Different Foods Can Affect Digestive System

Certain foods and beverages may have digestive health benefits, but before we can benefit from what we consume, our body must break it down into smaller components which can be absorbed. The digestive system is designed to help the body with this process. Also, the foods which we consume can negatively impact the way our digestive system works.

The digestive system includes all the parts of the body which help us chew, swallow and digest food. Nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals are broken down and absorbed through the mouth, stomach, small and large intestines, and other digestive-tract organs. The body uses these nutrients to build and nourish cells and to provide energy for other bodily processes. When our bodies are stressed, difficulties can occur in relation to our digestive system. Many factors such as poor diet, travel, hormonal changes, side effects of medications or other health problems contribute adversely to our digestive health. Making smart dietary choices can help address these issues.

Fiber and fluids have an important role in helping to sweep all unused and unwanted digestion by-products through the digestive tract, keeping our insides nice and clean. Many American diets fall short of the recommended amount of daily fiber required – women 25 grams, men 38 grams. Fiber-rich whole grain products, ground flax seed, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables are often good sources of fiber. Make sure the label reads: 100 percent whole grain first in the list of ingredients for grain products.

Probiotics contain live cultures with certain health benefits. We all have trillions of bacteria residing in our digestive systems. The health of our system depends on the correct balance of these “good” bacteria, which help the body break down and absorb nutrients. Not all probiotics are the same and the benefits vary on the strains of bacteria provided. Look for live and active cultures containing a variety of strains such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. When we take antibiotics it is especially important to take supplemental probiotics to replace the “good” bacteria in our guts which the antibiotic may be destroying.

Tips for good digestion:

Consume a balanced fiber rich diet – making half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Establish a regular eating routine. Relax after eating.

Chew more and eat slower. Avoid over-eating, and get moving.

Drink lots of fluids between meals but don’t gulp drinks with your meals.

Eat yogurt or take probiotics daily.

Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. We do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining Out Program. Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. For more details and information, call 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.