As a mom, you may be so busy caring for your kids that you do not have the time or energy to take care of your own health. However, taking notice of your digestive health can be as quick as a two-minute check-in with your bowel habits and can help you learn how to improve digestive health overall.
Being aware of and taking note of any changes in your bowel movements can help you to address possible GI issues before they lead to long-term consequences.
The Importance of Digestive Health
Ongoing GI issues can lead to colon cancer, which is preventable with appropriate screening, esophageal cancer, long-standing constipation, hemorrhoids and an enlarged colon that doesn’t function at full capacity.
Looking out for and taking care of your digestive health can help to prevent serious issues in the future. Here’s some common questions we get asked when it comes to your digestive health and how to improve digestive health overall.
What are some signs of concern that could indicate a GI issue?
Heartburn is often overlooked or attributed to other health factors but can be an indication of a GI issue.
“Ongoing heartburn is a common issue that should be evaluated and treated,” said Amanda Magrini, MD, family medicine provider at Northern Nevada Medical Group. “If left unmanaged long-term, heartburn can lead to higher risk of esophageal cancer.”
All over-the-counter acid medications recommend you do not take them for more than 14 days without talking to your provider as there may be other treatable causes or dietary changes and counseling that can manage these problems better.
Changes in bowel habits can also be an indication of an issue but is often overlooked.
“Given the steep rise in colon cancer in younger people in recent years, if changes in bowel habits don’t correct itself with drinking more water and increasing your fiber intake, you should see your provider,” said Magrini.
How To Improve Digestive Health
The Food We Eat
Some foods tend to be more constipating than others, including processed foods, fried foods, red meats, processed grains and alcohol.
“I don’t like telling people to eliminate a food or food group, but these should be limited to help maintain optimal GI function and a happier life,” said Magrini.
While certain food groups can be harmful to some individuals, water and fiber are helpful for most people to maintain a normally functioning digestive tract. Aim for an ounce per day per kilogram your weight, or half your weight in ounces of water, and 20-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-35 grams of fiber per day for men.
You might have told your children that exercising and eating their fruits and vegetables are important to their overall health, and the same goes for parents!
An active lifestyle and a varied diet with lots of fruits and veggies with the skin on, lean protein, and enough water is the best way to make sure you maintain excellent bowel health.
If you’re looking for an attainable tip for how to improve digestive health, then routine moderate exercise is the answer. It helps to move food through your GI tract faster, which helps reduce constipation and keeps your bowels moving regularly.
When To Speak Up
If you have a first-degree relative who has had colon cancer, speak to your primary care provider to determine if you should be screened earlier than the recommended age of 45.
If you notice a change in your normal bowel movement patterns that goes on for more than two weeks or any other ongoing health issues, share your concerns with your primary care provider.
There are some small steps to take when it comes to learning how to improve digestive health for everyone in your family. Don’t wait for an issue to arise before taking care of yourself.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.