Many gastrointestinal disorders can be alleviated or prevented altogether by making healthy lifestyle choices. There are simple steps you can take to keep your digestive system functioning at its peak and minimize your risk of gastrointestinal problems:
- Diet: A well-balanced diet that is high in fiber, fruits, & vegetables and low in processed foods & red meat can help keep your digestive system running smoothly. A varied diet will also help you get all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to support healthy digestion. If you have an existing condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or GERD, you should avoid foods that aggravate your condition, such as spicy or acidic dishes.
- Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial for a variety of gastrointestinal conditions. Excess weight is a risk factor for stomach cancer, colon cancer, gallstones, and GERD, among other diseases. Rapid or unexplained weight loss can actually be a symptom of a serious underlying condition and should
- Exercise: Leading a sedentary lifestyle puts you at risk for a number of digestive disorders including IBS and colon cancer. Exercising and staying fit can help you maintain a healthy weight and can also aid in stress management.
- Stress reduction: IBS in particular is linked to high stress levels and can be at least partially controlled through stress reduction techniques. Making lifestyle choices that reduce your stress level and engaging in activities such as exercise or counseling that help relieve stress can be an important tool in managing your condition.
- Smoking/alcohol use: Both smoking and alcohol use can put you at risk for gastrointestinal problems like GERD, ulcers, and even cancer. Alcohol abuse in particular can trigger hepatitis or cirrhosis, both serious liver diseases. Lowering or eliminating tobacco and alcohol use can protect your general health as well as your digestive system.
- Overuse of certain medications: Regular or prolonged use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can contribute to conditions like gastritis and ulcers. You should discuss any long-term use of these medications with your physician.
- Proactive and preventative healthcare: Regular check-ups and open communication with your physician regarding any symptoms can be crucial for diagnosing and managing digestive disorders. Also, if you have any risk factors for gastrointestinal diseases (such as a family history of stomach or colon cancer), you should work with your physician to establish an appropriate schedule of preventative screenings. Many diseases can be treated and/or eliminated if they are caught early, so it is important to follow a regular schedule of screenings if you are at risk.
The doctors at Chicago Endoscopy Center can give you more information on choosing and implementing effective lifestyle choices that will support your digestive health and improve your chances of avoiding or minimizing serious gastrointestinal disease.