Alert

How to get your digestion back on track

By Lauren Eastridge, PA-C

Physician assistant

Pardee Adult and Family Medicine

Everyone experiences digestive issues occasionally. But there are ways to reduce uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, gas, constipation and diarrhea. Here are some tips for getting your digestion back on track and signs you should see your health care provider.

How to improve your digestion

  • Eat plenty of fiber. High-fiber foods feed your “good” gut bacteria and help keep you regular. These include vegetables, lower-sugar fruits (like berries, oranges and grapefruit), whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to constipation. Sip plenty of water throughout the day and eat hydrating foods like vegetables, fruit, soup and broth. Water also helps fiber pass through your system more easily. But limit your consumption of alcohol or caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
  • Limit animal fats and added sugar. Cut back on processed foods like baked goods, candy, chips, crackers and soda, which can negatively affect your gut bacteria. Check food labels for added sugar. Instead of processed meats (like bacon, hot dogs, sausage and salami), opt for lean meat, fish, seafood and poultry.
  • Switch up your cooking methods. Instead of frying your food, which can upset your stomach, try baking, roasting, grilling, stewing, steaming or boiling.
  • Chew thoroughly. It’s something many of us don’t think of in our fast-paced society, but chewing your food completely helps your body digest it.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity also “gets things moving.” To avoid indigestion, avoid exercising right after a meal – wait at least an hour.
  • Consume probiotics. Probiotics are “good” bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi and kefir are all good sources of probiotics.
  • Keep a food diary. Pay attention to which foods make you bloated, constipated or uncomfortable. Spicy food and acidic foods (like tomatoes or citrus fruits) can trigger heartburn, diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Relax. Stress can interfere with healthy digestion, so do your best to find healthy ways to relax. This could include reading, watching a movie, going for a walk, meditating, journaling, prayer, or talking with a counselor, faith leader or trusted friend.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Getting enough sleep helps all of your body’s systems function at their best. It also helps reduce stress.
  • Quit smoking. Did you know smoking can disrupt your digestion? Yet another reason to quit. Talk to your primary care provider if you need help quitting.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of digestive problems, especially gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

When to see a health care provider

If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your primary care provider: heartburn that doesn’t go away or gets worse, heartburn that makes you vomit, frequently feeling like food is stuck in your throat or chest, vomiting up blood, unusual or frequent belly pain, unexpected weight loss (more than 10 pounds), pain when swallowing, frequent hoarseness or sore throat, black or bloody stools, persistent diarrhea, or chronic constipation (two or fewer bowel movements per week).

To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.

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