We all have suffered at some point from symptoms of poor digestion. The discomfort that comes from it is something like a hurricane passing through your stomach. When experiencing bloating, gas, constipation, and, in worst cases, diarrhea, it is a red alert that your digestive system needs attention. Taking care of your stomach health is important because the digestive process breaks down chemical compounds transforming them into molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. (1)

If eating is no longer agreeable, it’s time to make some adjustments to reclaim a good relationship with food and enjoy healthy digestion. Taking care of your intestinal health is vital, and easier than you think. Here are some suggestions that will help you alleviate those annoying symptoms:

Consume probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been proven to provide benefits to intestinal health. Several studies document how they help control a variety of intestinal diseases and promote overall health (2). They have also been shown effective in treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, bloating, and flatulence. (3)

How to incorporate them into your diet: Yogurt is a food rich in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B-12. It also contains beneficial bacterial cultures making it a great source of probiotics, which are ideal for improving the absorption and digestion of nutrients. The combination of yogurt and fruits is a delicious and healthy source of probiotics and prebiotics, as the latter promotes digestive health thanks to its fiber and antioxidants stimulating healthy bacteria in the gut (4). But if you are not into fruits and yogurt, that’s not a problem. Today we have alternatives available on the market, such as probiotic supplements, to provide the same necessary benefits to your intestinal health. (5).

Evaluate what you eat daily

Poor digestion is often the result of eating unhealthy foods that have probably already caused you discomfort in the past. Listen to your body and pay attention each time you eat certain foods. Maybe it’s time to make changes to your eating habits, consume more fiber, and eliminate processed foods. Research shows that well-planned vegan diets can benefit both metabolism and gut health. The gut profile of people who maintain a plant-based diet appears to have unique characteristics, including an abundance of gut-protective species and reduced levels of inflammation (6). If you don't feel ready to completely leave animal products, you can at least try switching to an in-between style such as Mediterranean or Paleo. While not vegan, either one includes fresher options and plant-based foods – taking you one step closer to a healthier you.

Increase your fiber intake

As already mentioned, fiber promotes good intestinal health in several ways, including supporting the microbiota or intestinal flora that regulate waste elimination and the digestive process. In addition to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, nopal is another great additive towards your digestive health. This ancient plant, also known as prickly pear cactus or sabra, contains nutrients and soluble fiber, which helps reduce fat absorption at the intestinal level. This, in addition to aiding better digestion, provides a feeling of satiety when eating (7). The edible parts of this cactus are the leaves, flowers, stems, and fruits, which you can prepare in many ways. Try a delicious prickly pear juice, sautéed nopal vegan tacos, or fresh nopal salad. If cooking is not your thing, consume nopal easily with a supplement.

Improving your own digestion is in your hands. Remember, good nutrition is key.

Let's be healthier together.

Your friends, Santo Remedio

References

1. Hoyle T. “The digestive system: linking theory and practice.” Br J Nurs. Vol.7;6(22):1285-91. Dec. 1997 doi: 10.12968/bjon.1997.6.22.1285. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9470654/

2. Kim SK, Guevarra RB, Kim YT, Kwon J, Kim H, Cho JH, Kim HB, Lee JH. “Role of Probiotics in Human Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases.” J Microbiol Biotechnol. Vol.28;29(9):1335-1340. Sep. 2019 doi: 10.4014/jmb.1906.06064. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31434172/

3. Williams NT. “Probiotics.” Am J Health Syst Pharm. Vol.15;67(6):449-58. Mar. 2010 doi: 10.2146/ajhp090168.URL:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20208051/

4. Fernandez MA, Marette A. “Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties.” Adv Nutr. Vol.17;8(1):155S-164S. Jan. 2017 doi: 10.3945/an.115.011114. URL:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28096139/

5. Zawistowska-Rojek A, Tyski S. “Are Probiotic Really Safe for Humans?” Pol J Microbiol. Vol. 67(3):251-258. 2018 doi: 10.21307/pjm-2018-044. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30451441/

6. Glick-Bauer M, Yeh MC. “The health advantage of a vegan diet: exploring the gut microbiota connection.” Nutrients. Vol.31;6(11):4822-38. Oct. 2014 doi: 10.3390/nu6114822. URL:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25365383/

7. Sáenz C, Sepúlveda E, Pak N, Vallejos X. “Uso de fibra dietética de nopal en la formulación de un polvo para flan [Use of nopal dietary fiber in a powder dessert formulation].” Arch Latinoam Nutr. VOl.52(4):387-92. Spanish.Dec. 2002 URL:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12868280/

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