Health Center - Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and constipation can have devastating effects on your life. Don’t let your symptoms cramp your style. Find tips and ideas below for taking control of your condition, and start feeling better soon.

The Top 2 Ways to Improve Digestion

by Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH

veggies on a farm standWhen it comes to the health of your gastrointestinal tract, I have a magic word I want you to remember: "Fiber."

Whether it's preventing or treating constipation, reducing your risk of diverticulosis or diverticulitis or improving symptoms of IBS, nothing beats fiber. Fiber is basically the indigestible part of the plant. Because fiber absorbs many times its weight in water, it bulks up your stool, helping it move through the colon faster and easier and preventing constipation and straining.

So in the interest of getting more fiber into your diet without feeling like you're trying to digest a cereal box, try the following:

  • Go half and half. If you're fixing pasta or rice, start with half whole-grain and half white. Over time, gradually increase the amount of whole grain and reduce the amount of white until you're only getting the high-fiber stuff. You can do the same with cereal.
  • Stick with real fruits and vegetables. Instead of orange juice, choose oranges. Instead of strawberry jam on your toast, serve your toast alongside a cup of sliced berries. You'll more than meet your daily fiber requirement (about 25 grams) if you get nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
  • Be into beans. Toss a cup of canned, rinsed chickpeas into your salad to up the fiber content; spread hummus instead of butter on your bagel; add an extra can of black beans to your chili. All will significantly increase the amount of fiber you're getting.
  • Read labels. You can buy bread with one gram of fiber per slice—or bread with four grams of fiber per slice. Since they taste pretty much the same, which are you going to do?
  • Munch some nuts. A handful of almonds contains about three grams of fiber.

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