This past year has taken me down various roads of research on digestive health, and I’ve absorbed plenty of advice about keeping my own digestive system happy. So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I would like to share my digestive health-focused list. See if any of these resolutions ring a bell for you:
1. Eat more fiber and eat a variety of it to ensure that I’m getting soluble as well as insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is the kind that breaks down into a gel-like consistency when it’s in your digestive system, and it helps fight belly fat. Soluble fiber -- foods like apples, pears, green peas, beans and oatmeal -- should amount to 10 grams a day.
2. Wash my hands more often, and if need be, sing the alphabet song while doing it. A silly resolution, maybe, but my research into how easily viruses spread in schools, nursing facilities and other community centers was downright scary.
3. Wash my fruits and vegetables more thoroughly and follow food-handling rules. Foodborne illnesses have made headlines internationally in the past year with E. coli and listeria outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and other agencies have come up with helpful rules on washing food, separating meats, chilling food and cleaning prep surfaces.
4. Drink more water, regardless of whether it means more trips to the bathroom. Water should be the go-to beverage when I’m thirsty. The digestive system needs water to prevent constipation, dehydration and kidney stones, among other conditions. And I should cut down on tea and caffeine to guard against an overactive bladder.
5. Keep my stress level down, because stress can lead to a number of digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn and peptic ulcers.
6. Keep on practicing “mindful eating” and continue to nag family members about slowing down to savor their food. Mindful eating, a relative of mindfulness meditation, is based on the fact that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety, or fullness. Mindful eating is being studied as a weight-loss method, and it certainly can’t hurt in preventing heartburn and indigestion.
7. Get another colonoscopy.