Digestive problems are the second most common reason Americans visit their physicians. But many of these problems could be avoided with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle! According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, poor digestion is the most common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder in the United States. And according to the American Gastroenterological Association, 40-60% of Americans have one or more GI disorders at some point in their lives. However, there are many lifestyle changes to improve digestive health out there.
But how do you make a change? By starting small with these tips:
1. Drink More Water
We all know that drinking water is good for our health, but how does it affect your stomach? According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, constipation and diarrhea can often be controlled by making simple changes to your diet and drinking more water. Increasing your fluids intake will help prevent dehydration and keep your digestive system moving naturally.
How much water should we drink each day anyway? There are many differing opinions on this topic. The Mayo Clinic suggests a range between 4-6 liters or 16-24 cups per day based on age and activity level. The Institute of Medicine recommends 3 liters (or 12 cups) of fluid per day for men and 2.2 liters (or 9 cups) for women.
2. Eat Smaller & Regular Meals
One of the best (and easiest) lifestyle changes to improve digestive health is to eat smaller meals more frequently instead of three large meals a day. Eating small portions helps stimulate food movement through your stomach and intestines.
Eating more often can help you avoid feeling full later in the day and overeating at night. You’ll also be less likely to experience those painful hunger pangs.
3. Eat More Fruits & Vegetables
The human body needs fiber to digest food and stay healthy. Fiber can help regulate your digestion, keep your blood sugar levels stable, and even decrease heart disease risk. One easy way to add fiber to your diet is by eating fruits and vegetables. This is also a staple in a macrobiotic diet which works on eating more fresh produce and eliminating unhealthily processed and sugar-laden foods. If you want to find out if a macrobiotic diet is proper for you, look into SHI Macrobiotics for more information.
Choose from a variety of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber like apples, oranges, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, kale, and spinach — or try different combinations of fruits and vegetables at every meal.
And don’t forget about the plant-based foods you enjoy for lunch and dinner that are also rich in fiber, like beans, lentils, quinoa, oats — or any other whole grains you want.
4. Choose Whole Grains & Nuts
A healthy diet is essential for digestive health. An unbalanced diet could lead to indigestion, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and other GI problems. \Another one of the simple lifestyle changes to improve digestive health is adding more whole grains and nuts.
Whole grains are a great source of fiber which helps improve intestinal function. Nuts also provide fiber and healthy fats to help relieve constipation and regulate the digestive system.
5. Lessen Alcohol Intake
An occasional drink is fine, but it might be time to cut back if your stomach starts to feel uneasy after a few drinks. Alcohol disrupts the bacteria naturally present in your stomach and can lead to indigestion and other digestive problems.
6. Move Your Body More
It’s not always easy to find time in your day to exercise and keep up with a healthy lifestyle, but moving more can help improve your digestion. Exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation in the GI tract, which often decreases symptoms of discomfort.
Want to read about other lifestyle changes to improve digestive health? Head to our blog!