Content provided by Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition
(ARA) - The burden of digestive problems on the U.S. healthcare system is substantial. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 60 to 70 million Americans are affected each year by digestive problems at a cost that exceeds $86 billion in direct medical expenses. Digestive diseases, including cancer, are named as a primary cause of death for approximately 234,000 people in the U.S. each year.
In fact, a new study conducted by the Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (FDHN) - the foundation of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) - reveals that nearly half (46 percent) of Americans say digestive problems affect their day-to-day lives and prevent them from getting a full night's sleep, going out to eat, exercising, participating in enjoyable activities or even socializing with friends. When experiencing digestive health problems, 49 percent of sufferers say they don't feel like themselves and 18 percent report that they become embarrassed.
The Good News
People can manage mild digestive discomfort just by making simple changes in their everyday lives, and Americans are paying more attention to their digestive health than ever before. In fact, more than 80 percent say they are currently consuming or would be interested in consuming foods or beverages for health and wellness benefits.
Additionally, the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) recently released new digestive health guidelines to help people achieve optimal digestive health - meaning the body is working properly to break down food and turn it into energy. A person with good digestive health weighs a normal amount and rarely experiences digestive problems like nausea, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, diarrhea, heartburn, gas or irregularity.
While Americans may recognize the USDA MyPyramid to visually illustrate the types and relative portions of food they should eat from the various food groups, digestive health is not addressed in this eating plan. Digestive health requires supplementary and specific guidelines, and the FDHN has released a graphic that provides an easy-to-follow guide for consumers. This graphic is available on the FDHN's new Web site, www.fdhn.org/digestivehealth, which is dedicated to providing tips and suggestions to aid Americans in their adherence to these new guidelines.
"A healthy digestive system begins with your diet," says Robert Sandler, M.D., MPH, AGAF, president of the AGA Institute. "Making some basic changes not only to what you eat but also to how you eat impacts your body's digestive health."
WGO's 10 Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Digestive Health
1. Eat small, frequent meals. To achieve optimal digestion, eat 4 to 5 small meals per day without increasing overall caloric intake.
2. Include foods rich in fiber. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and can be found in fresh fruits, raw vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, and beans.
3. Consume fish 3 to 5 times per week. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids that can improve digestive abnormalities by stabilizing cell walls, reducing inflammation and restoring balance.
4. Reduce intake of fried, fattening foods. Cutting back on greasy, fried foods that are high in fat and hard to digest will reduces your stomach's workload.
5. Incorporate fermented dairy products into your diet. Certain probiotics, or the good bacteria that is found in dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese, may improve intestinal function and overall digestive health.
6. Select lean meats. Leaner cuts of meat - pork, chicken and turkey - contain less fat, which may reduce digestive discomfort.
7. Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids are needed to alleviate and prevent constipation and ease digestion of foods through the digestive tract. A good way to make sure you're getting enough fluids is to drink a glass of water with every meal.
8. Don't rush eating. Eating slowly and chewing food properly encourages a "full" feeling, which prevents the overeating that can upset the digestive tract.
9. Exercise regularly and abstain from smoking. While most people know that exercise offers overall health benefits, most people don't know that it's good for your digestive tract, too.
10. Maintain a healthy body weight. A Body Mass Index that indicates obesity or unintentional weight loss may have a negative impact on digestive health.
To learn more about digestive health and download the new graphic that visually interprets the new guidelines, visit www.fdhn.org/digestivehealth.
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