Whether it’s too much rich food, an unbalanced diet, or even because of necessary medications for other health conditions, our intestinal system can sometimes get out of whack. Uncomfortable symptoms of intestinal distress can include bloating, cramping, excess gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Although there’s no quick fix for the tummy troubles, there are two simple swaps you can make to help your intestinal tract run like it should – adding more fiber and probiotics to your diet.
Fiber is the roughage, or the part of plant-based foods that the body can’t break down. Some good sources of fiber include whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. When these foods go through your digestive system, they pass through your body without being fully digested. Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping away the body’s waste and helping our digestive system function at its best. A fiber-rich diet is beneficial in other ways – like helping to lower cholesterol and balancing blood sugar levels.
Probiotics are another way to proactively care for your gastrointestinal tract – by cultivating healthy gut microbiota, or a community of micro-organisms that support digestive and immune health. Probiotics work by helping your body digest food, absorb medications, and keep unhealthy bacteria from making you sick, among others. This healthy bacteria can be found certain foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi (a fermented, spicy Korean side dish), kefir (a fermented milk drink), buttermilk, and certain cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella and gouda. Another way to get more probiotics is through a nutritional supplement.
Probiotics have been studied in treating many different health conditions, but most commonly for gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, to name a few. Although much research has been done, there’s still more to learn about whether they’re helpful and safe for everyone.
As with any nutritional supplement, the risk of side effects is greater in those who have compromised immune systems or severe illnesses. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor before adding any supplement to your daily regimen.
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