HGA’s 9 Step Prescription for Good Digestive Health
Improve Your Vitality & Eliminate Discomfort
The key to good nutrition depends on two things:
Eating the right foods.
Maintaining a strong digestive system that allows your body to break down and absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat.
In order to keep your digestive system in optimum shape, follow these guidelines:
1. Focus on fiber
If you’re like most Americans, you’re not getting enough fiber in your daily diet. Ideally, you should be eating 20 to 35 grams of fiber — or about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. Fiber is the workhorse that slows down digestion and gives your body time to absorb the glucose it needs to produce energy. It also softens stools and keeps the digested food moving through your intestines so it doesn’t back up, causing gas, constipation or hemorrhoids. As you add more fiber to your diet, do it slowly to give your digestion time to adjust. And make sure you increase the amount of fluids you drink at the same time.
Additionally, if you have a diagnosed digestive disorder, talk to your doctor about how much fiber you can handle. A high fiber diet may not be right for you. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. The chart on the next page lists the fiber content in many fiber-rich, unprocessed foods. For packaged foods, such as bread or cereal, check the food label on the packaging for fiber. Or go to http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/NutritionLabels.pdf for a list of food labels for popular foods.
2. Drink lots of water
Water helps move nutrients into your organs and tissues. It helps regulate your body temperature. An adequate amount of fluid also softens your stool for easier elimination. How much you drink depends on your size, the amount you exercise and the day’s temperature and humidity. If you have trouble drinking too much at one time, drink smaller amounts more frequently.
3. Avoid Processed Foods
Many processed foods have little or no fiber, are too high in sodium, and often contain preservatives and other additives that you may be sensitive to. Some processed foods also contain lactose, which can give you gas.
4. Cut down on fat
Foods that are naturally high in fat or are fried in fat alter your the digestive process and can lead to constipation or diarrhea. No more than 30% of the calories you consume should be fat; and only one-third of fat calories should be saturated fat. When eating meat, choose lean varieties such as chicken breast, turkey breast and pork loin. Limit the amount of whole milk dairy products you consume.
5. Limit your alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can have a negative impact on every organ in your body. It can increase the acid in your stomach, causing severe stomach pain and heartburn. It can cause diarrhea or constipation or diarrhea. It can affect your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients you eat. More importantly, excessive drinking damages your liver and can lead to life-threatening health complications. Newer studies also show that drinking alcohol in combination with smoking dramatically increases your risk of esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.
6. Add yogurt to your food plan
Your digestive system contains healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, which help your digestion and fight off disease. Both yogurt and kefir contain probiotics. Eating them on a regular basis can help replace good bacteria lost by eating a poor diet, illness, stress and some medications and medical treatments. Please be aware that not all probiotics are the same and not all disorders respond in the same way to all probiotics. So, if you have a gastrointestinal disorder, you should discuss the safety and benefits of taking a probiotic supplement with your doctor.
7. Reduce your stress
Stress can be harmful to your digestion. It can cause your esophagus to go into spasms, your stomach to produce more acid and your colon to respond in a way that causes a change in your bowel habits and peptic ulcers. There are many different techniques to help you manage stress, including exercise, relaxation therapy, counseling and a healthy diet.
8. Maintain a healthy weight
Your weight affects the efficiency of your digestive system. Even a few extra pounds can cause acid reflux, a condition where stomach contents flow back into your esophagus and cause heartburn. Losing weight will not only help you feel better, it can also prevent more serious conditions, such as hiatal hernia, non-alcohol fatty liver disease and colorectal cancer.
Regular exercise improves your digestion by increasing blood flow to all your organs. It can help you lose weight and reduce stress. It can also strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve colon transit times along your gastrointestinal tract, helping your colon work more efficiently to eliminate food waste. If you are experiencing continuous digestive pain or discomfort, we are here to help you. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation to rule out or treat a more serious digestive problem.
Fiber Content in Popular Fiber-Rich Foods
Asparagus - cooked
Broccoli - boiled
Beets - boiled
Carrots - raw
Sweet potato (flesh only)
Green peas - fresh or frozen
Turnip - boiled
Fiber (in grams)
Apricots - fresh with skin
Figs - dried
Mango - fresh
Orange - fresh
Pear - fresh with skin
Raspberries - fresh
Fiber (in grams)
Lentils - brown
Kidney beans - light red
Fiber (in grams)
Grains, seeds, nuts
Barley - pearled
Fiber (in grams)
*If you have a diagnosed digestive problem that requires medical treatment, please consult with your doctor before making any diet or lifestyle changes.