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Digestion : Simple Ways to Support Your Gut

The holiday season tends to be a season of excess, and the rich foods, sweets, and alcohol may leave you with tummy trouble. Gas, bloating, and discomfort are signs that you are not digesting your food adequately. By making a few simple changes, you can support your digestive system and keep things running smoothly.

Don't forget to chew. It's so simple, but how many of us inhale Thanksgiving dinner or make a few cookies disappear before we realize what we're doing? Digestion starts in the mouth, and chewing food thoroughly is vital. It signals the rest of the digestive system to prepare to break down food for absorption. Chew until your mouthful of food has been reduced to liquid mush before you swallow. This will allow the digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines to have greater surface area to do their job.

Stay hydrated. One of the best things you can do for your digestive system (and overall health) is to drink plenty of water. Dehydration slows the digestive system. Aim for half your body weight in ounces every day. Just don't drink too much with meals -- it can dilute your digestive enzymes.

Take it easy on troublesome foods. Alcohol and coffee aggravate the digestive tract. High-protein foods, such as meat, require more stomach acid for digestion, so cut back on your portions and load your plate up with veggies. The best foods to nourish the digestive tract include fruits, vegetables, yogurt (unless you are dairy intolerant), and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. The omega-3 fats from fish, nuts, and seeds have been shown to help calm an inflamed gut.

Form a solid nutritional foundation. Start with a high-quality daily multivitamin. It will provide B vitamins, which are essential for normal digestion; manganese, which is required for fat and carbohydrate metabolism; selenium, which the pancreas needs to function properly; zinc, which is essential for proper digestion and metabolism of protein; and all of the additional nutrients your digestive system needs most to do its job. Also consider omega-3 fatty acids and a probiotic supplement, which will encourage healthy gut bacteria.

Take a walk. Exercise speeds up digestion and stimulates muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Shoot for 30 minutes a day, and always go for a brisk walk after a meal.
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