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Did you know more than 100 million Americans have digestive problems? There are more than 200 over-the-counter remedies for digestive issues. Unfortunately, many digestive issues can become or create digestive diseases and disorders.

 

Many of us don't know that the digestive system plays a huge role in our overall immune health and that gastrointestinal problems can hurt your entire body. Believe it or not, GI problems can lead to everything from allergies and acne to arthritis and cancer.

 

The gut is a huge chemical factory that helps you digest your food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins and produce healing compounds that keep your gut healthy. Too many of the wrong ones...or not enough of the good ones...can lead to serious damage. Your entire immune system (and your body) is protected from the toxic environment in your gut by a layer only one cell thick. This thin layer...is basically containing a sewer. If that barrier is damaged, you will get sick and create an overactive immune system, producing inflammation throughout the body.

 

Your gut guides your overall well-being. Quite literally, your gut is the epicenter of your mental and physical health. It's extremely common to experience occasional digestive issues, but it's also too common to ignore your gut when it's trying to tell you something.

 

For instance, we may experience indigestion from time to time. When it happens, we write it off as just one of those things you have to deal with. We need to think about what it really means. Indigestion is your body's way of telling you it's struggling to break down various components of the food you consume. Often, this is caused by a low number of the digestive enzymes that break down food and absorb nutrients properly. If indigestion is something you experience regularly, it's important to seek out the underlying cause.

 

Your gastroenterologist will be able to help you identify causes of your digestive symptoms as well as options for treating them. In the meantime, here are some simple steps you can take to help keep your gut healthy:

  • Increase your fiber intake.
  • Eat more whole foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains and limit your intake of high fat, processed products.
  • Take probiotic supplements or add probiotic yogurt to your diet.
  • Take extra omega-3 fat supplements, which help cool inflammation in the gut.
  • Eat smaller portions per sitting and avoid heavy meals before bedtime.

 

high fiber foodsThe summer season is here, bringing with it longer and warmer days and an abundance of opportunities to eat a high-fiber diet – fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – to help keep your digestive system healthy.

 

So what exactly is dietary fiber? Also known as roughage or bulk, the Mayo Clinic explains dietary fiber as the parts of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. While our bodies break down food components like fats, proteins and carbohydrates, they’re not able to digest fiber. Rather, fiber passes through our stomach, small intestine and colon and out our bodies.

 

In the Healthy Lifestyle section of its website, the Clinic also touts the many benefits of a high-fiber diet, including:

  • Normalizing bowel movements by softening and increasing the weight and size of stools.
  • Helping maintain bowel health by lowering your risk of developing hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
  • Lowering low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Helping reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helping control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
  • Aiding in achieving a healthy weight.

The Health and Medicine Division, which provides science-based advice on medicine and health issues, recommends 38 grams of daily fiber for men age 50 and younger and 25 grams for women. For adults over the age of 51, the recommendation is 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.

 

Keep these guidelines in mind when you need to bring a covered dish to a barbecue or are looking to pack a healthy snack for a hike. It’s not that difficult to choose tasty foods that also provide soluble fiber (dissolves in water) or insoluble fiber (doesn’t dissolve).

 

Just one medium artichoke offers 10.3 grams of fiber, while a cup of peas offers 8.8 grams. A cup of sweet corn – a summertime staple – has 3.6 grams of fiber. Raspberries also are a great source of fiber – 8 grams in just one cup.

 

Meanwhile, you can also get a dose of dietary fiber through a variety of grains, cereals and pastas. A cup of whole wheat spaghetti offers 6.3 grams of fiber, while a cup of instant cooked oatmeal offers 4 grams. When you head to the movies this summer, don’t forget to stop by the concession stand for some air-popped popcorn. Three cups will get you 3.6 grams of fiber toward your daily goal.

 

The board-certified gastroenterologists at Northeast Digestive Health Center can diagnose and treat a variety of digestive conditions and related diseases. If you’re experiencing symptoms or have concerns or questions about your digestive health, contact us today.

 

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Health and Medicine Division

 

Healthy Holiday Eating blogHolidays are infamous for expansive dinner menus, catching up with family over glasses of wine, indulging in decadent desserts, and days of overeating resulting in long naps on the couch. Saying the holidays are tough on your digestive system is an understatement.  November through January are known for high stress, activities and travel, and indulgent food and alcohol … which all take a serious toll on your gut health.

Why is your gut health important?

The digestive system plays a crucial role in our overall immune health and gastrointestinal (GI) problems can hurt your entire body and can lead to everything from allergies and acne to arthritis and cancer.

 

The gut is a huge chemical factory that helps you digest your food, regulate hormones, get rid of toxins and produce healing compounds that keep you healthy. Too many of the wrong ones ... or not enough of the good ones ... can lead to serious damage. Your gut guides your overall well-being.

 

Tips for keeping your gut healthy during the holidays:

  • Don’t overdo it. Portion control is key. Overeating or drinking too much alcohol can create stomach distress, causing your gut to become imbalanced and upset. Remember, your body likes predictability. Eating smaller portions that your gut is used to and taking time to chew and eat your food slowly will help digestion and allow you to try more things. Remember, your eyes may be bigger than your stomach.
  • Hydrate. With all the excitement for festive holiday drinks and dishes, drinking water is the last thing on most people’s minds. However, drinking water is essential to keeping your digestive system well-lubricated and moving, helping to avoid constipation from dehydration and stress. When you start to feel those hunger pangs, drink water.
  • Stay active. It’s hard to stick to your regular exercise routine during the holidays, but maintaining your active lifestyle is very important to your body functioning at its norm. Increased metabolism, protective effects on the GI tract, and decreased risk of disease are just a few benefits of exercise. Make an effort to stay active this holiday season, whether it’s going for a walk around the neighborhood, doing a quick at-home workout before guests arrive, or taking the dog to the park.
  • Get your beauty sleep. Eight hours is the recommended amount of time for a healthy night’s sleep. When your body is at rest, it has a chance to reset itself. Lack of sleep leads to decreased overall functionality and puts extra stress on our digestive systems. It’s easy to stay up late at family parties and wake up early for special sales, but maintaining a consistent sleep routine is important for gut health. Your body likes predictability. Plus, being awake for those extra hours might lead you to take a few unnecessary trips to the fridge.
  • Know your “no no” foods. It’s very easy to succumb to all the starch, sugar and alcohol loaded options at the dinner table. Trust your gut. If you have identified the types of foods you are sensitive to, there shouldn’t be an “only on holidays” rule. Have a back-up plan. Bring a dish that you love and know has ingredients you can eat. Or pack some extra snacks like veggies or nuts that will keep you full if your options are limited.

 

healthy digestive jan 2018 blog

The start of a new year is the perfect time to reassess what didn’t work in the past and create and prioritize new goals. If your 2019 resolutions include living a healthier lifestyle, don’t forget that your digestive health is directly impacted by the foods you eat and the lifestyle you live. Consider incorporating these digestive HEALTH tips into your daily routine.

 

  1. Hydrate. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients and move out waste and toxins. Drinking water during or after a meal aids in digestion; drinking too little will slow down the digestive system significantly because a harder stool is more difficult to pass. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water is the recommended daily amount an average person should drink.
  2. Eat slowly. Take your time when eating your meals – your digestive system doesn’t like to be rushed. Did you know that a person should chew each bite at least 20 times? That gives your stomach plenty of time to prepare to properly digest the nutrients you are giving it, and it gives your body enough time to recognize that it’s full. Try to avoid eating in front of the TV or on the computer. Studies show that when people are distracted while eating they eat significantly more than when they are only focusing on their food.
  3. Activity is key. Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to your organs and stimulates muscles in the GI tract, helping your organs work more efficiently. Incorporate a regular exercise schedule into your daily routine to keep food moving through your digestive system and to reduce constipation, bloat and indigestion. You’ll be feeling slim, healthy and better than ever in no time.
  4. Limit fats. Be careful about the fatty foods you ingest. There are four types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans. The last two fats tend to slow down the digestive process and raise “bad” cholesterol. There are many ways to limit your intake of high fat and processed products. Try switching to lean cuts of meat, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and replacing butter with olive oil.
  5. Try incorporating probiotics. Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria that are naturally present in your digestive tract. These “good bacteria” are used to prevent and alleviate many different conditions, but particularly those that affect the gastrointestinal tract. They help regulate the amount of healthy bacteria in your system, normalize bowel movements and strengthen your immune system. Add more probiotics to your diet to help boost your gut health.
  6. High-fiber diet. Consuming a diet that’s high in fiber and rich in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits can improve your digestive health. Benefits of a high-fiber diet include normalizing bowel movements, lowering “bad” cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and aiding in achieving a healthy weight. Keep this in mind when you are looking for a healthy snack or side dish; it’s easy to choose tasty foods that also provide a great source of fiber.

 

You are six steps closer to improving your digestive health and overall sense of well-being. Remember, more than 100 million Americans have digestive problems. If you are struggling with digestive issues, don’t be afraid to contact a professional. Trust your gut; your gastroenterologist will be able to help you identify causes of your digestive symptoms, as well as offer options for treating them.

boy with apple

 

Studies show that kids who stay healthier – including a healthy gut – are able to better ward off classroom cooties, they can see a boost in brain function and improved mood, and they make the best learners.

 

The Natural Nutritionist notes several reasons why gut health is important for children: 

 

  • The gastrointestinal (GI) system is “the foundation of true health and immunity,” with more than 70 percent of our immune system lying within the gut.
  • There is approximately 3kg of bacteria in the gut, which is more bacterial cells than human cells.
  • We digest and absorb nutrients in our gut. Prioritizing gut health in children allows nutrients to be used efficiently, leading to enhanced brain function and energy levels.
  • Studies show a compromised GI tract, or more specifically imbalanced micro flora, can be linked to behavioral issues.
  • Bacteria imbalance, insufficient production of stomach acids, inflammation and gut permeability (also referred to as ‘leaky gut’) in kids can lead to skin conditions, including eczema.

 

While there’s not one superfood that can provide optimal gut health, there are a variety of foods that can help support a robust system and can easily be incorporated into kids’ breakfasts or lunch boxes.

 

Superfoods Pack a Healthy Punch

 

In her blog, family and health nutrition advocate Ashley Koch lists five foods that pack a healthy punch:

 

  • Beans are a strong source of plant-based fiber and an inexpensive source of protein.
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables provide plenty of “good bugs” for kids to snack on and expose them to a variety of vitamins and minerals their bodies need to thrive. An added bonus? Most of them are high in fiber.
  • Not only are nuts a nutrient-dense source of unsaturated fat and protein, they're also packed with fiber.
  • Lentils are high in fiber and can feed the thriving good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Flaxseeds are a versatile food with a high omega-3 content and a great fiber source for feeding beneficial bacteria and helping support brain function. Add ground flaxseeds to your child’s morning pancakes, smoothie or baked goods.

 

Koch notes the beneficial bacteria in the gut ferment prebiotic foods, which feed the good bacteria, allows the good bugs to thrive and crowds out the bad bugs. Some beneficial prebiotic foods include green bananas, asparagus, sunchokes, garlic, onions and leeks. While some of these have strong aromas and not suitable for school lunches, they can play a part of healthy at-home meals.

 

Healthy Lunch Box Ideas

 

It’s important for kids to maintain their energy levels at school. While parents should pack foods that their kids will actually eat, pack lunchboxes that are healthy and well-balanced.

 

The Healing Gut Community notes parents sometimes overpack lunches because they don’t want kids to be hungry throughout the day; however, they shouldn’t be hungry if you pack the right foods and follow a simple 4 + 1: Main meal, nutritious snack, fruit, drink and an extra snack for long days or increased activity.

 

Main meal recommendations:

  • Salad wraps filled with your child’s favorite salad and protein like chicken, beef or egg are delicious and nutritious. Add some avocado for a healthy fat addition.
  • Salads, which can include chicken strips or shredded meat from a leftover roast, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, carrot and cucumber sticks and hardboiled egg.
  • A pre-baked muffin meal is a simple way to incorporate foods like bacon, egg and veggies into one convenient muffin that helps keep young ones going for hours.

 

Snack recommendations:

  • Homemade granola or muesli bars allow parents to put in exactly what they want and ensure the ingredients are all natural.
  • Fruit muffins are easy to make ahead and a great time saver. A small amount of honey and the natural sweetness of the fruit (such as blueberries) make them a tasty treat.

 

Speaking of fruit … remember that many fruits are high in natural sugars so keep them in moderation. Common choices are bananas, apples and berries.

 

Also, steer clear of fruit juice boxes and instead stick to fresh, filtered water – it works best for hydration and contains no sugar. If you think your child needs a little extra boost in his or her lunch box, try adding some coconut yogurt.

 

Celebrate Healthy Eating on Valentine’s Day

 

 dark chocolates blog

 

Right after the holidays, when you think you’re out of the woods and ready to start eating healthy again, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate appear everywhere you look. Valentine’s Day can be a tough time for many who are trying to keep on track toward healthy eating.

 

Whether you’re planning a candle-lit dinner, family movie night with the kids, or gathering with friends, Valentine’s Day is a land mine of rich food and dessert for your average person. But for an estimated 100 million Americans living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) who are trying to watch their diet, it can be a nightmare.

 

Surrounded by unhealthy treats and maintaining a healthy diet is next to impossible. However, there is good news! Individuals with NAFLD can opt for high-quality dark chocolate, which is known for having antioxidants compared to milk and white chocolate, which have none. And one doesn’t have to stick to Valentine’s Day to enjoy dark chocolate. Just an ounce and half of dark chocolate a day can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, which is crucial in keeping the progression of NAFLD at bay.

 

Here are some other healthy suggestions to turn to:

 

  • Dried fruit or nuts dipped in dark chocolate
  • Fresh berries
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Frozen fruit pops

 

Armed with this information, go ahead and enjoy Valentine’s Day – with a little bit of sweetness and a whole lot of love.

 

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Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
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