The Importance of a Healthy Digestive System
September 28, 2023
Your digestive system is a very important part of your body that breaks down foods and liquids into their chemical components, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and more so you can absorb nutrients and use them to make energy.
But the digestive tract doesn't always run smoothly, and various problems may arise. What we eat, and how we eat can throw off digestive health and your colon.
The colon is a crucial part of your digestive system. Many conditions can cause it to work improperly, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colorectal cancer.
A healthy colon is related to a healthy digestive system, which is of course, related to a healthy diet. One of the risk factors for colorectal cancer is a high-fat, low-fiber diet. The most important elements of a healthy diet for good digestion include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are rich in fiber, along with proper hydration.
More About How to Have a Healthy Digestive System
Common ailments of the digestive system include:
- Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Peptic ulcers
- Diverticular disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
There are many ways in which you can improve the health of your digestive system, hopefully improving some of the conditions above. Here are some of our top recommendations.
- Drink more water -- This is one very simple thing anybody can do to improve digestive health. Always aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, but you may want to drink even more to make sure stools stay soft, especially if you are introducing more fiber into your diet.
- Avoid a high-fat, low-fiber diet -- The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that there are strong links between diet, weight, exercise, and colorectal cancer risk. It’s estimated that 50 to 75 percent of colorectal cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes like healthy eating.
- Limit red meat and avoid processed meats -- The ACS also says that your risk of colon cancer increases by 15 to 20 percent if you consume 100 grams of red meat (the equivalent of a small hamburger) or 50 grams (equivalent of one hot dog) of processed meats, like sausage, bacon, or hotdogs, per day.
- Limit sweets -- Studies have found that people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease often have diets high in sugar and low in fiber. Even though sugar has not been directly associated with the progression of colon cancer, foods high in sugar are often high in calories and can lead to weight gain and obesity.
- Increase your fiber intake -- Eating a high-fiber diet is good for your digestive system. The best way to add fiber is through fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, peas, and broccoli. Whole grains and legumes are also good sources of fiber. Fiber is so important because it helps keep you regular and prevents constipation. This may then lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon that can lead to diverticular disease. Fiber also acts as a cleaning agent for your colon and removes waste, debris, and toxins left over after the digestive process.
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke -- If you choose to drink alcohol, do so moderately. This means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. If you smoke, quit. Following both of these recommendations will be good for digestive health and your overall well-being.
Make Colorectal Screening a Priority at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute
While eating right will help keep your digestive system healthy, it’s also crucial to have regular colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. With regular colonoscopies, we can go a long way in finding and curing this disease for many people!
Learn more about digestive health and related conditions at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute.
Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute specializes in treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. We are experts in performing colonoscopies, anorectal surgery, and minimally invasive colon surgery. Our three doctors are known regionally for their expertise in these areas. Visit our website for more information, give us a call to make an appointment at 205-458-5000, or email us at [email protected].