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November 2019

Digestive Health

Health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance or even celiac disease can affect your digestive health and lead to bloating, gas and constipation.  If you have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and your physician has ruled out a specific medical issue, there are dietary and behavior changes that may provide relief.

Beating Bloat – Two of the most common GI symptoms are bloating and abdominal distention.  This is usually due to excessive gas. 

If you burp excessively, you may be swallowing too much air. This can be due to eating or drinking too quickly, chewing gum, carbonated beverages, smoking, using a straw or loose-fitting dentures.

If gas passes thru your GI tract, it is generally due to food.  Undigested sugars and starches are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, creating gas. High fiber foods, if you do not eat them regularly, and sugar-free products with sugar alcohol can cause gas.

Promoting Digestive Health
Keep Hydrated – Dehydration alone can cause constipation. Staying hydrated also helps the dietary fiber work most effectively.
Be Physically Active – Exercise helps all muscles in the body including the muscles in the digestive tract. Being active also promotes healthy aging.
Boost Fiber-Rich Plants – Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils are excellent sources of fiber and part of a healthy eating pattern.  Fiber feeds the beneficial microbes in the GI tract. Whole grains are especially helpful in preventing constipation and are resistant to fermentation. Fermentation in the colon will promote gas. Slowly add fiber-rich foods so your GI tract can adjust.
Minimize Fried and High-Fat Foods – These foods can cause bloating due to gas and are generally low in fiber.
Bowel Training – Give yourself adequate time to have a bowel movement the same time each day.
Slow Down – Eat slowly to prevent excessive burping due to swallowing air.

If you have noticed a sudden change in GI symptoms, have unintended weight loss or think that certain medications may be contributing to GI issues, follow up with your physician.

Keeping Regular – Chronic constipation is a common issue when it comes to digestive health. This may be due to:

  • Daily routine changes such as travel, diet or  medications.
  • Health conditions affecting metabolism or hormones such as diabetes and thyroid disorder.
  • Inadequate fluids or fiber.
  • Aging, which causes changes in the colon. However, it most likely is due to overall health, activity level, a diet low in fiber and inadequate water as one ages.

Men over 60 aim for 30 grams and women at least 21 grams of fiber daily.
Fluid requirements vary, a good rule of thumb is at least 8-8ounce glasses of water daily.


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