Recent research has shown that gut health plays a big role in our overall health.
About 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
GERD is a condition in which your stomach acid and/or contents come back up into your esophagus (swallowing tube) or throat.
This can cause uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn and indigestion.
IBS is a group of symptoms that includes pain in the abdomen and changes in bowel habits.
Many people with IBS also have other digestive problems, like bloating and stomach pain.
Many factors can affect gut health, these include gene, family history, stress management, diet quality and your metabolic functions.
Recent research has found that people who have early life stress are more likely to develop IBS.
On the other hand, what you eat can help your digestive system, and influence how you feel and behave.
Experts suggest that one should eat at least 20–30 grams of fiber a day to prevent constipation.
To achieve this goal, spread out dietary fiber in small amounts throughout the day.
You can start with small servings and gradually increase them to avoid gas, bloating, and discomfort.
Try to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal. A variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts can provide a healthy mix of different fibers and nutrients to your diet.
Another health benefit is that the more fiber and whole foods you eat, the less room you’ll have for less healthy foods.
But for people with IBS, some high-fiber foods are not good because they re hard to digest.
Examples include certain fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and wheat and rye products. If you have IBS, your doctor may recommend a diet low in FODMAPS.
To have a healthy gut, you should also add probiotics in your diet.
Recently, scientists are coming to understand the complex community of bacteria and other microbes that live in the human GI tract.
Called gut flora or microbiota, these microbes help with our digestion. But studies suggest that they may play roles in obesity, type 2 diabetes, IBS, and colon cancer.
They might also affect how the immune system functions and deal with allergy, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Probiotics are live microbes that are like those found in the human gut. They can improve your gut health.
You can get probiotics in dietary supplements and in certain foods, such as yogurt.
Probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhea associated with antibiotics and improving symptoms of IBS, but more research is needed.
Another thing you can do to protect your gut is eating less processed food.
Food additives called emulsifiers may affect your gut health.
Emulsifiers are added to many processed foods to improve texture and extend shelf life. But they can affect our gut flora.
Research has shown strong relationships between food additives, gut bacteria, and disease.
So, the home message is to eat a balanced diet and less processed foods.
Source: National Institutes of Health.
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