Your diet directly affects your digestive tract, and experts say what you eat and how and when you eat it can affect the digestive system. So what can you do to make sure your digestive tract stays happy and you keep your gut health in check?
Many have heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” For your digestive tract, that statement couldn’t ring more true. What you eat can have an unpleasant impact on how your body functions. Here are some expert tips on how to help your digestive tract function optimally.
Get on a schedule
Eating regular meals is the key to regularity of your digestive tract, said Patsy Catsos, a registered dietitian and author of IBS-Free At Last! “It’s unrealistic to expect bowel regularity if you skip meals and then make up for it later by overeating,” she said.
Drink, drink, drink
Drinking enough water is essential for good digestive health.
“Water requirements vary depending on your climate and activity level,” Catsos said. “How much is enough? Urine should be pale yellow in color. If yours tends to be orange, increase your fluid intake.”
Eat the right type and amount of fiber. Healthy adult women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, Catsos said.
On the go? Try fiber supplements like Benefiber, which also can help boost your daily fiber intake.
Change that diet
The human body is not equipped to handle the tremendous loads of sugar in today’s diet, even when they come from healthy-sounding sources such as dried fruit, fruit juices, honey and agave syrup, Catsos said.
“Sugar-free sweeteners aren’t much better when it comes to digestive health,” she said.
Dr. J. Shah, medical director at Amari Medical, added that undigested or highly processed food can cause inflammation in the gut, which can lead to many disturbances of functions. He advised eating organic food and free-range meat as well as high-protein, low-carbohydrate and high-fiber foods.
“Good animal proteins include eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beef and pork,” he said. “Vegetable proteins include soy, dairy (whey), hemp, rice, peanut powder, quinoa and amaranth.”
Fats also can be a good thing, said Dr. Christopher Mohr, a nutrition and exercise expert. Swapping out saturated fats with those that contain essential fatty acids like Omega-3s is a good move, he said.
“Instead of butter, use olive or canola oils,” he said. “Add foods rich in polyunsaturated fats — think salmon and walnuts — and monounsaturated fats, like avocados and almonds.”
Catsos recommended talking to your health provider about incorporating probiotics in your diet if digestive disruption continues after making dietary and lifestyle changes. She recommended probiotics like VSL#3, which help patients with ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders.
Mohr added that there are at least 350 specific strains of probiotics that each have unique benefits.