15 min read
5 Tips to Support Digestive Health
We all have to eat, but we don’t all have to suffer through digestive distress. Unfortunately, some of us run into some digestive challenges every once in a while after we chow down. Your stomach may blow up like a balloon or you may find yourself running to the bathroom more frequently than your buddies do. It may be that you ate something wrong or that you took some other missteps, but your digestion can be influenced by the numerous lifestyle choices that you make on a daily basis.
Whether you’ve been experiencing digestive problems or you want to make sure your digestive system runs smoothly for years to come, we've written some proactive steps you can take to support your digestive system health.
Why is digestive health important
Nobody wants to deal with bloating, nausea, constipation, or other unsavory digestive challenges. Having “good” digestive health can mean that everything is functioning in that department, leaving you feeling great. However, digestive health goes beyond having a happy tummy. Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients for the body to use. If your digestive system is a bit “off”, you can run the risk of experiencing some nutrient deficiencies, even if you have a well-balanced diet.
Your digestive system also has the ability to get rid of waste that your body doesn’t need in order to thrive. Having an unhealthy digestive system could mean that you could get backed up and have challenges having a bowel movement — leading to very uncomfortable side-effects. Additionally, your gut is the home to a wide variety of live organisms that support your health. Maintaining a healthy gut means keeping a diverse and healthy microbiome, which, in turn, can help support your immune, digestive, mental, and overall health.
Digestive Health & Brain-Gut Connection
Your gut and your brain are connected — both physically and chemically in something referred to as the gut-brain axis. Referred to as the gut-brain axis, there is an entire network that connects the brain to the gut via nerves and chemicals and helps to support your brain health. Simply put, the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain are linked to intestinal functions.
Data has shown the importance of gut microbiota in influencing these interactions, which is especially highlighted when the microbiota isn’t diverse and thriving, which leads to an elevated risk of experiencing developments in autism and depression.1 In particular, irritable bowel syndrome can be considered an example of the disruption of these complex relationships, resulting in the symptoms that many people experience.1
In a nutshell, by supporting your gut health, you aren’t only keeping your stomach feeling good. By improving your gut health, you can support factors like helping increase the feeling of satiety,2 reducing symptoms of depression,3 and even reducing the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease,4 among a slew of other outcomes.
5 Tips to Support Digestive Health
So, how in the world do you support your digestive health? While there are some factors that are out of your control that can negatively affect your digestive health — like genetics and environment — there are certain steps you can take that can help you get your gut health in tip-top shape. Here are five simple things you can include in your overall healthy lifestyle that can help support digestive health:
1. Make Sure Your Diet is High in Fiber
One of the absolute best ways you can support your gut health is by eating a high fiber diet. Fiber supports healthy bowel movements, so eating a high fiber diet can help your digestive health by moving things along. Additionally, certain fiber options are considered to be prebiotic fibers, or indigestible fiber that “feeds” live and beneficial bacteria in the gut.
To include fiber-rich foods in your diet, focus on the following food choices:
- Beans and legumes
- Fruit and vegetables
- Whole grain bread
It may feel daunting to increase your fiber intake if you haven’t been eating a lot of it, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed. You can start by including fiber supplements or beverages that contain fiber-rich ingredients, like OLIPOP (which has 9 grams of fiber in every can!), into your diet. Then, you can start building up by eating more fiber-rich foods.
2. Incorporate Probiotics to Your Life
Probiotics are living organisms that benefit our health when we consume them. They do this by interacting with the existing beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. Studies have shown that consuming adequate levels of probiotics can improve various health outcomes, with some types of probiotics helping with managing gastrointestinal symptoms.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate probiotics into your daily life is through diet. Fermented foods, for instance, have been proposed to comprise a new addition to food pyramids in Canada, leading to a fifth food group beyond meat, vegetables, dairy and grains.
Some foods that naturally contain probiotics include:
To keep your probiotics healthy and thriving, make sure you are feeding them by taking in prebiotic fiber too. Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, and a slightly underripe banana are all sources of prebiotic fiber.
3. Exercise Regularly
Supporting your gut goes beyond what you eat. Getting the blood flowing and keeping your body moving can help support your gut health. In fact, one study showed that those participating in 30-60 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week for 6 weeks can impact the gut microbiome in a positive way.5 Exercise can also help the intestines contract and pass waste - leading to healthy bowel movements. Considering all of the other benefits that exercise can offer up, it is certainly worth considering lacing up those sneakers and hitting the pavement—even if it’s just a walk around the block.
4. Limit Foods High in Fat
Eating a high fat diet can strain your heart health and may make maintaining a healthy weight difficult. Consuming a high fat diet may cause harm to your digestive health. Eating a high fat diet is linked to two factors that negatively affect gut health: a reduced number of gut bacteria and an increase in inflammatory triggers in the body.6 The ticket is to limit saturated and trans fats and focus on mono and polyunsaturated fats. In one study, results show that eating an avocado everyday resulted in improved gut diversity vs. people who didn’t eat this fruit every day.7
5. Stay Hydrated
You lose water every day simply by living life, and if you don’t replenish the fluids that you lose, your digestive health can suffer. Simply put, if you don’t have enough fluid in your body, your bowel movements can have a hard time getting flushed out and passing through. You can also feel nauseated or experience bloating if you don’t have enough fluid in your body. You should aim for around a half-gallon of water every day, but this estimate could change based on how much you sweat, how much you weigh, whether you are breastfeeding, and many other factors.
Pro tip: Don’t lean on hydration options that contain alcohol, large amounts of caffeine, or excessive sugar, as these can work against your hydration goals.
Digestive Health & Overall Health
If you want to support your health in a natural way, along with doing the obvious — eating a balanced diet, getting good quality sleep, managing your stress — you have to prioritize your gut health. Having a healthy gut is linked to a slew of health benefits that go beyond having healthy bowel movements. And supporting your digestive health by eating the right foods and living the right lifestyle is utterly important.
Digestive Health & OLIPOP
Supporting your digestive health takes a little know-how and effort, but once you get in the habit of taking the right steps, keeping your tummy happy can be a breeze. Along with choosing the right foods, the drinks you include can help support your digestive health too. OLIPOP is made with prebiotic fibers that help maintain healthy bowel movements and support a healthy microbiome. Plus, each can is free from unsavory ingredients that can work against your gut health goals. Popping open and enjoying a can of OLIPOP is one extremely simple (and delicious) way to maintain your gut health, especially if you are living a healthy lifestyle and you have a hard time getting the right amount and type of fiber in your diet. Cheers!
- Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. “The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems.” Ann Gastroenterol. Vol. 28, No. 2, pp 203-209. 2015.
- Ríos-Covián, David et al. “Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health.” Frontiers in microbiology vol. 7 185. 17 Feb. 2016, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00185
- Pinto-Sanchez, Maria Ines et al. “Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Gastroenterology vol. 153,2 (2017): 448-459.e8. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.003
- Carding, Simon et al. “Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease.” Microbial ecology in health and disease vol. 26 26191. 2 Feb. 2015, doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191
- Allen, J M et al. “Exercise training-induced modification of the gut microbiota persists after microbiota colonization and attenuates the response to chemically-induced colitis in gnotobiotic mice.” Gut microbes vol. 9,2 (2018): 115-130. doi:10.1080/19490976.2017.1372077
- Wan, Yi et al. “Effects of dietary fat on gut microbiota and faecal metabolites, and their relationship with cardiometabolic risk factors: a 6-month randomised controlled-feeding trial.” Gut vol. 68,8 (2019): 1417-1429. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2018-317609
- Thompson, Sharon V et al. “Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 151,4 (2021): 753-762. doi:10.1093/jn/nxaa219
- Maintaining a healthy gut means keeping a diverse and healthy microbiome, which, in turn, can help support your immune, digestive, mental, and overall health.
- One of the absolute best ways you can support your gut health is by eating a high fiber diet. Studies have shown that consuming adequate levels of probiotics can improve various health outcomes, and some types of probiotics can help with managing gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Participating in 30-60 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week for 6 weeks can impact the gut microbiome in a positive way
- Eating a high fat diet is linked to two factors that negatively affect gut health: a reduced number of gut bacteria and an increase in inflammatory triggers in the body.