Constipation and poor digestion plague over four million people in the United States on a regular basis. Chances are you either suffer from this condition yourself, or you have a friend, family member or coworker who does. With the daily bombardment of laxatives, natural remedies and prescriptions that have more side affects than you care to know, what is it that we should really be doing to improve our food digestion? The following are eight easy steps to a healthier digestion system.
Don't overeat. Overeating is something that many of us are guilty of. Large restaurant portion sizes, large plates at home and constant snacking between meals can leave your digestive tract overworked and stressed. Try eating on smaller plates to control portion size, or measuring your food with measuring cups before consumption.
Drink lots of water. As you probably already know, the recommended intake of water is eight to ten (8oz) glasses per day. If you suffer from constipation, consider drinking an extra two to four glasses a day on top of your recommended dose. Just remember that if you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Avoid unhealthy fluids that include caffeine or alcohol, which will only rob your body of water content.
Eat your fruits and veggies. This is one of the most important steps you will need to take to promote healthy digestion. More fruits and vegetables in your diet mean more fiber in your colon. This is vital for aiding softer, easier bowel movements. The recommended daily intake for fruit is 2-4 servings and for vegetables, 3-5 servings. Try substituting unhealthy snacks with fruit or vegetables, always including a salad with meals and eating fruits to cure a sweet tooth. Some of the best fiber rich fruits and vegetables are apples, oranges, dried fruits (e.g. apricots/prunes), leafy greens (e.g. collard/ kale), broccoli and avocado.
Opt for whole grains. Loading up on meat and carbohydrates, and skimping on vegetables is something many Americans are guilty of and leads to poor digestion. The recommended intake of bread, cereal, rice and pasta is 6-11 servings per day. Eliminate white bread for whole grain bread, white rice for brown rice and choose healthy cereals over those that are full of sugar (e.g. Kashi brand cereal, Fiber One Bran Cereal and Fiber One Honey Clusters).
Exercise regularly. Exercising helps to decrease the amount of time it takes for food to move through the large intestine. Aerobic exercise not only accelerates your breathing and heart rate, it also stimulates the natural contraction of intestinal muscles. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, exercise with a friend, or join a class and you will more likely stick to a routine.
Go when you need to. Both adults and children often find themselves avoiding use of a bathroom outside of their own home. Children are also guilty of not wanting to interrupt an exciting play time to use the restroom. Shunning the need to pass a bowel movement can eventually lead to not feeling the urge to go - a definite unhealthy repercussion. A healthy person will have a bowel movement at least every 12-14 hours and parents should encourage children to do the same.
Don't overuse laxatives. Overusing laxatives over a period of time not only dehydrates your body, but also makes it dependent on stimulants in order to have a bowel movement. Typically, long-term users must also increase the dosage in order for the laxative to remain effective. If you suffer from constipation for a pro-longed period of time, consider changing your diet or consulting with your physician to find out the exact cause. Comprehensive digestive stool analysis tests are also available to attain a precise diagnosis.
Get rid of stress. When you feel stressed, your body is programmed to transport more blood and energy to the skeletal muscles and brain. This means that the blood and energy is moved away from your digestive tract and your bowel movements suffer. Learning how to calm your body and mind, through exercise or other stress relieving techniques, is essential to maintaining a healthy system.
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8 STEPS TO HEALTHY DIGESTION
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