Gut Check! 8 Things to Know About Your Digestive Health

If the only time you think about your digestive system is when it isn’t working quite right, you’re doing your health a disservice. Here are the top reasons it’s one of the most important parts of your body and the best tips for how to keep it humming along in harmony:

  1. The digestive tract is where 70 percent of your immune system lives. The healthier the micro-flora that line the walls of your intestines are, the better off your immune system will be.
  2. Your gut can actually affect your mental state. If the hormones there aren’t balanced, they can lead to stress or depression. And it goes the other way too. Anxiety and stress can put your gut in turmoil.
  3. The more fiber you eat, the more regular you’ll be (that’s where prunes get their wholesome reputation from). Aim for 20 to 35 grams every day, which you can get from beans, whole grains, nuts, fruits and veggies.
  4. We’ve talked about them before, but probiotics are key to keeping your gut healthy.  They are believed to help with all sorts of digestive issues, so talk to your doctor about the best way to  incorporate them into your diet.
  5. Drink plenty of water to keep the system running well. Being dehydrated is one of the top causes of chronic constipation because it makes it tough for food to flow through your intestines.
  6. Being overweight can also cause parts of the digestive system to not work as well. The extra weight puts pressure on the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, leading to acid reflux.
  7. Sugar and fat don’t just taste good to you, they also taste good to “bad” bacteria living in your digestive system. The more of those unhealthy foods you eat, the more toxins are released and the worse you’ll feel.
  8. Gas can lead to uncomfortable bloating, but exercises like sit-ups can help prevent it. Moving helps in other ways too: Aerobic exercise like walking can help the intestines do their work.

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Photo credit: Hey Paul Studios

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