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You probably don’t care much about your digestive health unless something is wrong. Even then? Gnarled stomach pains, gas, and not-so-normal bowel movements are not fun or easy to discuss, so stomach problems are often ignored for too long. However, your gut health is vital to your overall health. And when it gets out of hand your body You may not be able to absorb essential nutrients and your energy levels, immune function, weight, and even your mood can all suffer.
That’s why it’s important to know the basics of digestive health – and how to keep your health in check. Here are five of the most important things to know about taking care of your tubes and when it’s time for a bowel check.
1. It is normal to walk three times a day or three times a week.
Staying regular is the cornerstone of good colon health, but how often you go number two will be different from person to person, says Diana A. Whitehead, MD, Gastroenterologist and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
It is usually normal to poop three times a day to three times a week. But everything else is cause for concern, says Dr. Whitehead. Talk to your doctor if you notice that you are suddenly constipated or have diarrhea. Shifts like this could be a sign of that short term problems (a stomach problem or a need for more fiber) or something more serious such as an imbalanced thyroid or a digestive disorder such as ulcerative colitis (which can usually be treated with medication and improve your diet).
2. Don’t ignore heartburn that occurs twice a week.
Heartburn after inhaling a plate of laden chili cheese fries makes perfect sense, but heartburn that occurs more than twice a week or doesn’t go away with OTC antacids means it’s time to call your doctor, says Dr. Whitehead.
This could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD) or acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid builds up in your esophagus (the mouth and stomach tube). The good news? Heartburn is typical easy to handle with prescription drugs and lifestyle changes such as weight loss or smoking cessation.
3. Colon cancer is common and colonoscopies are the most accurate and effective way to determine this.
Cancer prevention is an essential part of digestive health, says Dr. Navdeep Chehl, a state-certified gastroenterologist with Austin Gastroenterology in Austin, TX. Screening on Colon cancer It has been shown to save lives – a recent study found that a colonoscopy can reduce the risk of death from colon cancer by 61 percent. Still, many people don’t take the time for a variety of reasons: busy, working, out of budget, or the process itself just sounds scary. What they should be more afraid of is dying young.
Most guys don’t have to start screening until they are 45 (according to the American Cancer Society) or 50 (according to the National Cancer Institute), but there are a number of factors that could put you at increased risk, including family history, obesity, smoking habits, or even race (African American men are one Talk to your doctor about when to start screening and how often to check in, suggests Dr. Chehl.
4. Fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics promote gut health.
“Fiber helps keep things moving in the digestive tract and keeps your bowels regular and healthy,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN who is on the advisory board for Fitter live. Guys should aim 38 grams per day. “High-fiber foods include bran grains with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes, nuts and seeds,” says Dr. Whitehead.
Probiotics are living, microscopic organisms that help your bowels function normally. They are found in kefir, yogurt, soy products, kombucha, and many fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and tempeh. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that probiotic bacteria consume and are found in garlic, onions, asparagus, and other foods. Consuming probiotic and prebiotic foods will help grow helpful gut bacteria that we need for a healthy immune system, says Kostro Miller. “Research shows that probiotics improve gut health and good gut health is linked to improved immunity.”
A large number of healthy intestinal bacteria protect the body from chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases. Having a healthy gut microbiome can significantly lower your risk of depression, type 1 diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
5. Your mind and your gut are connected.
Researchers found that Your mind speaks to your stomach and vice versaexplains Dr. Whitehead. “Gastrointestinal problems can cause anxiety and stress. In addition, stress and anxiety can make gastrointestinal symptoms worse. (Have you ever felt ‘butterflies in your stomach’ before a big presentation?) Take away: Lowering your stress level is the key to maintaining good intestinal health. If you notice stomach problems appear during turbulent times, keep a symptom journal of when your problems arise and what is going on in your life that may be contributing to it. Notice a link? Seeing a therapist could be helpful, says Dr. Whitehead.
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