Most people suffer from the occasional bout of digestive “issues” – gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. But a healthy digestive system is responsible for more than just preventing tummy trouble – it may also improve your energy and keep your immune system strong. Here are 5 ways to get your digestive health back on track.
1. Good Bugs to the Rescue
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that inhabit your digestive tract where they aid digestion and keep your immune system functioning properly. However, antibiotic use, stress and an unbalanced diet can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the body, reducing their protective effects. To get more probiotics, skip the high sugar or artificially sweetened yogurts and opt for true probiotic-rich foods such as miso or kefir. Better yet, choose a high-quality supplement such as Jamieson Digestive Care™ Daily Probiotic. It contains Probi Digestis®, a natural probiotic strain that has been proven in more published studies than any other strain to help relieve symptoms commonly associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), such as gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort.
2. Calm Your Stress
Stress can wreak havoc with your stomach and digestive processes. It not only depletes our natural levels of probiotics, but also essential nutrients such as the B vitamins. Finding ways to manage your stress can improve digestive symptoms dramatically. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and journaling are helpful for some. Others may get a mood boost from more vigorous exercise. Ensuring you get a good night’s rest each and every night can also help reduce stress and manage your tummy troubles. Learning how to manage your stress is one of the best investments you can make in your digestive and overall health.
3. Chew, Chew, Chew
If you are one of those people who inhale their food or eat on the run, you’re more likely to suffer from indigestion, bloating and other digestive problems. Make a conscious effort to chew your food a little longer to help break it down into smaller parts. This allows your mouth to produce more saliva, which contains a digestive enzyme called salivary amylase that kick-starts the digestive process. Your stomach can also process food more efficiently when it receives it as smaller parts.
4. Bulk Up with Fibre
For better digestive health and to help relieve constipation, add some fibre to your diet. Fibre helps regulate bowel movements and speeds the passage of waste through the colon. Health experts recommend that healthy adults consume 21 to 38 grams of fibre each day, yet most Canadians eat less than half of this amount on a regular basis. Aim for 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, especially apples, citrus fruit, carrots and broccoli; choose whole grain breads, cereals and pastas rather than refined “white” products; and add a few tablespoons of bran or ground flaxseed on top of your regular bowl of cereal or yogurt. Another easy and delicious way to boost your fibre intake is with new Jamieson Digestive Care™ Daily Fibre. This all-natural fibre comes in two delicious flavours and is the only natural fibre powder that does not cause gas or bloating.
5. Don’t Forget the H2O
To help break food down and move it more efficiently through your digestive tract, be sure to drink water both during and after meals. Constipation is a common digestive complaint, which you can help to remedy by increasing your fluid intake. This is especially important as you start to consume more fibre-rich foods, because additional fluids are needed to move the bulk through your system. Aim for 8 to 10 cups of pure, filtered water every day.
Digestive issues exist in a variety of forms, and for a variety of reasons. Giving these lifestyle adjustments a try can be a positive first step towards identifying and resolving your particular concerns. Some digestive issues can be a sign of a more serious health issue, and if your symptoms persist, be sure to visit your healthcare practitioner.
Michelle Latinsky is a Toronto-based registered dietitian. She graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University, and completed her dietetic internship at St. Michael’s Hospital. She is also a long-time Executive Committee member of the Dietitians of Canada Business & Industry Network (DCBIN).