Digestive diseases or issues are disorders of the digestive tract, or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Some of the symptoms that may need to be addressed are; bleeding stools, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea and vomiting, pain in our stomach or bowels, swallowing problems, weigh gain or loss.
Some common issues of the digestive system include; GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, gastritis, peptic ulcers, cirrhosis, autoimmune, hepatitis B & C, pancreatitis, gallstones, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, malabsorption, short bowel syndrome, intestinal ischemia, hiatal hernia, anal fissure, proctitis, rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids..
Our lifestyle and choice of foods can affect the way the body digests what we eat. Here are some suggestions we can do to have a healthy digestive system and prevent disease:
- Eat a high-fiber diet: According to Maria Adams, RD, MPH, a nutrition consultant in Marblehead, Massachusetts, consuming a diet that's high in fiber and rich in whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits can improve our digestive health. A high-fiber diet can also help we prevent various digestive conditions, such as diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Eat both insoluble and soluble fiber: Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, can't be digested by the body and therefore helps add bulk to the stools. Soluble fiber draws in water and can help prevent stools that are too watery. Good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains; get soluble fiber from oat bran, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Limit foods that are high in fat: Fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making we more prone to constipation. But it's important to get some fat in our diet, so pairing fatty foods with high-fiber foods can make fatty foods easier on our digestive system.
- Eat lean meats: Protein is an essential part of a healthful diet, but fatty cuts of meat can lead to uncomfortable digestion. Select lean cuts, such as pork loin and skinless poultry.
- Incorporate probiotics into our diet: Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria naturally present in our digestive tract. Probiotics can enhance nutrient absorption, may help break down lactose, strengthen our immune system, and possibly even help treat IBS. A good source of probiotics is found in low-fat yogurt and kefir (fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains.)
- Eat on schedule: Consuming our meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep our digestive system in top shape. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is good for our digestive health, according to Adams. Fiber pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to pass through more easily.
- Skip the bad habits: smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol. Liquor, coffee, and cigarettes can interfere with the functioning of our digestive system, and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn.
- Exercise regularly: "Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through our digestive system, reducing constipation. Exercise can also help we maintain a healthy weight, which is good for our digestive health. Make it a point to work regular exercise into our weekly schedule.
- Manage stress: Too much stress or anxiety can cause our digestive system to go into overdrive, according to Adams. Find stress-reducing activities that we enjoy and practice them on a regular basis.