Natural Ways to Improve Digestive Health

Use these simple, natural tips to improve your digestive health.

Bowl of Kale, Potato and White Bean SoupNausea, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, flatulence. We’ve all endured intestinal upset—sometimes at supremely inopportune moments. Digestive problems can manifest on airplanes, during business meetings, on bus trips in foreign lands, during a first date, while running a marathon and even on stage.

While some of us have more sensitive systems than others, we all have control over a number of factors that influence our digestive health. Try the following tips to keep your system running smoothly and toss intestinal complaints out the window.

Eat Mainly Plants

Plant chemicals and nutrients promote overall health and protect against cancer, inflammation and free radical damage. On the other hand, processed meat and red meat, especially meat cooked at high temperatures, is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Plant-based diets also provide fiber, which, combined with plenty of fluids, prevents constipation. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and passes through the intestinal tract unaltered. Sources include whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice, barley, farro, bulgur and couscous), popcorn, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage and celery.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel, which slows digestion and enhances feelings of satiety. Bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract ferment the gel, which promotes bowel health. Sources include oats, barley, beans, flax seeds, psyllium seed husks, nuts, carrots, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries and blueberries.

According to one study, for people with IBS, soluble fiber appears to alleviate symptoms, while insoluble fiber may do the opposite. Consult your physician to consider whether reducing insoluble fiber may be helpful for you.

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