Gut microbiome and digestive system concept

(© sdecoret - stock.adobe.com

The occasionally gurgling stomach, diarrhea, or constipation is bound to happen. You eat a certain meal that doesn’t agree with your body, but eventually, your body recovers. When this happens every week or maybe even every few days, however, it can start to disrupt your quality of life.

Gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort is never fun, but there are ways to improve digestion without taking drastic measures. Here’s a dietitian’s best tip for positively impacting digestion: stick to whole foods as often as possible.

We are talking fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality proteins. A lot of times, digestion can be disrupted by refined sugars and carbohydrates as well as high-fat and oily fried foods. Also, sugar alcohols, which are commonly used in sugar-free candies and other products, may cause GI issues like diarrhea and bloating.

On the flip side, people with certain conditions like IBD and IBS may find it difficult to consume high amounts of fibrous fruits and vegetables, so always speak to your doctor and dietitian before making significant dietary changes if you medically may be at risk.

A dietitian’s top 4 digestion tips:

Stay hydrated

Dehydration is a leading cause of constipation. If you struggle with diarrhea, you are at heightened risk of becoming dehydrated, which makes hydration very important. Ensure you are drinking enough to meet your needs, especially if you are active or live and work in a warm climate. You can boost hydration by including electrolytes in some of your glasses, but also by eating ample fruits and vegetables. Food can be a source of hydration as well, given that foods like strawberries, watermelon, and oranges are high in water and electrolytes that your body needs.

man on sunny day drinking water
Photo by Nigel Msipa from Unsplash

Increase your fiber intake

This comes along with the package of eating more fruits and veggies, all of which have beneficial fiber. Soluble fiber helps to bulk up stool and absorb water. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water but works to make sure everything is moving along nicely through your system. Soluble fiber can be found in foods like oats and apples, while insoluble fiber can be found in foods like whole grains.

A look at some of the best foods for increasing fiber
Foods containing fiber (© bit24 – stock.adobe.com)

Eat slower

It’s easy to simply scarf down a good meal, but your digestion won’t thank you. Take more time to thoroughly chew your food, as doing so can help to break down your food more effectively and thus put less stress on your digestive system. Not to mention, it gives you a chance to savor your meal more and prevent overeating and bloating.

chewing
(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Limit stress

Ever get the runs just from being nervous? You weren’t just imagining things. When the body is stressed, it has a harder time processing food and can throw things off track. When possible, try to include more stress-reducing activities in your daily routine: meditation, exercise, or just doing a fun hobby that you enjoy. Incorporating other things on this list can help you reduce your risk of experiencing the adverse effects of stress on digestion as well.

Bottom Line

We’ve all experienced a time when our stomach wasn’t too happy. If this happens often, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition or just that some lifestyle changes are in order. Increasing fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods while limiting highly refined and processed foods is usually the first step. Maintaining adequate hydration and reducing stress are all highly beneficial.

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About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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