Suffering from poor digestive health? More than 20 million Canadians are affected by digestive problems.

If you feel like your digestive system could use a makeover, here are a few simple ways to improve your digestive health.

Get more fibre. Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, or peas) vegetables, fruit, and whole-grain breads. Taking a fibre supplement is another simple way to add fibre to your diet. It promotes digestive health* and can be taken every day. Speak with your doctor before using a fibre laxative every day or if you are constipated for more than 7 days, as this may point to a more serious condition.

Be active. Living an active lifestyle can help improve your digestive health. When you get your body moving, you also get the food moving through your intestines.

Drink plenty of water. Water helps with digestive health by breaking down food in the digestive tract and softening stools so you are less likely to be constipated. Just be sure not to gulp it down too quickly or you could end up swallowing air, which can cause indigestion.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Smaller meals are easier on the digestive system. Instead of 2 or 3 large meals, try 4 or 5 smaller meals.

Eat more slowly. All too often, we eat in a rush and barely take the time to taste and chew our food. But chewing helps make food easier to digest. Try to chew and savour each bite. You'll enjoy your food more and your digestive system will thank you. Here are a few tricks to help you slow down:

  • Put your fork down after each bite.
  • Put finger foods down on your plate between nibbles.
  • Take the next bite only after you've swallowed the previous one.
  • Try using chopsticks if you don't normally use them.

Avoid problem foods. Are there a few foods that upset your stomach? Some common culprits include spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, wheat, dairy (if you are lactose intolerant), highly processed foods, or alcohol. If you find a food gives you indigestion, avoid it.

Don't put off that trip to the bathroom. Go when you need to go – don't wait. As stool sits in your intestine, more and more water is absorbed, making it harder and more difficult to pass.

If you try these tips and are still having digestive problems, see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you are having symptoms of a more serious digestive problem, for example:

  • diarrhea lasting 3 days or more
  • bloody or black, tarry stools
  • unexplained weight loss or fatigue
  • fever, vomiting, heartburn, or abdominal pain that does not go away
  • abdominal pain that gets worse or better when you eat
  • chest pain, difficulty swallowing, or feeling like your throat is blocked
  • painful bowel movements

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