Maintaining optimal digestive health is important for individuals of all ages. Yet few people allocate the necessary time and resources to understand how to improve digestive health – something that may result in a wide range of digestive issues, from unpleasant and uncomfortable to debilitating or potentially life-threatening.
Common digestive problems include:
- Celiac disease: An autoimmune disorder characterized by small intestine damage resulting from gluten consumption. Celiac Disease Foundation indicates celiac disease affects one out of every 100 people worldwide, and about 2.5 million Americans unknowingly suffer from celiac disease.
- Gallstones: Hardened deposits of digestive fluid that typically form in the gallbladder. Gallstones vary in size and may cause abdomen pain, nausea, vomiting, and other physical symptoms.
- Heartburn: A symptom generally caused by acid reflux; heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. The American College of Gastroenterology estimates approximately 15 million Americans experience heartburn.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that impacts the large intestine. IBS also is referred to as spastic colon and may cause abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and food intolerance.
- Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS): A condition caused by intestinal hyperpermeability. LGS often occurs when tight junctions in the gut that control what passes through the lining of the small intestine stop working properly, which then causes foreign particles (undigested food, disease-causing microbes, toxins) to enter the bloodstream.
Digestive problems are prevalent across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates there are roughly 28.3 million annual visits to physician offices with diseases of the digestive system as the primary diagnosis. Furthermore, CDC reports an average of 8.2 million people annually visit emergency departments with diseases of the digestive system as the primary diagnosis. If people fail to take care of their digestive health, these figures may continue to rise in the foreseeable future as well.
When it comes to digestive health, there is no need to leave anything to chance. Fortunately, there are many simple, healthy, and proven ways for people to improve their digestive health, such as:
1. Consume a High-Fiber Diet
Fiber is a staple of a healthy diet, and for good reason. It has been shown to help individuals improve their digestive health in a number of ways, including:
- Stabilizes bowel movements. Fiber helps increase the size and weight of stool and softens it, thereby reducing the risk of constipation.
- Promotes bowel health. Research indicates a high-fiber diet helps people limit the risk of developing hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
- Reduces cholesterol levels. Beans, flaxseed, oats, and oat bran are rich sources of fiber that help individuals reduce their low-density (“bad”) lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
- Manages blood sugar levels. For individuals who are dealing with diabetes, soluble fiber frequently helps slow the absorption of sugar and decreases blood sugar levels.
- Delivers weight-management support. High-fiber foods may help people feel more full after they eat. They also tend to have fewer calories than low-fiber counterparts, making high-fiber foods healthy choices for calorie-conscious individuals.
The Institute of Medicine recommends men consume an average of 30 grams to 38 grams of fiber daily, and women consume an average of 21 grams to 25 grams of fiber daily, depending on their age.
Ultimately, there is no shortage of ways to incorporate fiber into a diet. Fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables contain high quantities of fiber. And for those who incorporate high-fiber foods into their everyday meals, they may be able to establish and maintain their digestive health in such a way that promotes optimal immune health.
2. Stay Hydrated
Water plays a pivotal role in digestion. If an individual suffers from dehydration, he or she may experience chronic constipation. On the other hand, with sufficient water intake, an individual can ensure intestinal flow remains smooth and regular.
The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends men consume an average of 125 ounces of water daily. Comparatively, this board recommends women consume an average of 91 ounces of water daily.
Perhaps one of the best ways to remember to stay hydrated is to set a goal of eight cups of water per day. Also, individuals may want to consume clear soups, fruit and vegetable juices, and herbal teas, as all of these liquids are good sources of fluids.
Conversely, people should try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages if they want to maintain optimal digestive health. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages are diuretics that remove water from the body, thus causing dehydration. Alcohol and caffeine also irritate the delicate lining of the gastrointestinal tract. If people consume alcohol and caffeinated beverages in moderation or avoid them entirely, they may be able to limit the risk of dehydration and the digestive health problems associated with it.
3. Use a Supplement
Colostrum is the first food of life, and mammalian mothers provide it to their young in the initial days after birth. It helps newborns prevent disease and promotes healthy growth and development. It also contains a broad array of bioactives that promote the maturation of a functional GI tract and seals up the microscopic holes infants are born with (“leaky gut”).
Bovine colostrum has been shown to restore a leaky gut to normal permeability levels. Plus, bovine colostrum contains growth factors and hormones that help repair damage to the intestinal lining, along with high quantities of immunoglobulins and natural antibodies. Bovine colostrum has also been clinically proven to increase the surface area of the intestinal lining thereby improving the absorption of nutrients from food.
Colostrum also promotes re-colonization of the bowel by friendly bacteria, thus assisting in food digestion, waste removal, and production of B vitamins. Moreover, when colostrum normalizes this gut ecology (the “microbiome”), the assimilation of nutrients is enhanced.
Taking bovine colostrum supplements daily enables the body’s immune modulators and growth factors to be replenished regularly. This helps ensure optimal health.
The Bottom Line on Digestive Health
By using the aforementioned tips, individuals can take the necessary steps to improve digestive health. Of course, for those who want to learn more about bovine colostrum, Sovereign Laboratories can help. We provide Colostrum-LD®, a bovine colostrum product with research to support its use in addressing leaky gut and GI disorders. To find out more about Colostrum-LD®, please read our blog posts.