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Natural Foods That Help Digestion

Your diet plays a vital role in the way your digestive system functions. If you are having digestive difficulties, certain natural foods -- including whole foods that are high in fiber -- can help relieve your symptoms. Conversely, you should avoid certain processed foods because they can impair digestive function. Talk to your doctor about altering your diet for digestive health.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are necessary for various bodily functions, including those of your digestive system. Most fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of fiber and can act as natural digestive regulators. Try eating more berries, pears, peaches, plums, corn, artichokes, squash, turnip greens and potatoes. If the fruit or vegetable has an edible skin, eat it, because that’s where most of the fiber is. Dried fruits, such as raisins or prunes, are also excellent sources of fiber.

Rather than selecting white or refined grain products -- such as white bread or white pasta -- opt for the whole-grain variety to increase your fiber and nutrient intake. You can find sandwich bread, waffles, crackers, pasta and muffins all made with whole grains. High-fiber cereals, like bran, are a good choice for digestive health as well. A three-quarter-cup serving of bran flakes gives you 5.3 grams of fiber. You can also sprinkle wheat bran on top of regular cereal or yogurt, if you prefer.

Just as some foods can help digestion, others can impair it. Processed foods tend to be high in fat and low in fiber and nutrients, and they can slow your bowel movements and lead to constipation. Try to limit items like pastries, doughnuts, sausage, potato chips and fast foods. Try reducing the amount of coffee, soda or other caffeinated beverages you drink, as these can be dehydrating and make bowel movements more difficult.

If you are not used to eating a lot of fiber, increase your intake gradually -- adding fiber to your diet too quickly can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps and other digestive problems. Also remember to drink 8 to 10 cups of water a day, which will allow the fiber you ingest to work more efficiently, as well as ease the passage of food through your system. If you are concerned about your digestive tract or have noticed recent changes in your bowel habits, see your doctor to discuss your symptoms and potential remedies.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.