Do you have bloating, gas, upset stomach, abdominal cramping, and discomfort after eating?
Some people occasionally get heartburn and indigestion, especially after big meals — but some of us get this digestive problem very frequently.
Indigestion is certainly common — it is estimated that almost 5 million men in the United States alone suffer from frequent indigestion.
Lack of digestive enzymes
Poor eating habits, such as inadequately chewing food, eating late in the day and “eating on the run” can wreak havoc on your digestive system by causing inadequate production of digestive enzymes.
When you eat a meal, your body releases about 22 types of digestive enzymes from the salivary gland, stomach and small intestine. Each one of these enzymes acts on specific types of food — for example, proteases break down proteins, amylases help digest carbohydrates and lipases break down fat and lipids. By breaking down these foods, these digestive enzymes help your body digest and absorb the nutrients it needs.
For men, aging can also contribute to frequent indigestion. As we get older, our bodies starts to produce lower levels of digestive enzymes — sometimes not enough to properly digest food.
There many things you can do to help prevent indigestion and improve your overall digestive health. Here are five of them:
1. Eat plenty of fiber every day
Fiber is not only key to keeping indigestion at bay, but it is essential for your overall health. Unfortunately, a lot of men’s diets consist of junk and fast foods, red meat, and meals that are high in fat certainly a recipe for indigestion.
A high-fiber diet is an important part of healthy eating — in addition to helping digestion, it can also help prevent diabetes, coronary heart disease, hemorrhoids, colorectal cancer, and other diseases.
On average, American men eat only 10 to 15 grams of fiber, or half of the recommended daily intake.
Increasing your daily fiber intake is usually synonymous with eating healthier, considering vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, and nuts contain plenty of fiber. It doesn’t even have to be painful — you can choose high-fiber cereals for breakfast, eat whole-wheat bread instead of white, and snack on air-popped popcorn instead of candy.
Avoid foods that can give you gas — these include broccoli, baked beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and carbonated drinks. For some men, starches — such as wheat, oats and potatoes — can also lead to excess gas. If you are lactose intolerant, then lay off dairy products or take lactase enzymes to help with digestion.
Also, remember to drink plenty of water, since it can lubricate food in the digestive tract, help dissolve minerals, vitamins and nutrients for easier absorption, and keep stool moist to prevent constipation.
2. Chew your food & eat less of it
Chewing is one of the most important parts of digestion, yet it is probably the most forgotten. Chewing not only helps break down food, it also signals the salivary glands, stomach and the small intestine to start releasing digestive enzymes.
On a related note, try not to overeat. Your body has only so many digestive enzymes to go around. Also, a bigger meal means that your stomach must produce more acid to help digest that food, which will increase your chances of getting heartburn and indigestion.
3. Exercise regularly & avoid stress
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise can also help with digestion. A scientific study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal has shown that physical activity can actually help reduce many digestive problems. In this study, scientists found a link between obesity, lack of exercise, stomach pain, diarrhea, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Stress, on the other hand, can have a negative effect on your digestion. This is because, in most men, the “fight or flight” response that results from stress reduces blood flow to the abdomen and the production of digestive enzymes, and slows the digestive process, which results in heartburn, bloating and constipation.
4. Don’t overuse antacids
Acids in the stomach help the body digest food — however, in some cases, these acids can “reflux” or back up into the esophagus, thus causing the burning sensation of indigestion.
When this happens, men often reach for antacids — usually an over-the-counter type that works by neutralizing stomach acids. However, when overused, antacids can cause the stomach to lose its function and leaves it vulnerable to bacterial infections.
5. Take digestive enzyme supplements
Digestive enzymes derived from plant sources can help promote good digestion and even enhance nutrient absorption. In cases where men are lacking adequate amounts of digestive enzymes due to poor diet and health, taking enzyme supplements can reduce the symptoms of indigestion and upset stomach. Even in healthy men, taking extra enzymes can help maintain digestive health.
A good digestive enzyme contains a mix of amylase, lipase, cellulase (for digesting plant fibers), and protease. This variety of enzymes is key to achieving good digestion of many foods.
Enjoy eating again
Digestive enzymes aren’t silver bullets and indigestion can certainly be a symptom of a much more serious digestive disease, such as Crohn’s disease, acid reflux or GERD, and irritable bowel syndrome.
So in addition to eating healthy and taking a digestive enzyme supplement, don’t forget to check with your physician if you have frequent episodes of indigestion.