What’s your gut telling you?

If you’re regularly suffering from constipation, heartburn, bloating or diarrhea, your gut may be telling you to eat—and live—a little

If you’re regularly suffering from constipation, heartburn, bloating or diarrhea, your gut may be telling you to eat—and live—a little healthier.

50 percent of Canadian women aged 18 to 70 suffer from digestive problems such as the above once a week, frequently leading to feelings of discomfort and fatigue, according to a recent study. The majority of the women interviewed attributed their digestive upsets to stress and poor nutrition.

But managing and reducing the likelihood of digestive disorders and improving digestion may be as simple as watching what, and how, you eat. “Canadians can do many things, such as eating smaller, more frequent meals, chewing their food slowly and properly, eating foods rich in fibre—particularly soluble fibre—and including foods containing probiotics such as yogurt," says Vancouver dietitian Maria Thomas, the owner of Urban Nutrition.

The World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) has also released these Ten Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Digestive Health:

1. Eat small, frequent meals. To achieve optimal digestion, eat 4-5 small meals per day without increasing overall caloric intake.

2. Include foods rich in fibre. Fibre 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 3-5 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 get some great fibre-licious berry recipes and low-fat grilling recipes (the latter from cookbook author Bonnie Stern), be sure to pick up the summer issue of Best Health magazine, on newsstands at Shoppers Drug Mart, Great Canadian News, Loblaw, Wal-Mart, London Drugs, Costco and Chapters/Indigo.