Every time you eat, your digestive system is working hard for you, breaking down food and assimilating it for your body to use. Are you giving it the support it needs to do its job?
Without good choices that nourish your digestive health, issues may arise. Conditions that can result from poor digestion include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic constipation, which can result in colon ulcerations, hemorrhoids and bowel obstructions
- Leaky gut
- Gas, bloating and cramping
- Over time, possibly more serious conditions
But thankfully, gut-healthy choices don’t have to be complicated. Let’s look at some of the best things we can all do to support our digestive systems.
7 Digestive Health Tips for a Good Gut
Here are some ways you can support your daily digestive health and help prevent the risk of gut-related issues—or possibly even improve current problems.
1. Eat a Balanced, High-Fiber Diet
Since what you eat goes through your digestive tract, it makes sense to focus on healthy food choices. Emphasize a diet containing:
- Many raw fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown)
- Fresh, sprouted whole grains, such as brown rice, millet and quinoa
- Beans and legumes, preferably sprouted
- Nuts and seeds, especially those with omega-3s like flax, chia or walnuts
- Good fats like avocado and salmon
- Grass-fed and free-range meats, if you eat them (but focus on vegetarian foods first)
- Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Probiotic supplements for extra support
Fiber supplements, digestive enzymes, and herbs like marshmallow root, licorice root and slippery elm may also help support your gut health.
You should also consume a combination of insoluble and soluble fiber, which add bulk to your stools and keep them from being too watery, respectively. Veggies, whole grains and wheat bran are good insoluble fiber sources. You can get soluble fiber from legumes, nuts and seeds, and oat bran.
2. Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods
A diet high in sugar, saturated fats, and packaged foods with low fiber intake is a recipe for disaster for your digestive system. Try to limit junk foods to 10 percent or less of your diet, and focus on high-nutrient, high-fiber options instead.
3. Maintain a Regular Eating Schedule
Eating your meals and snacks around the same time each day—and eating frequently enough to feel satisfied but not overly full—can help keep your digestive health in good shape.
4. Exercise Often
A regular exercise program can help strengthen your digestive health and prevent issues like constipation. Every day is ideal, but if that’s not doable, aim for several times a week.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Being hydrated can slow digestion. Plus, drinking enough water is the perfect complement to a high-fiber diet, as fiber pulls water into your colon to make stools easier to pass through.
Build a habit of always carrying water with you to drink throughout the day.
6. Do Things to Reduce Stress
Many people are surprised to learn just how much stress can impact the digestive system. Think about how you can get “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous or a stomach ache when stressed or overwhelmed. It’s all connected!
Practice regular stress relief by making time for things you enjoy, focusing on the positives in life, and speaking kindly to yourself.
Related: Self-Care Ideas for Peace and Calm
7. Quit Smoking (or Don’t Start)
Smoking can mess up your digestive health and lead to issues like heartburn, stomach ulcers and more. If you currently smoke, consider quitting now. And if you aren’t a smoker, make this another reason to never start.
Alcohol and excessive caffeine may also irritate your gut, so use these with care.
The Bottom Line
Your digestive system is a complex, intricate system that serves many functions in your body, but caring for it doesn’t have to be hard. Use the tips above to practice good digestive health. Support your gut, and it will support you back.