Promoting Good Digestive Health
Many people understand the link between good nutrition and a healthy heart, but are less clear on the vital role that the digestive system plays in maintaining overall health and well-being. Serving as the body’s “inner ecosystem,” the gastrointestinal tract houses many types of bacteria that digest food, produce nutrients, eliminate toxins, and regulate hormones. Good health is dependent on achieving a delicate balance among the bacteria present in the stomach and intestines.
Additionally, the majority of the body’s immune system also resides in the gut. Therefore, a compromised digestive system can lead to the development of many health conditions, including colds, flu, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
There are many simple lifestyle changes that you can make to benefit your digestive system and help ward off illnesses, both now and throughout your life. These include:
- Eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables – Packed with vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients, these “super foods” can enhance your digestive health as well as provide many other benefits.
- Getting enough dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble) – Soluble fiber from nuts, seeds, and legumes can draw in water and can help prevent watery stools; insoluble fiber (roughage) from vegetables and whole grains are not digested, so they can improve bowel function.
- Consuming adequate protein – If you eat meats, select lean cuts, such as skinless poultry and pork loin, which are digested more easily than fatty meats like beef ribs and T-bone steak. Plant proteins, such as beans, soy products, and nuts, are also good choices because they contain beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats and no cholesterol.
- Getting the nutrients you need from food sources rather than supplements – If necessary, you can get some types of nutrients from vitamins, but supplements are not intended to be a food substitute because they cannot replicate all of the benefits of eating whole foods.
- Avoiding high-fat foods – Fatty foods tend to slow the digestive process, which can lead to constipation and other issues.
- Staying well hydrated – Water can help dissolve fats and soluble fiber in your digestive system, allowing these substances to pass through it more easily.
- Eating mindfully – Sit down for your meals and snacks at around the same time each day. Eat slowly and savor your food.
- Breaking bad habits – Drinking alcoholic beverages excessively, smoking, and using other forms of tobacco can interfere with digestion and lead to problems like heartburn and ulcers.
In general, if you take good care of yourself by eating well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress level, these efforts will help ensure good digestive health, too.
If you have questions or are experiencing digestive issues, you can turn to your neighborhood physician at South Tampa Immediate Care. We don’t require appointments, so you are welcome to walk right in.