The World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) recently released new digestive health guidelines. In the United States, the Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (FDHN)
, which is the foundation of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), interpreted these new guidelines into a graphic (see below).
The guidelines are designed to reduce symptoms of digestive discomfort and help people achieve optimal digestive health - meaning the body is working properly to break down food and turn it into energy. The WGO says a person with good digestive health weighs a normal amount and rarely experiences digestive problems like nausea, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, diarrhea, heartburn, gas or irregularity.
"Digestive health has become a widespread concern among Americans, especially since digestive problems can pervade all aspects of a person's life," said Robert Sandler, M.D., MPH, AGAF, president of the AGA Institute. "The new guidelines outline ways that people can improve their digestive health by making simple lifestyle modifications."
Here are the WGO's Ten Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Digestive Health
Image: World Gastroenterology Organization
- Eat small, frequent meals. To achieve optimal digestion, eat 4-5 small meals per day without increasing overall caloric intake.
- Include foods rich in fiber. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and can be found in fresh fruits, raw vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, and beans.
- Consume fish 3-5 times per week. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids that can improve digestive abnormalities by stabilizing cell walls, reducing inflammation and restoring balance.
- Reduce intake of fried, fattening foods. Cutting back on greasy, fried foods that are high in fat and hard to digest will reduces your stomach's workload.
- Incorporate fermented dairy products into your diet. Certain probiotics, or the good bacteria that is found in dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese, may improve intestinal function and overall digestive health.
- Select lean meats. Leaner cuts of meat - pork, chicken and turkey - contain less fat, which may reduce digestive discomfort.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids are needed to alleviate and prevent constipation and ease digestion of foods through the digestive tract. A good way to make sure you're getting enough fluids is to drink a glass of water with every meal.
- Don't rush eating. Eating slowly and chewing food properly encourages a "full" feeling, which prevents the overeating that can upset the digestive tract.
- Exercise regularly and abstain from smoking. While most people know that exercise offers overall health benefits, most people don't know that it's good for your digestive tract, too.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. A Body Mass Index that indicates obesity or unintentional weight loss may have a negative impact on digestive health.