that introduce “good” bacteria into your digestive system. This good bacteria is necessary for healthy digestion, and it may also be associated with other health benefits. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt are probiotics; you can also take probiotic supplements.
- Drink plenty of water. Your digestive system needs ample water to break down foods and move them through your intestines. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day!
- Reduce stress. Did you know that stress can influence your digestion as well? If you still have digestive issues after using the above strategies, look at the stress in your life. Is it time to change jobs? Should you take some time off? What can you do to reduce the stress in your life and better manage it?
Even if you only follow a few of these digestive health strategies, you can put your stomach, intestines, and other organs into a much better state. If you follow all of them, you’ll feel even better.
Featured Image by Silvia from Pixabay