We already know that what we eat affects everything from our weight to our ability to fight viruses, and our digestion. However, if you spend some time exercising during the day, but spend the rest of it in front of the television, chances are your digestion may slow down with you. Adding in short walks, playing with your kids, and stretching throughout your day can help keep things moving! Keep in mind, getting enough quality sleep can also help with digestion and help mitigate constipation.
If you are feeling constipated, bloated, or are experiencing other digestive issues, it is important to make changes to your eating plan gradually. Try keeping a list (or a mental list!) of the changes that help you feel better and what makes you feel worse. Spreading out your meals throughout the day and leaving about 3-4 hours between meals will allow for optimal digestion. A low fat diet is often better tolerated and you may feel better if you avoid fried/greasy foods and foods prepared with added fat.
BE MINDFUL OF SUGAR ALCOHOLS
Sugar alcohols are found in many sugar free products. Look out for certain alcohols like maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, and sorbitol which can increase bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Sweeteners like Sweet-N-Low, Splenda, Equal, Truvia, and most stevia products contain maltodextrin which can cause bloating in some people. Moderation is key.
Anywhere between 25-38 g of fiber daily for adequate digestion and promotion of bowel movements. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as a way to meet the requirements the body needs. Micronutrients (i.e. vitamin C) are as important as macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates)! High fiber foods feed the healthy bacteria in your gut therefore reducing inflammation and chronic disease. Fiber also increases short chain fatty acids which has been shown to improve immune and intestine function.
PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS
Keeping the gut healthy has many benefits, one of which is keeping the digestive system functioning as it should. The gut can be supported by prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements. Incorporating prebiotic and probiotic food sources will help support gut function and improve overall health. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, bananas, beans, and oats. Probiotic foods are live bacteria found in fermented foods including sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and water kefir. If you have a diet high in animal products try reducing your portion size or swapping a red meat burger for a veggie burger every once in a while. Red meat, high fat dairy products, and fried foods have been linked to a reduction in the growth of healthy bacteria.
At the end of the day, listen to your body and remove your unique intolerances and inflammatory foods. We can truly live a healthier quality of life through physical activity and nutrition.
Written by Jenny Candela, LYMBR Stretch Therapist, ATC and studying to be a Registered Dietician.
Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, et al. The effects of vegeterian and vegan diets on gut microbitia. Front Nutr. Published online April 17, 2019.