It’s normal to experience digestive issues from time to time. Heartburn, gas, constipation and diarrhea might happen occasionally, but when they start to happen frequently, it can really disrupt your life.
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Fortunately, changes to your diet and nutrition can make a big difference when it comes to managing digestive issues. Plus, many of the changes are natural swaps or new considerations – all coming down to the basis of eating real food.
Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, shares six tips to improve your digestion naturally.
- Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Be adventurous and get creative when it comes to adding more fruits and veggies to your diet. Fill your plate with the colors of the rainbow, from red to dark green. Stock up on canned and frozen veggies for convenience, but also be sure to include lots of fresh produce into your meals. Plant foods are rich in fiber and contain many disease fighting chemicals. A high-fiber diet has been linked to improved digestive health.
- Choose whole grains more often. Look for and choose packages that say “whole grains” more often than white or processed bread or other grains. It should be on the package, but also in the ingredient list (on the nutrition label). Make sure that the words “whole grains” appear among the first items listed. Then also check the amount of fiber the product contains. Try to choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving for the best benefit.
- Limit the amount of beef, pork, lamb and processed meats you eat. Choose poultry or fish more frequently than red meat and limit all processed meats, like salami, bacon and hotdogs. Smaller portions of meat, consumed less often (a 12-ounce porterhouse is really three servings, not one), are also beneficial. Most people don’t need to consume more than 6 to 8 ounces of meat every day. Try replacing meat with dried beans for more fiber. One half cup of beans provides the same amount of protein as in 1 ounce of meat.
- Try healthier cooking options. Opt for steaming, poaching, stewing, microwaving, braising and boiling over grilling and frying. And don’t forget – it’s important to make sure your meat gets cooked thoroughly before eating it to reduce other health risks, such as salmonella.
- Consume foods with probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help fight off the bad bacteria in your gut. They also produce healthy substances that provide nourishment for your gut. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, raw apple cider vinegar, onion, garlic and sauerkraut.
- Limit foods that have added sugars and animal fats. These foods can produce harmful chemicals in the gastrointestinal tract and cause damage over time. Read ingredient labels for sources of added sugars – they can be tricky! Choose lean meats and poultry without skin. Limit high-fat dairy products such as cheese and butter.