Your digestive system’s job is to absorb nutrients and get rid of waste. But if your system isn’t working properly, you could experience abdominal pain, gas, bloating, cramps, and even diarrhea or constipation. Some simple fixes to your diet can help you get back on track, according to Lake Health naturopathic provider Jacob Wolf, ND, LAc, Dipl OM:
Variety is the spice of life
Americans tend to eat a diet consisting mainly of white, tan, beige and brown foods. Instead, put some color in your diet! A wide variety of fruits and vegetables in assorted colors will give you the essential nutrients, fiber, antioxidants and enzymes your digestion system needs to stay healthy.
How many fruits and vegetables should you eat? That depends on your age. Follow the guidelines for fruits and vegetables from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Drink lots of water
Most people should be drinking at least eight cups and optimally close to one-half their body weight in ounces each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces—or between nine and ten cups—of water a day. Keep in mind that coffee, tea, pop, juice and milk don’t count.
Eat fermented foods
Many countries around the world include fermented foods in their diet as part of their culture. Germany has sauerkraut, Korea has kimchi and Japan has miso.
In America, our primary source of fermented food is dairy—consisting of yogurt and cheese—and beer. The problem with this is that dairy can be challenging for many to digest, causing diarrhea, gas and bloating. It’s also high in sugar.
While beer is fermented, it uses a single strain of yeast that has little nutritional benefit.
You can buy sauerkraut, kimchi and miso in many grocery stores or make it yourself by searching online for a recipe. An alternative is to take a probiotic supplement.
Bitter herbs, including gentian (Gentiana lutea), dandelion (taraxicum officinale) and milk thistle (silybum marianum) can help stimulate digestion, move food out of the stomach and promote bowel movements. You can get all three of these nutrients in one product, which you can purchase at Jacob’s office or at most health food stores.
To make sure you are getting the proper nutrients, eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety and colors and foods. Add fermented foods or probiotics to maximize the efficiency of your digestive tract.