Folasade (Fola) P. May, M.D., Ph.D., M.Phil.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases; Director, Melvin and Bren Simon Gastroenterology Quality Improvement Program; Board Member; Fight Colorectal Cancer
Taking care of your gut is an important step for better general health and wellness. Here are seven easy ways to care for your digestive system.
1. Drink Water
Getting enough hydration helps us not only digest our food, but it brings clarity, improves organ function, and can help our overall well-being. Water is a great option, but other fluids like sparkling water and tea can also aid in hydration. As a goal, men need 3.7 liters (around 15.5 8-oz cups) of fluids each day and women need 2.7 liters (11.5 8-oz cups), according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
2. Chew more
Americans have a bad habit of rushing through meals. Eating slower can reduce indigestion. More chewing increases saliva, which also helps break down food and assists in digestion. At your next meal, be mindful of how much you chew and take a few more bites before swallowing.
3. Eat early
Many people also have the habit of eating right before going to sleep. But your digestion is slower at night, and going to bed with a full stomach can cause discomfort and indigestion. Try to eat your last meal of the day 3-4 hours before going to bed. And if you do need a bedtime snack, keep it small.
4. Avoid processed meats, and reduce red meats
For digestive wellness, it’s important to consider how you can reduce, and even eliminate, certain foods from your diet. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends no more than three portions (12-18 oz. cooked) of red meat each week. Reduce processed meats (like hotdogs and lunchmeat) to little to none if possible.
5. Embrace fiber
It’s important to include a good amount of soluble fiber in your diet. You want to eat at least 20-38g of fiber each day (20-25g daily for women, 30-38g daily for men). Fiber is one of the nutrients we’re the worst at eating, but it’s important in normalizing digestion. Fiber is found in foods like whole grains, beans, fruits, and green and leafy vegetables.
6. Move around
Digestion doesn’t only involve what you do and don’t eat; digestive wellness is also about how much you move. Even with social distancing, you can get moving. Staying physically active will improve your gut health.
7. Get your colorectal cancer screening
During COVID-19, we saw a drop in colorectal cancer screenings and colorectal cancer diagnoses. This unfortunately means that we expect an uptick in future cases. However, colorectal cancer is preventable and very treatable, especially if caught in its earliest stages. Talk to your doctor about how and when to get screened. You also need to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs and symptoms, regardless of your age, race, or gender. Learn more at fightcrc.org/symptoms.