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Get Great Guts: 4 Ways to Slow the Aging Process by Caring for Your Digestive System

Considering all the other life-threatening health problems we tend to worry about, it may seem that digestive distress ranks somewhere between canker sores and bunions in the pecking order of age-related problems. But the truth is that there’s a whole world inside your gut that influences how you age. So be kind to your stomach, say Drs. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book YOU: Staying Young, by taking these four steps.

Deciding what to put in your mouth (and what not to) greatly influences how well or how quickly your digestive system ages. By taking these steps, you’ll keep your innards running smoothly, so you can too.

YOU Tip: Add Bulk. The food duo with the most muscle: fiber and water. Together they keep your food bulky and soft so it can move easily through your system without putting too much pressure on your intestines. Remember, without water, fiber often turns to cement. Containing no calories but still making you feel full, fiber combined with water helps your digestive system and your overall health because it helps keep you from eating the other things that are more likely to lead to problems associated with obesity, like heart disease and diabetes. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, beans, and some cereals. Your goal: 35 grams a day for women and 25 grams a day for men.

YOU Tip: Shower Your Insides. You hear the advice about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water almost as much as you hear “the tribe has spoken.” There’s no magic to this number, and the right amount varies according to your activity level and size, so if you want, just drink enough water so that your urine is clear. Or 8 X 8 ounces might be easier. Of all the reasons H20 (preferably filtered) is oh-so-good, the work it does for your guts is one of the best. For starters, it helps lubricate everything so food can slide through more easily. Plus, it helps quell hunger, fights bad breath, and helps you avoid dry mouth. Your mechanism for detecting thirst doesn’t work as well when you’re older as it does when you’re young, which makes it that much more important to remind yourself to drink regularly throughout the day — before your body even tells you it’s time.

YOU Tip: Play the Elimination Game. The best way to experiment with foods that may be causing you general digestive irritation is to do the food elimination test. For three days in a row, eliminate certain groups of food from your diet-dairy products, wheat products, and sugars being the top three to try. Write down how you feel during those days, and notice any changes in digestive feelings as well as things like your energy level. The test will give you insight not into allergies specifically but into food irritabilities symptoms that can make you feel like you have a touch of the flu. Another bonus: Learning to eliminate certain groups (sugars and refined carbohydrates, especially) can also help you lose weight.

YOU Tip: Choose Your Fats. You may know that there are good fats and bad fats. The good fats (omega-3 fats) come in the form of fatty fish, great greens, and supplements of fish oil, fresh flaxseed oil, or DHA, and walnuts, while the bad fats (like saturated and trans fats) come in the form of brownies and burgers. But there’s a reason why one fat leads directly to fat on your waist, while the other helps clear your arteries. Trans fats are rigid, so they make your arteries spasm and cause dangerous inflammation, while omega-3s relax your arteries and quell inflammation.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author and cofounder and originator of the very popular RealAge.com website. He is professor and chair of the Division of Anesthesia, Critical Care Medicine, and Pain Management, and chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Mehment C. Oz, M.D., is also a New York Times bestselling author and the health expert of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is professor and vice-chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Columbia University and the medical director of the Integrated Medicine Center and the director of the Heart Institute. They are the coauthors of YOU: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty (Copyright © 2007 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works LLC).

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