Dr. Olufemi Kassim, a gastroenterologist at Loyola Medicine in Illinois, knows just how crucial gut health is to your overall well-being.
Here are the steps she takes to keep her own gastrointestinal tract happy and healthy →
She takes a fiber supplement.
Federal health experts recommend that most adults get somewhere between 20 and 35 grams of dietary fiber each day. Doing so can keep your bowel movements regular, and your blood sugar and hunger levels in check.
But few people are actually meeting that goal. Even “I don’t eat the recommended amount of fiber from natural sources,” Dr. Kassim said, adding that it’s especially hard to do if you’re busy.
While she tries to get as much fiber from her meals as she can, she also takes three or four fiber supplements (half a gram each) throughout the day.
She eats smaller meals more frequently.
Consuming too much food at once can sometimes lead to indigestion or bloating, Dr. Kassim said. So if you’re prone to those symptoms, eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may be easier on your gut.
Dr. Kassim opts for three smaller meals, along with a few healthy snacks in between when she is hungry.
She keeps hydrated.
“When your intestines are well lubricated, that will help things flow” and prevent constipation, Dr. Kassim said.
Remembering to drink water throughout the day can be “tough,” she said, so she makes sure to keep a full bottle of water nearby at all times.
She exercises regularly.
“If you’re too immobile, your GI tract slows down,” which can cause constipation, Dr. Kassim said. Getting regular physical activity, no matter what kind or how vigorous, can help your colon work properly, she said.
Dr. Kassim prefers yoga and low-intensity workouts, such as walking, over activities like running or biking. “I go out of my way to walk to run errands or to see people,” she said.
She avoids high-FODMAP foods.
Dr. Kassim is somewhat sensitive to certain types of carbohydrates called FODMAPS, which are found in many vegetables, fruits, dairy products, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. They can worsen digestive issues like cramping, diarrhea or constipation, she said.
“Not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs,” Dr. Kassim added, but if you are, cutting them out can help with symptoms.
She stays upright after eating.
If you lie down just after eating, the food will sit in your stomach and have a harder time making its way down to the intestines. This can cause heartburn and acid reflux.
To avoid this, Dr. Kassim waits an hour or so after a meal to lie down or do other activities that could prevent the food from digesting properly, like swimming or jumping.
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