Your digestive system doesn't just break down food. It also protects you from germs and releases hormones related to mood, stress and more, including bone growth. Here are some ways to help keep your gut healthy, doctors say:
Nurture friendly bacteria. "Good" strains of bacteria — which can stimulate your immune system to fight off disease — love to feed on fiber. So load up on fiber-rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Avoid your heartburn triggers. Common culprits are acidic, fatty or spicy foods, carbonated drinks, chocolate, onions and products made with whole milk. Meanwhile, artificial sweeteners and big servings of beans, onions or cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can cause gas.
Exercise regularly. Breaking a sweat reduces bloating, gas and constipation. Walk, run or bike outside to help sooth nerves at the same time.
Manage stress. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing or yoga can ease indigestion and other stomach pains triggered by stress hormones.
Don't use colonic "cleansers." You will kill off good bacteria and clear the way for more harmful germs to grow.
Avoid overuse of antibiotics. Again, you will destroy good bacteria, while you may make bad strains more resistant to medications. Note: antibiotics are useless against viruses.
Buy foods with probiotics. Yogurt, soy-based drinks, juice and cereal are possible sources of these microorganisms, thought to help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines.
How to be good to your gut
These tummy tips can keep your whole body running smoothly.
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