5 Tips To Keep The Digestive System Moving

by Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Last Updated: January 29, 2021

Everything we eat, drink and do can influence how our bodies digest food. We have all experienced digestion discomfort at least once in our lifetime. Some know exactly what may have caused it, while others may not have a clue. As we get older, digestive issues tend to come about more frequently. Those with digestive disorders know how frustrating it can be to manage digestion distress. If you’re lucky enough not to have a disorder, it’s important to still be mindful of what you put into your body. Having good digestive health is of vital importance to keep us healthy.

The digestive system is responsible for preparing the food we eat for absorption to be used by our cells for energy. Our diet and lifestyle choices greatly influence how the digestive system completes this process. We often assume that the food we eat comes out shortly after consuming, but actually, it can take much longer. Several factors can determine how long and smooth of a process it is for food to pass through the body. Below are some tips on how to ease and speed up this process.
  1. Exercise
    Regular exercise is not only important for our health and well-being, but it can also help treat constipation. When exercising, our muscles contract more frequently, which then propels digested material through the body, for those who live a sedentary life they are likely to have a slower transit time. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends individuals do at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  2. Water
    Hydration is key! There are several reasons why there is a recommendation to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day – digestion is one of them. Water helps break down the food we eat so the body can easily absorb the nutrients found in food. Water also keeps the stool soft, making it much easier to pass through all 15 to 20 feet of the small and large intestine. Drinking water during and after a meal can significantly aid digestion.
  3. Fiber
    Like water, fiber can help keep the food we eat moving through our digestive system. Depending on the type of fiber you consume, it can increase the size and soften it. Insoluble fiber, found in seeds, skins of fruit, and whole grain products, cannot be digested and therefore add bulk to our stools. Soluble fiber, found in fruits, nuts, and beans, draws water and prevents watery stools.
  4. Limit fat
    Regular consumption of high-fat foods could be the thing keeping you from going regularly. In general, fat takes a longer time to digest, as the enzymatic breakdown doesn’t start until it reaches the small intestine. In comparison, carbohydrates and protein start this process in our mouths. The American Heart Association recommends individuals limit fat to less than 30% of calories. When consuming fat, it’s important to incorporate “good” fats such as avocados, fish, nuts, and seeds.
  5. Stress
    Too much of anything can be a bad thing, and, in this case, it’s stress. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Stress caused by anger, anxiety, or sadness can affect the brain-gut connection and trigger various symptoms. We all experience stress, but how we manage it is different from person to person. Whether it’s exercising, meditation, reading, or taking a nap, knowing how to effectively manage stress can ease digestive discomforts.

Managing a digestive disease or distress can be difficult, but it can be done. Instead of ignoring that reccurring bloating or gas, ask a Kroger Health Dietitian about it. We can help get you back on track nutritionally and provide you with product recommendations that are high in fiber, low in fat, and easy to prepare. We can also work with you to create realistic goals, increase physical activity, and better manage stress. Schedule a free virtual Telenutrition appointment today!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth loves being a dietitian because it connects her two passions- helping people, and healthy living. She’s a walking encyclopedia of better for you foods, meals, and culinary hacks to ensure her patients are enjoying the flavors they love while eating and staying well.