Health Topics

7 Tips for Promoting Digestive Health

7 Tips for Keeping your digestive tract functioning its best

1. Focus on fiber

As a complex carbohydrate that is not absorbed by the digestive tract, fiber can speed the removal of waste produced during digestion. Fiber can be found in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Most Americans only consume half the recommended 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day.

2. Stay hydrated

This is especially important when increasing fiber. Water is attracted to fiber in the digestive tract and allows it to pass through more easily. Most people need about eight glasses – 64 ounces – of water per day.

3. Chase the rainbow

Choose blue, purple, green, white, yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables throughout the week. Not only do fruits and vegetables provide fiber, but their many colors translate to a variety of antioxidants that reduce risks of cancer and other diseases. And remember that most of us need five to nine servings per day!

4. Build up "good" bacteria

Your intestinal tract is home to more than 500 species of bacteria. Good bacteria, such as the probiotics found in yogurts labeled as "live and active cultures," help us to digest food and absorb nutrients. Another benefit of fiber is that it serves as food for good bacteria.

5. Choose fats wisely

Not all fat is bad. We need moderate amounts of fat from unsaturated sources such as olives/olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and trans-fat-free margarines. But the saturated fats and trans fat found in red meat, other high-fat animal products and highly processed snack foods should be avoided. Unsaturated fats reduce inflammation, a culprit in serious diseases; trans fat and saturated fats increase inflammation.

6. Whittle that waist

Carrying a lot of fat around your midsection negatively affects all the internal organs in that area, including the colon. To lose that spare tire, men should measure no more than 40 inches, and women no more than 35 inches, at belly-button level. (Although the numbers are similar, these measurements should not be confused with pants size.)

7. Catch up on your calcium

Most of us need three servings daily of low-fat calcium sources such as 1% skim milk or low-calorie yogurt. These not only provide calcium; they are also major food sources of vitamin D. Experts suggest that both calcium and vitamin D may reduce cancer risk. (You can substitute soy or rice milk as long as they are labeled "fortified," because they don’t naturally contain these nutrients.)