Your digestive system is an incredibly complex and marvelously engineered part of the human body. With over 30 feet of carefully packed tube-like plumbing, a healthy digestive tract is crucial for our bodies to function properly. It’s responsible for processing everything we eat, removing toxins, and is instrumental in how efficiently we absorb the nutrients in our foods.
Keeping the digestive process running smoothly requires a little help from time to time. Having an unhealthy gastrointestinal tract can lead to bloating, cramps, fatigue, depression, weight gain, illness and more. Medical experts agree that approximately 25 percent of adults will have a significant GI illness, requiring some form of treatment every year. Knowing a little bit about how your digestive system works, and what you can do to help keep it healthy, will go a long way in preventing serious problems later on.
Get Plenty Of Fiber
Fiber is crucial in maintaining an efficient and healthy digestive system. Dietary fiber is not digestible, but is responsible for keeping our GI tract clean and free of harmful bacteria. Fiber binds itself to bad fat cells and assists in their removal, which in turn helps to keep our cholesterol levels in line as well.
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According to health experts, we need about 25 grams of fiber in our diets every day. Maintaining these levels is important for optimal health. Risk factors for disease and severe medical conditions like colon cancer and diverticulitis can be lowered significantly by adopting a high fiber diet. If your diet has been low in fiber, try slowly increasing your intake with plenty of water until you hit 25 grams.
Foods rich in fiber include brown or wild rice, whole grain breads, oatmeal, fruits, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and hummus. Start educating yourself by knowing the amount of fiber in the foods you eat, and begin making the necessary changes. If you are still struggling with getting enough in your daily meals, consider an over-the-counter fiber supplement.
Recommended: Isagenix Fiber Snacks contain 6 grams of fiber to help you feel full for longer.
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Good Bacteria And Probiotics
Intestinal bacteria, both good and bad, live by the millions inside your tummy. Every second of every day, these bacteria are fighting a war within us that can have a big impact on how we feel. The good bacteria work within our digestive tract to break down difficult to digest foods. They assist in the production of some enzymes and nutrients, while also protecting us from germs and disease.
The bad bacteria found in our system contribute to toxins that are responsible for a large number of health problems. New studies have shown that these microbes are often the primary reason for most illnesses, and can also be a factor in weight gain.
The good bacteria can also be ingested as supplements by taking probiotics. Probiotic bacteria include: bifidobacteria, lactobacillus acidophilus, and saccharomyces. These healthy and essential microbes can be found in fiber-rich plant sources, whereas the bad bacteria are found in processed foods that are low in fiber and high in sugars.
If we want the good bacteria to flourish, we need to feed them. This is where prebiotics come into play. Prebiotics are nutrients that bacteria eat in order to grow and reproduce. Natural sources for the good prebiotics are found in high-fiber vegetables and plant sources. Dark leafy greens, bananas, garlic and onions are good examples. The bad guys typically love to feed on sugars and refined or processed foods. Prebiotics are also available in supplement form.
Be Careful Of Some Medications
Taking a round of prescribed antibiotics may be necessary, but it’s important to know that these medications, which are designed to kill off bacteria in our system, will also kill many of the good bacteria in our digestive tract. Always check with your doctor, but under normal conditions, upping your intake of probiotics and prebiotics is probably not a bad idea.
Recent studies have shown that antibiotics can wreak havoc on the probiotics in our gut, and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Heartburn medications have been found to disrupt normal levels also, though not nearly as badly as antibiotics.
Modify Your Diet
Certain foods lend themselves to digestive problems. Alcohol, coffee, chocolate, fried foods, fatty foods (high in saturated fat), and dairy can all be problematic for some people’s systems. Some of these foods are also high risk for heartburn and acid reflux; another reason to avoid or reduce these foods in your diet.
Another technique to improve digestion is to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Smaller amounts of food in our stomach are easier for our bodies to break down and properly digest. So, unless you’re gorging yourself on veggies… you might want to stay away from those all-you-can-eat buffets!