5. Incorporate probiotics — and prebiotics — into your diet. Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria and yeasts naturally present in your digestive tract. “They help keep the body healthy by combating the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics and stress,” says Adams. In addition, probiotics can enhance nutrient absorption, may help break down lactose, strengthen your immune system, and possibly even help treat IBS, notes Harvard Health Publishing. Adams recommends that people eat good sources of probiotics, such as low-fat yogurt or kefir, on a daily basis.
In addition to probiotics, prebiotics can help your digestion as well. Prebiotics act as food for probiotics, helping them support healthy bacteria in the gut, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Prebiotics are found in a variety of raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and include bananas, oats, onions, and legumes.
6. If you have digestive issues, try the low FODMAP diet. Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) foods, which are types of carbohydrates, can be difficult for some people to digest. If you know you have IBS — or if you simply deal with symptoms such as abdominal cramping, gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea — the low FODMAP diet may offer some relief. This diet is meant to be followed for a short period of time to identify which trigger foods you should avoid for easier digestion. Work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN) who specializes in this area to ensure your diet is healthy while you figure out which foods should be eliminated from your diet for good.
7. Eat on schedule. Adams says that consuming your meals and healthy snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.
8. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is good for your digestive health, according to Adams. Fiber pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to pass through more easily.
9. Skip the bad habits: smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol. Liquor, cigarettes, and too much coffee or other caffeinated beverages can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system and lead to problems such as stomach ulcers and heartburn.
10. Exercise regularly. “Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation,” says Adams. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is good for your digestive health. Make it a point to work regular exercise into your weekly schedule.
11. Manage stress. Too much stress or anxiety can cause your digestive system to go into overdrive, according to Adams. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis.
Additional reporting by Erica Patino