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Advice on maintaining a healthy digestive system

Advice on maintaining a healthy digestive system

Most of us know that eating right is just one component of our health; however, many don’t realize that what you eat affects the digestive system, which can have a significant impact on overall well-being. In fact, a lot of the steps we take to stay healthy overall — such as exercising, minimizing stress, getting adequate sleep, and drinking plenty of fluids — may be linked to good digestive health.

And why is digestive health so important? For starters, the digestive system is where vitamins, nutrients and minerals are absorbed. Unfortunately, factors such as stress, lack of sleep, antibiotics, illness, aging, and poor diet choices can often lead to an imbalance of the bacteria in your digestive tract. The World Gastroenterology Organization suggests consuming fermented dairy products and foods rich in fiber to maintain good digestive health. Probiotics, mostly found in dairy products as well as in some fortified cereals and grains, help to maintain the balance of “good” bacteria in the digestive tract and can help improve the functioning of the digestive system.

Fortunately, with a few simple lifestyle changes and a commitment to consuming foods that contain probiotics, like yogurt, achieving and maintaining a balanced digestive system is possible. Here are some tips to begin on the path towards better digestive health.


Do

Do incorporate probiotics (healthy bacteria) into your daily diet

Certain probiotics can help maintain the balance of “good” bacteria in the digestive tract. Try having yogurt with probiotics every day, such as Activia, or other yogurts that contain probiotics.

Do keep moving

Exercise helps relieve stress and can support a healthy digestive system by allowing food to move through the large intestine. Try to exercise everyday, even if it is just walking around the block a couple of times.

Do make use of that water bottle

Water gives your digestive system the moisture it needs to function properly. Keep a bottle of water on hand to make it convenient to stay hydrated throughout the day. Try and drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water each day. This will help to ensure you stay hydrated and so that your digestive system works properly.

Do catch those z’s every night

Make sure to maintain an adequate sleep schedule. Sleep is when your body repairs itself and can help reduce stress and support a healthy immune system. Typically, experts recommend 8 hours of sleep per night.


Don't

Do not overindulge

Sometimes it’s hard to resist unhealthy food altogether. Try cutting the portion size in half or sharing with a friend to enjoy the treat without packing on the unnecessary fat, sugar and calories, which can compromise digestive health.

Do not skip lunch (or snacks)

Eating small meals throughout the day is a great way to stay energized and curb hunger. Portable snacks like yogurt are a healthy and convenient option for busy days.

Do not sweat it

Avoid stress and find quiet moments that provide relaxation for the mind and body. Take a few minutes each day to meditate, write in a journal or go for a walk. Destressing is absolutely required for your body to remain healthy.

Do not forget to sit down with the doctor

Have a question or concern about your digestive health? Talk to a doctor who can determine a routine that will help you feel better on the inside and outside. Tell them about your specific situation, lifestyle, and dietary needs. Your physician can help you establish a plan to stay healthy no matter your needs.


Summary
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While it may seem difficult to maintain, good digestive health can be achieved by following a few simple rules, such as incorporating healthy foods like a nonfat or lowfat yogurt with probiotics into your daily routine. And making digestive health a priority will pay off big time in the long run, so start today!


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Miguel Freitas, M.S., PhDDirector of Health Affairs

Miguel Freitas, M.S., Ph.D., is the director of health affairs for The Dannon Company, based in White Plains, NY. Dr. Freitas serves as a liaison between Dannon and the scientific community. He also is responsible for ensuring the integrity of t...

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