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Digestive health: 10 Tips for getting your digestive system back on track

Founder of Nutritious Life (a private nutrition practice in NYC), author of 4 books, Womens Health Mag contributor, tv personality, mom, list maker, & lover of all things green.

Expert tips for digestive health

With the start of the new year and the holidays of overeating, overdrinking and even overspending behind us, many of us are embarking on new diets and setting health goals for 2012.

Consuming too many rich and indulgent foods and compromising our digestive health by flooding our bodies with large amounts of fat and sugar is so 2011. Here are some tips to help keep your digestive flow on track this year.

1. Incorporate healthy bacteria in your diet

Factors such as stress, lack of sleep, antibiotics, illness, aging and poor diet choices can often lead to an imbalance of your digestive tract bacteria. Certain probiotics, mostly found in dairy products and some fortified cereals, can help to maintain the balance of "good" bacteria in the digestive tract. Try a daily helping of yogurt with probiotics, such as Activia.


2. Keep the fiber on deck

Consistently eating the right amount of fiber can help promote bowel function. High-fiber foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains also help you feel full, which can help lower your chance of overeating throughout the day. Keeping a running tab on the fiber you consume can help give you more energy.

Water with lemon

3. Hydrate

Water is one of those essential elements for a healthy digestive system. Adequate hydration gives your digestive system the moisture it needs to properly function. Also, sometimes our bodies mistake hunger for thirst, so stay hydrated to prevent unnecessary overeating. Try keeping water with lemon slices around to help boost your intake.

4. Become a frequent flyer

Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism revved up, your blood sugar balanced and your energy up. This can also help you avoid feeling ravenous at your next meal, which in turn can lead to eating larger portions of high-fat foods that can slow your digestion.Try ruining your appetite before going to a party or out to dinner with a nutrient-dense snack like a handful of nuts or a plain yogurt.

Expert tips for digestive health

5. Work it out

Exercise can help create a healthy digestive environment by allowing food to move through the large intestine much quicker, which also decreases the amount of water lost in the stool. Intestinal muscles that contract during exercise also contribute to more efficient movement of stools.

6. Slow and steady wins the race

Some researchers claim that the more you chew your food, the less you eat. Chewing foods slowly also increases the digestive enzymes in your mouth, which allow for better overall digestion as the food moves through your digestive tract. Besides, who wants to feel like the elephant in the room by expelling gas caused from eating too fast?

7. Don't pull the trigger!

Holiday festive foods, such as red wine, holiday citrus punch, spicy shrimp appetizers or tomato bisque soup, are all examples of foods that may irritate the digestive system. By avoiding "trigger" foods such as these, your digestive system will operate more smoothly, which will help you be more relaxed in the New Year.

8. Think saucer (but not flying saucer)


Having a smaller plate means that a smaller amount of food can fit on it. With less food, of course, the less you will end up eating. Portion control is important not only for weight management but for reducing the stress on the digestive system that comes from overeating.

9. If it's fried and dyed, lay it to the side

Heavy, wintry foods, such as duck confit, eggnog and apple pie not only stay in the digestive system longer, but they cause more stomach acid to be produced, which can also lead to gastric reflux. Processed comfort foods such as instant mashed potatoes, canned gravy and cranberry sauce may be challenging for your digestive system; avoid these and your stomach will thank you!

10. Indulge consciously


For those who must have dishes that just can't be trimmed of fat and calories, go ahead and go for it -- but in a conscious manner. Avoid the post-meal sluggish feeling by cutting the portion in half and feel empowered having a controlled portion. Always try to have a cup of tea on hand -- try mint or cinnamon tea. This will help slow down your eating, allowing you to listen to your body and be more mindful.

Watch: How to soothe an upset stomach

Everyone gets an upset stomach from time to time. The first line of defense in this high-tech age is still old-time remedies!

More on digestive health

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Eat your prebiotics for digestive health
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