The digestive system is the center of the human body where nutrition really takes place. The digestive process begins with the first smell or even thought of food. Digestion starts with saliva flowing and continues on to chewing, breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and finally producing waste. Unfortunately for many, problems like constipation, abdominal pain, heartburn, gas, bloating, and diarrhea can significantly impact their quality of life.
What, how, and when you eat can each affect your body’s ability to digest and absorb food. The following are some suggestions to help improve your overall digestive health. Depending on your symptoms and condition, advice on digestive health can differ greatly. A consultation with a dietitian may be necessary to give individualized advice.
This May Help
Focus on eating
Concentrate on the food in front of you and remove distractions like TV, computer work, or eating behind the wheel. Try to relax at mealtime as much as possible so you enjoy eating as well as reduce stress on the body when digesting.
Take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing.
This allows for proper posture while eating to prevent choking and allow for proper swallowing. Not eating while standing in the kitchen helps you to become more mindful about what you are eating.
Eat small, frequent meals instead of 2 or 3 big ones
Spreading food out into smaller portions allows the body to have food in quantities that are easier to digest and utilize instead of being overloaded at one time.
Drink plenty of fluids
Fluid helps to wash food down the esophagus as well as helps keep food moving through the entire intestinal tract.
If you suspect a disease, disorder, or more serious condition, seek help from a gastroenterologist for medical intervention. You may need to be tested for allergies, food sensitivities, or intolerances. You may also want to consider seeking help from a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive health.
Foods to include on a daily basis for good digestive health:
- Foods high in fiber
- Increase fiber in your diet slowly to prevent excess gas, or take a gas-reducing supplement when eating high fiber foods.
- Whole grains
- Lean or low fat proteins
- Whole fruits and vegetables
- Legumes (dried beans and peas)
This May Hurt
- Being distracted during mealtime
- Eating quickly
- Lying down after a meal
- Being dehydrated
- Ignoring symptoms that could be signs of serious disease
- Eating only once per day
- Loading up on fat and sugar and avoiding fiber and whole foods
- Eating foods that are potentially unsafe (raw meats, unpasteurized dairy, foods not kept at proper temperatures)
- Caffeine and alcohol can be irritants to various places of the digestive tract for some people
- Foods that may cause some people symptoms:
- Acidic foods like citrus, tomatoes, and peppers
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods (fried, creamy)
- Sugar alcohols (cause gas)
- High fiber foods
- Carbonated beverages
- Dairy (lactose intolerance)
- Nuts and seeds