Do you remember that episode of Magic School Bus where the kids on the bus fly into their classmate’s mouth and learn about the inner workings of digestion? Information simple enough for elementary school children, right? So, why are so many Americans struggling with knowledge about food choices and their reactions as your body breaks it down?
Without digestion, you won’t be able to get the essential nutrients you need. As your body breaks down food and it travels through the intestines, all those components of food are caught and stored. Everything you decided to put in your mouth, be it an apple or a Snickers bar, will play a role in your digestion.
Fiber – A Key Component to Digestion
Think of fiber as the Energizer Bunny of your intestines. It keeps everything going and going and going… Hopefully we’re all practicing this already, but half of all the grains (bread, cereal, and rice type products) consumed should be whole grains. Fiber can help lower your cholesterol and should be a key component in your diet, but should also be introduced slowly to avoid discomfort. Along with fiber, you should make sure that you’re consuming daily probiotics, most commonly found in yogurt. They make sure bacteria in the GI tract are healthy and useful, while all other unhealthy components are removed.
Some people have experienced discomfort when it comes to certain foods, which can destroy the entire eating process. For example, there is heartburn. What many people don’t know is that there are common and simple practices that you can take part in to avoid that uncomfortable burn from the beginning. They include eating smaller meals, leaving a 2-3 hour buffer from your last meal until bedtime, quit smoking and start losing extra weight (which will also help cease other problems you might be experiencing!). Some issues are more complicated and long-term, like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This disease encompasses Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease, both of which cause pain, diarrhea and weight loss. Not only is the high incidence of stress and anxiety bad for overall digestion, but it can accentuate the issues found with IBD.
Improving Digestive Health
There are some steps you can take to control you GI state:
Don’t overdo fat. You can ask for your condiments on the side, skip the whipped cream in your latte, opt for brown rice or substitute out fries with a side salad. Also, when you get a craving for steaming fajitas from your favorite restaurant, ask the chef to skip the butter at the end to create that extra sizzle and add those extra calories!
Get your daily 35 grams of fiber. Make sure you are eating your required daily fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water and exercising. Otherwise, you could have a higher incidence of constipation. Keep making those smart food choices and remember, fiber is your friend!
(image from smartdietwiki.com)
July 16th, 2010