A few simple dietary tweaks can often go a long way toward improving digestive health.
Digestive problems—from constipation to lactose intolerance—affect up to 70 million people, according to the National
Institutes of Health. Modifying your diet to treat a digestive problem requires a lot of trial and error and should be done
in conjunction with your health-care provider. Still, making a few simple dietary changes (e.g., eating a healthful diet rich
in fiber and making sure to drink plenty of fluids) often can go a long way in improving your digestive health. The nutrition
experts at EatingWell recommend following these guidelines for healthy digestion.
Eat plenty of fiber.
Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it move through the colon quicker, which helps prevent digestive problems like
constipation and diarrhea. A fiber-rich diet may also play a part in lowering your risk of colon and rectal cancer. Shoot for
25 to 30 grams of fiber per day—most Americans only get half that—by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and
beans. If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, consider a fiber supplement. [Note: Eating high-fiber foods
is a healthy choice for most people, but they can exacerbate symptoms of a few digestive conditions. If you’ve ever received
medical treatment for a digestive problem, check with your health-care provider before you start loading up.]
Fill up on fluids.
Liquids lubricate the colon and soften stool so it’s easier to pass, helping to prevent constipation. Aim to drink at least 8
cups per day. Since it’s calorie-free, water is an excellent choice, but most beverages—such as milk and juice—are about 90
percent water, so they count too.
Go easy on fatty fare.
Too much fat slows digestion, which can lead to heartburn, bloating and constipation. What’s more, research suggests that a
diet high in saturated fat may increase your risk of colon cancer.
Watch alcohol intake.
Drinking too much alcohol can irritate your stomach lining and relax your lower esophageal sphincter—the valve that prevents
stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus. This can cause bleeding or heartburn. If you drink, do so in moderation—no
more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Alcohol is also dehydrating, which can worsen constipation.