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Tips for Healthy Digestion

Tips for Healthy Digestion

Have you ever felt bloated or constipated? Do you ever have gas or diarrhea? At some point in our lives, we all have. For many people, these types of digestive problems happen from time to time and then go away. By following a few tips, you can help prevent these problems and promote a healthy digestive system.

1. Eat lots of fibre-rich foods

Fibre promotes healthy digestion by helping to remove waste from your body. It may also help lower your risk of colon cancer, help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and help manage your body weight. Fibre-rich foods include:

Read Focus on Fibre to find out how much fibre you need and for tips on getting more fibre.

When adding fibre to your diet, do it slowly and drink plenty of liquids. Adding fibre too quickly without drinking enough liquids may cause pain and bloating.

2. Get your body moving

Regular physical activity helps keep food moving through your digestive system. Try taking short walks during the day and use the stairs instead of the elevator to stay active. Adults need at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. See Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

3. Eat and “go” regularly

Eat regular meals and snacks during the day to help move food through your digestive system. Take time to eat even if you are having a busy day.

An important way to help prevent constipation is to go to the washroom when you feel you need to. As waste sits in your large intestine, water is slowly removed from it. This makes your stool harder and more difficult and sometimes painful to pass. The sooner your body can get rid of the waste, the softer your stool will be.

4. Avoid foods that may upset your stomach

You may find that some foods are more likely to upset your stomach than others. If you have heartburn, gas, constipation, celiac disease, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or irritable bowel syndrome, you may find that specific foods trigger your symptoms. And this is different for everyone.

Some foods that commonly cause digestive pain are:

  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • fatty or fried foods
  • gas producing foods like beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage
  • dairy products if you are lactose intolerant
  • wheat
  • alcohol

Swallowed air makes up 90% of the gas in our digestive system. Here are some tips to help swallow less air and have less gas and bloating:

  • Eat food slowly and try to relax while you eat.
  • Drink from a glass. Don't use a straw or drink from a bottle or can.
  • Avoid chewing gum and sucking on hard candy.
  • Drink fluids lukewarm instead of hot. When you drink something hot, you swallow more air.
  • If you smoke, try to stop.

Limit or avoid foods that give you an upset stomach or make you gassy and bloated. If you are lactose intolerant, remove lactose from your diet or try lactose-reduced foods.

5. See your doctor

If you have gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or any other digestive problem regularly, it is important to see your doctor. These symptoms may be a sign of something more serious. Your doctor can help monitor your digestive health or refer you to a dietitian or specialist. If you have been diagnosed with any of the below conditions, see your doctor regularly:

Take home message

From time to time, we all have digestive problems. By following a few tips, you can promote a healthy digestive system and lower your risk of digestive upset. If you have concerns about the symptoms you are having, see your doctor or dietitian.

If you have more questions about digestive health or would like a handout on fibre, gas, constipation or other digestive conditions, call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

Last Update – July 27, 2017

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.