Millions of Americans suffer from digestive diseases and disorders and uncomfortable symptoms they can cause. Fortunately, there are some simple steps we can all take to improve our gut health and, ideally, reduce our risks of developing these problems.
With offices in The Woodlands, Magnolia, and Willis, Texas, board-certified gastroenterologist Ilyas Memon MD, and the team at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants offer tailored treatment for every patient, including lifestyle guidance aimed at reducing and even preventing symptoms. In this post, learn five simple things you can do to help you manage your digestive health.
Not surprisingly, one of the best and most important moves to improve gut health involves healthy eating. After all, what you put in your mouth eventually works its way through your digestive tract. If your choices are unhealthy, you can wind up with all sorts of digestive health issues, including bloating, belly pain, and constipation or diarrhea.
Most of us know we should eat more fiber to keep bowel movements regular (and to feed helpful gut bacteria). But these tips are also important:
Fermented foods, like yogurt with live cultures, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and some types of sauerkraut, also support healthy gut bacteria. Read the labels to ensure these products contain live cultures and limit products high in sugars.
While an occasional sweet treat is generally OK, too much sugar is definitely bad for digestive health (and the bacteria that support digestion). On average, we consume about 17 teaspoons of sugar per day — more than a third of a cup.
All that sugar increases the risks of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, and it also increases your risk of digestive problems, including inflammation. Swapping artificial sweeteners with sugar might seem smart, but it’s not: artificial sweeteners can cause bowel problems, too.
Like sugary snacks, alcohol interferes with your healthy gut bacteria, eventually leading to problems with digestive health and with your liver, an organ that plays a big role in digestion. Over time, alcohol can also lead to inflammation and irritation in your bowel.
Digestion uses a lot of water to process the foods you eat. Staying hydrated provides your body with the liquid it needs to extract important nutrients from food and keep the digestive process moving along.
Most of us should aim to drink eight glasses of water per day, adjusting the amount based on our activity level, the weather, and underlying medical issues, like diabetes or kidney disease. Add some lemon, cucumber, or lime if water isn't appealing, or consider herbal teas. Limit caffeinated beverages that can wind up drawing fluid out of your tissues.
Exercise benefits your body in so many ways; it’s probably not so surprising that it helps maintain digestion. When you get regular physical activity, you keep your muscles moving, including the muscles used in digestion. Plus, regular physical activity keeps your gut bacteria healthy and happy, improving the structure of your gut as well as its function.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about exercise benefits is that you need to do a lot of exercise to reap the rewards. Actually, just half an hour or so every day of moderate activity, like a brisk walk, yields major benefits for your heart and the rest of your body. Considering that the average American spends about half their day glued to their screens, a half hour of moderate physical activity is well within the reach of nearly all of us.
About a third of American adults report not getting adequate sleep, and about 40% say they fall asleep unintentionally at least one day per month. Regarding sleep’s impact on digestive health, not catching those all-important Zs increases stress levels, directly impacting your healthy gut bacteria. What’s more, stress increases the likelihood that you’ll adopt unhealthy eating habits, like snacking on sugary or fatty foods.
Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Most of us should aim for about 7-9 hours of sleep each night to improve gut health and overall wellness.
Even mild or seemingly benign digestive symptoms can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem that can benefit from early intervention. To find out what’s causing your digestive issues and how we can help, call 281-764-9500 or request an appointment online with Dr. Memon today.