Gastroenterology & Hepatology (Digestive Care)
Prevention & Self-Care
The digestive system is directly impacted by the foods you eat and your lifestyle.
By taking these small steps to improve your digestive health, you'll help your digestive system to function more efficiently, improving your overall health and well-being:
Eat a high-fiber diet.
Fiber is probably best known for its ability to help with constipation. But fiber also can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. How can you get more fiber? Choose cereals with whole-wheat, bran or fiber in the name. Switch to whole-grain breads and pastas. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley and bulgur wheat. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a few weeks. Also drink plenty of water; fiber works best when it absorbs water. See examples of high-fiber foods.
Get both soluble and insoluble fiber.
You need both types of fiber in your diet. Soluble, which dissolves in water, can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots and barley. Insoluble fiber, which doesn't dissolve in water, promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and can help with constipation or irregular stools. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables.
Choose lean meats.
When choosing which meats to consume, make it your goal to consume more meat that is lean, such as turkey, fish and chicken. Lean meat has less visual fat and skin is removed. Eating less red meat, such as pork and beef, also may benefit your health overall. You can often see the fat in red meats, but if you can try to remove as much fat as possible, that's best.
Optimize your microbiome.
Billions of microorganisms are found in the gastrointestinal tract and play an important role in maintaining good health and the risk of many common diseases; a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes can play a major role in altering the composition of the digestive flora, resulting in many health benefits.
Water is essential for good health. Water and other liquids help break down food so your body can absorb the nutrients. Water also softens stool, which helps prevent constipation.
Skip the bad habits.
Stop smoking or don't start. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol.
Exercise increases blood flow to the organs, including the gastrointestinal tract. See a list of exercise benefits.
Stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms including difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, frequent visits to the bathroom, digestive problems, heart racing, sweating, and muscle tension.
If these symptoms start to appear, here are a few self-care techniques to follow:
- Talk with friends
- Enjoy a hobby
- Listen to music
- Take a bath
- Practice calm breathing
- Do yoga and other physical exercise
It's important to know that it's normal for everyone to have some stress in life, but the building up of excess negative energy can lead you to anxiety and feeling as though your life is out of control. If your stress and anxiety ever get to that point, sometimes seeking professional support can be the solution.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with anxiety, talk to your health care provider about finding a solution that works best for you.