NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Nourish Your Digestive System for Optimal Health

digestive disorder, digestive distress, digestive system

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Digestive disorders are among the most common problems in health care today.

About 30 to 40 percent of adults say they experience frequent indigestion, and more than 50 million visits are made every year to health-care facilities for symptoms related to the digestive system.

Perk Up the Fiber in Your Diet with These Simple Swaps

White bread..................................... Whole-grain bread

Instant or white rice......................... Brown rice

Canned fruit or juice......................... Fresh fruit with skins

Potato chips...................................... Popcorn

Chocolate chips................................. Raisins

Cream of tomato soup..................... Lentil or split-pea soup

Low-fiber cereal................................ Bran cereal

Sugar cookies.................................... Oatmeal raisin cookies

White flour........................................ Whole-wheat flour

Some of the causes of digestive distress are overeating and stress, lack of physical activity, and a poor diet. Suffering from heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and excess gas does not have to be the norm. By taking care of your digestive system, you can become a “regular” human being.

Prevention is the best medicine for health problems, including digestive system issues. Here are some tips for protecting your digestive health and overall well-being:

  • Check your meds. Many medications used to manage chronic conditions such as arthritis and high blood pressure can have digestive tract side effects. Older adults who take diuretics are at increased risk for dehydration.

  • Stay active. In addition to its other benefits, regular physical activity can help prevent constipation. Many older adults become less active due to advanced age or medical issues.

  • Eat more fiber. As we age, the digestive tract slows down, just like other bodily functions. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Make half your grain choices whole grains.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water helps lubricate the contents in your digestive tract.
    Drinking water and other fluids, such as orange juice with pulp, can keep you hydrated and help ease constipation.

  • Manage your weight. Many age-related health problems can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, which also can reduce the number of medications you need to take. Medications can cause digestive side effects. Limit the fat in your diet, choose healthy portions and select whole foods instead of processed foods to help you manage your weight.

  • Get regular health screenings. Talk to your doctor about any concerning symptoms you are having and ask about regular screenings. The risk of developing colon polyps increases after age 50, which makes getting regular screenings very important.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your health, the North Dakota State University Extension Service can help. The Extension office in Mercer County is holding classes each month as part of the “Nourishing Boomers and Beyond” series. If you would be interested in joining the class, contact the Extension office at 873-5195.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Food Nutrition Specialist

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