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Facts About Improper Digestion And Dietary Guidelines For Constipation

Digestive health is crucial in the functioning of various body systems. It is during the digestive process that the body absorbs nutrients from the food consumed. Thus a weak digestive system will lead to improper absorption and assimilation of nutrients, which leads to various related problems like malnutrition, constipation/diarrhea, and anemia among others.

Every year Americans spend about $725 million on laxatives, out of which many may not be needed and could cause dependency.

Myths About Digestive Health

  • A bowel movement is necessary everyday. This is untrue, because bowel movements can vary from two a day to three per week among healthy individuals.
  • Wastes which are not excreted by the body may be absorbed and be dangerous to the body.
    This is also misleading, because stored waste does not get absorbed.
  • Poor digestion can be corrected with a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle changes. Do not take any medicines or supplements without consulting your health provider.
Dietary guidelines to prevent constipation and aid digestion are as follows:
  • Chew food very well and take at least 20 minutes to finish your meal - this is the time it takes the satiety receptors in the brain to communicate that the body is full.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Have at least 8-10 glasses of plain water. Supplement with fruit and vegetable juices, buttermilk and herbal tea.
  • Include fiber-rich foods such as unprocessed bran, whole wheat bread, brown rice, millet, oats, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and psyllium husk.
  • Exercise helps keeps the gut healthy and encourages motility and bowel movement. Thus regular exercise for at least 30 minutes is essential.
  • Avoid foods with lots of additives and preservatives. Artificial coloring or additives put an additional load on the body to be broken down and excreted.
  • Limit the intake of saturated fat and fatty foods. Fats with medium chain triglycerides are the easiest to break down (such as butter and cream) and are helpful for people with a much compromised digestive system as in post surgery or injury. Have olive oil in place of lard, margarine and clarified butter, but keep total fat intake less than 30-45g/day.
  • De-stress yourself. Stress has a negative impact not only on the mind, but also on the body processes. It slows down the digestive process, and may lead to gas, water retention and abdominal pain. Try to relax yourself and be happy before meal times.

Submitted on January 16, 2014