Digestive health is imperative to overall health. Have you been taking care of yours?
As the second-most complex interconnection of neurons in your body (next to your brain), the human digestive tract has been dubbed your body’s “second brain.”
Like the brain in your head, your “second brain” in your digestive tract needs proper maintenance to run well.
Just as you might turn to meditation during times of stress to calm your mental brain, your digestive “brain” also needs special treatment. In fact, taking care of your digestive health is directly linked to your health overall — including your mental faculties.
Fortunately, with a little practice, digestive health can be easy to achieve. By following the 15 tips listed below, you’ll be well on your way towards optimal digestive health (or turning poor digestive health around for the better!).
1. Drink Water
Your body is made primarily of water — it needs water to thrive. In fact, after three days with no water, you would die. If that doesn’t drive home how important water is to your body, we don’t know what will.
With over 70 percent of your body being comprised of water, it’s not surprising that it would need a constant intake of water to survive. Your body’s major functions run on water.
This is especially true of your digestive tract.
The water flowing through your digestive system is essential for the transference and absorption of food. The nutrients you put into your body would be useless without water to help put them in their proper places.
Water also helps with waste disposal. Once your body is “done” with the food you’ve eaten, it’s water that helps you “drop the kids off at the pool,” if you catch our drift.
Without water, your “waste” would become stuck inside you, causing a number of problems. If you’ve ever felt pains and bloating after eating a large meal, you know exactly what we mean.
Water assists your digestive health on a cellular level. If you read nothing else on this list: drink more water.
You’ll know that you’ve had enough water to drink when your urine is completely clear for the entire day. For most adults, this means drinking about one quart of water per day — more if you’ve been vigorously exercising.
2. Avoid Caffeine
Caffeine is harsh on your stomach. It’s best to avoid it entirely if at all possible.
If you’re a fan of tea, we recommend herbal teas. There are also a wide variety of slimming teas that contain no caffeine and can help your digestive system go into “weight loss” mode.
Exercise is extremely important for digestive
health. Not only will it help keep you at a proper weight (see #15), but it will keep your digestive tract “moving.”
When you exercise, you stimulate more than just your muscles. You also stimulate your organs.
As such, your digestive tract is “exercising” at the same time you are. While you get in shape physically, you’ll also be getting your digestive health in tip-top shape as well!
4. Limit Your Fat Intake
Fats can make your digestive system sluggish.
Avoid red meats, if possible. Instead, opt for “lean” meats — like a boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Fast food is also a huge “no no” when it comes to digestive health. Drive-thru junk food is high in harmful fats, salts, and processed garbage that’s hard to digest.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tasty good fats that you can eat instead. Avocados, nuts, and fatty fish all contain clean fats — just be sure you don’t overindulge.
5. Eat More Fiber
By eating more vegetables (see #12), you’ll be able to get plenty of fiber to assist your digestive health.
Fiber “cleans” your digestive tract by grabbing onto the bits and pieces we all get stuck inside of us, and pushing them out. Your mom was right: it keeps you “regular.”
By eating enough fiber, your digestive system won’t have to work as hard to run properly.
If eating vegetables is off the table for you for whatever reason, then there are plenty of fiber supplements that you can choose from.
Fiber supplements shouldn’t be used as a replacement for good eating habits; however, if you simply cannot get a full ration of vegetables into your body, they’re a great “extra” to use.
6. Eat Slowly
It takes time for your body to realize when it’s “full.”
When we eat too quickly, we can become overfull in a matter of minutes — putting unneeded stress on our digestive tracts.
By eating more slowly, you can aid your digestive health by allowing it time to actually feel full. This will help you stick to reasonable portion sizes as well.
7. Take Probiotics
Your digestive system is filled with friendly little bacterium that assist in your digestive health. Unfortunately, this bacteria can become depleted as we live our daily lives.
If you’ve recently been on antibiotics, it’s quite possible that much of your helpful digestive bacteria was annihilated in the process of you getting better. You’ll need to replenish it if you hope to maintain proper digestive health.
Take a run of probiotic supplements for a month and see how you feel. If you’re still having trouble digesting your food, take another run or see your doctor.
Or, if supplements aren’t your style, you can also regain these helpful probiotics via plain yogurt.
8. Take Care of Your Mental Health
As your “second brain,” it shouldn’t be surprising that your actual brain affects your digestive health greatly.
Have you ever had cramps — or even impromptu diarrhea — when feeling especially stressed? Or felt “butterflies” in your stomach when you were anxious?
Your digestive health is directly tied to your mental health. Take care of your mind and your emotions, and your digestive system will follow suit.
Limit stress and anxiety in your daily life as much as humanly possible.
Take a few minutes out of your day to engage in meditation. Relax your entire body and make your mind blank.
Alternatively, if meditation isn’t your bag, you can also listen to relaxing music. Get yourself into a comfortable position, listen to your favorite song, and just drift off…
9. Don’t Overeat
Don’t give your digestive system more than it can handle.
Your body needs about 1200 calories to live. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, this is what you should be aiming for.
If you add exercise into the mix, aim for around 1500 calories per day. Any more than that and you could be overloading your system.
Of course, these are just “average” calorie intake numbers. If you want a specific number based on your body, consult your doctor or nutritionist.
Once you figure out how many calories are appropriate for your body weight, stick to your limits. Proper portion control can do wonders for your digestive system, as well as your overall physique.
10. Butt Out Cigarettes
Smoking is hazardous to your digestive Health.
Heartburn and ulcers are common among smokers. And do we even have to mention cancer?
Nicotine itself isn’t particularly bad for you. In fact, it can increase your focus, improve your fine motor skills, and even fine-tune your short-term memory.
Nicotine is found in a number of natural sources, including eggplants and potatoes — it’s not strictly a tobacco thing. In fact, if you’ve eaten French fries, you’ve had a small dose of nicotine.
The problem with cigarettes is everything else that’s included in them. These “extra” elements wreak havoc on your digestive system (and the rest of your body).
Switching to vaping — which is comprised only of oils and nicotine — is a much safer option. Or, if possible, quit altogether.
Nicotine, while mostly harmless on its own, can still give you digestive issues. Nicotine relaxes the sphincter at the top of your stomach, which can cause heartburn.
However, by using vaping devices to quit smoking, you can also control the amount of nicotine you ingest.
Most cigarettes contain around 18mg of nicotine. But, with vape juices, you can “smoke” 12mg, 6mg, or 3mg.
Eventually, you can lower your intake to 0mg and be free of smoking — and nicotine — entirely. Leaving only the pleasurable “puffing” without any of the negative side-effects.
11. Check Your Medications
If you’ve been exercising, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy foods and still feel
“off,” then it might be time to check your medications.
It’s all-too-common for medications to mess with your digestive health. Check with your doctor if you’re having symptoms (heartburn, etc.).
For example, women who are on progestin-only birth control pills often experience extreme digestive discomfort. These “POP” pills relax the sphincter at the top of your stomach and can cause heartburn, nausea, or worsen acid reflux.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you go off any medications without proper medical supervision. If you are experiencing issues, bring it up to your doctor.
12. Eat Your Vegetables
Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are filled with fiber (see #5). They’re also filled with essential vitamins that will aid your digestive health.
Beans, lentils, artichokes… All of these vegetables are chock-full of fiber.
Many vegetables, like celery and lettuce, also include a high concentration of water. And, if you remember Tip #1: water is the most important thing you can put into your body.
13. Avoid Spicy Foods
Spicy foods, like chilies, relax the sphincter at the top of your stomach and can cause heartburn. And, if you continually eat spicy foods, this build-up of stomach acid can eat through the lining of your stomach and cause an ulcer.
This doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Certain “spicy” foods — like ginger — can actually calm your stomach.
Do your research online (like here on our blog), or ask your doctor which spices are right for your body.
14. Limit Your Treats
A little bit of dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) can be beneficial for your body. A small dose can raise your endorphin levels (your body’s “happy” chemical), increase alertness, and can even help you de-stress.
However, moderation is key. Too much of a good thing can be…a very bad thing.
Too much chocolate — or sugars in general — can wreak havoc on your digestive tract, sending it into spasms.
Instead, opt for fruits. Bananas are high in potassium (great for digestion!) and sweet raspberries are full of much-needed fiber.
15. Maintain a Proper Weight
We all love songs like Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and MIKA’s “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful);” however, “big” isn’t beautiful where your digestive system is concerned.
Don’t starve yourself by any means! But, achieving an appropriate weight for your height (check with your doctor!) can help your digestive organs more than you know.
Having an excess bulk of weight in your abdominal area can put unneeded pressure on your internal organs — causing them to have to work overtime to, well, work at all.
By trimming down your belly fat, you’ll be reliving your digestive organs of that undue stress, helping them to work more efficiently.
Fortunately, all of the other tips on this list will assist you in achieving this goal! Proper water consumption, exercise, fiber, portion control, and increased vegetable intake all help with weight loss.
Pay attention to inches as well as pounds. Scales can sometimes be deceiving, but measuring tapes hardly ever lie.
Looking for More Ways to Improve Your Digestive Health?
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