It may be a bit TMI, but it seems like we spend far too many hours per week suffering from tummy trouble — heartburn, nausea, sluggish bowels, overactive bowels…you get the picture.
Trouble is, Americans’ fast-paced lives coupled with poor dietary patterns are a recipe for digestive disaster. Not only are we lacking in fiber (recommendations are 25-35 grams/day), but we’re also stressed out, sleep deprived and mostly sedentary.
Keep reading to learn how to stave off a stomachache before it happens—the natural way.
1. Chew your food. Most of us remember our moms telling us to slow down when we were wolfing down our food. If your mom told you to chew 20-30 times before swallowing, she was on to something. According to David Grotto, registered dietitian and author of 101 Optimal Life Foods, the more you chew, the less likely you are to swallow air and face resulting gas (ew!). A bonus: By slowing down, you’ll give your body a chance to recognize when it’s full.
2. Load up on good bacteria. If you’re digestively challenged (and let’s face it, most of us are at one time or another), eat yogurt, kefir or take a probiotic supplement daily. Just keep in mind that not all yogurts and probiotics are the same — and not all contain live, active cultures. Look for the term “live and active cultures” on the label and make sure you eat these foods on a regular basis (experts recommend five times per week).
3. Eat small frequent meals (and don’t overdo it). If you eat too much at one sitting, you’ll overload your digestive tract with too much food to process at one time. Plus, eating small meals promotes satiety throughout the day, and that can aid in digestion, too. Aim for four to six small meals a day instead of three big ones.
4. Eat your fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies like artichokes, onions, garlic and asparagus contain something called prebiotics. The idea: Eat enough prebiotics and you’ll feed the probiotics, helping them become more thoroughly entrenched in your GI tract, says Grotto. These unique foods promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, which in turn may suppress the unhealthy bacteria that can wreak havoc on your stomach. A side note: Don’t forget the whole grains — they contain the healthy buggers, too!
5. Get moving. There are plenty of reasons to get more exercise, but who knew it could enhance digestion? Consider it a two-fer: If you exercise to lose weight, or even to maintain your current weight, you’ll reduce the chance of developing weight-related digestive issues like heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Two things we’d love to avoid!
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