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Diet Tips for Digestive Health

Here are some simple changes that can improve your diet and help relieve constipation:

  • Add veggies. You don't have to count grams of fiber to get the recommended amount. Instead, aim to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day. Make sandwiches with roasted veggies, add a salad instead of fries to your meal, buy pre-cut vegetables to snack on with low-fat dip, keep the fruit bowl full for a handy and healthy snack, and add chopped, dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal.
  • Go for grains. Replace white bread, white rice, and regular pasta with whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Eat more whole oats, multi-grain cereals, and whole-wheat crackers -- just be sure to choose low-fat and low-sugar options. Snack on air-popped popcorn instead of chips. When buying cereal, choose brands that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Bulk up on beans. Replace meat with a bean or legume dish at least once or twice a week. Add cooked beans to salads, and try bean soups and stews as main course meals.
  • Add fiber gradually. Make changes slowly over the course of a week or so -- increasing fiber too quickly can cause bloating and gas. Be patient -- it may take time for your body to adjust.
  • Consider a fiber supplement. If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, consider a fiber supplement such as Citrucel, FiberCon, and Metamucil. Also called bulk-forming laxatives, fiber supplements are generally safe and non-habit forming. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before using them as they can interfere with some medications.
  • Stay hydrated. If you add more fiber to your diet either with food or supplements, be sure to drink more fluids to aid digestion. Aim for about 8 glasses a day. Choose low or no-calorie beverages -- drinking sugary soda and fruit drinks will add extra calories you don't need.

Ease Constipation With Exercise

Getting regular exercise not only keeps you fit, it may help you stay regular. Exercise can help food move more quickly through the large intestine. Although it's not always easy to squeeze in time to be active, these suggestions may help:

  • Start exercising about 20 minutes, three days a week, and build up to at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Always check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise plan.
  • Short on time? Break up activity throughout the day -- three 10-minute walks count just as much as one 30-minute workout.

    Use every opportunity to get up and move. Walk to a colleague's office to talk rather than sending email. Take a walk with your spouse or partner to catch up on the day before dinner. Play outside with your kids. Make moving more part of everyday life and your digestive health will benefit.

Ease Constipation on Vacation

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