Eat Well to Be Well: Take practical steps for improving poor digestion – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Take practical steps for improving poor digestion

Life is usually good when our gut feels good – no bloating, diarrhea, gas or constipation. But when those symptoms rear their ugly head, and for many they do, suddenly your happy-go-lucky life has just taken a turn down the wrong road.

Having a gut that works like a charm the majority, if not all of the time, is one of life’s most valuable health assets. When tummy troubles are under control, we can enjoy life much more. Luckily, good gut health and the ability to digest what we eat without worry can be achieved by most of us when specific steps are taken.

Causes of poor digestion

There can be several reasons why we may experience poor digestion. Here are some common ones many may have:

  • Taking too many over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Eating too many sugary foods and beverages or refined carbohydrates.
  • Too much “bad” bacteria instead of “good” bacteria.
  • Stress.
  • Environmental contaminants.

Signs of poor digestion

Many of us associate poor digestion with the typical symptoms of bloating, gassiness, constipation, or diarrhea. But poor gut health can make itself known by causing other symptoms outside of our abdomen, such as joint pain, unexplained headaches, fibromyalgia, skin problems, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.

Easy steps to better digestion

The best news for anyone with a tummy in turmoil is by making a few changes, you can strengthen your gut’s defenses and make it behave better. Here are some steps that can lead to healthy digestion:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated. We hear this all the time but, it’s true. When we are well-hydrated, we are less likely to have constipation. Consuming fluids during the day, and eating foods high in fiber, is a dynamic duo helping bulk up and softens stools, so they pass more quickly through the digestive tract. Choose water as your main beverage choice and load up on more high-fiber fruits and vegetables to keep things moving.
  • Don’t overeat at meals. Learning to listen to our bodies is a must when avoiding overeating. Eating more than we need only leads to bloating, gas and indigestion. Plus, overindulging leads to weight gain. Pay attention when eating and once you feel full but not uncomfortably stuffed, stop.
  • Learn to chew your food slowly. Chewing food thoroughly is essential for enzyme release and for breaking food into smaller particles that your digestive system can handle more efficiently.
  • Stay away from foods you know cause problems. If you are not sure of what those foods are, try an elimination diet. Common culprits include sugar alcohols, refined grains, and dairy products.
  • Eat more whole, natural or unprocessed foods. Go for what Mother Nature provides us – beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds can provide us with good sources of flavonoids, a friend to our gut.
  • Choose foods with good bacteria. You probably heard of both probiotic and prebiotic foods. These good bacteria are necessary to keep the peace in your digestive system by establishing a healthy balance of healthy bacteria that promote good gut health. Scientists believe that probiotics aid healthy digestion by producing substances that fight viruses and infections and make B vitamins to help metabolize what you eat.
  • Be active. Healthy digestion requires you to be physically active. Daily, do regular aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, and dancing. All that movement improves circulation, vital for better digestion.
  • Reduce stress. When under pressure, our body releases gastric acid which can cause heartburn symptoms and indigestion. The best way to reduce those symptoms and anxiety is to include regular exercise to release the feel-good hormones of endorphins and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
  • Take care of your teeth. Healthy digestion begins in the mouth. Therefore, regular dental visits and brushing and flossing can help promote a healthy mouth and healthy digestion.

Enjoy life and keep your tummy from being troubled – understand the causes and signs of poor digestion, and take a few practical steps down a path to good health.


Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook and The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook. Visit her website at www.eatwelltobewellrd.com.


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