Can a Mediterranean Diet Ease Your Digestive Troubles?

Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown to benefit heart health as well as reduce the incidence of cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's diseases. Because one of the key components of this diet includes eating lots of whole grains, legumes (beans), fruits, and vegetables-which are all fiber-rich-following the Mediterranean diet may also keep your digestive system running smoothly. For some people, this diet may even provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The digestive benefits of eating a high-fiber diet include:

  • Normalized bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool, softening it and making it easier to pass, thereby decreasing your chances of constipation. Fiber also absorbs water, adding bulk in the stool, which reduces the problem of having loose, watery stools.
  • Good bowel health. A high-fiber diet may help reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (also known as diverticular disease). It may also play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.

Following the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet encompasses all the components of healthy eating and characterizes the traditional cooking style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy and Greece.

The basics of a Mediterranean diet include:

  • Getting plenty of exercise-at least 30 minutes daily.
  • Eating a diet that is primarily plant-based, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month. When you do choose meat, make sure it's lean and avoid high-fat meats like sausage and bacon.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • Choosing low-fat dairy products such as skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and low-fat cheese in place of whole or two percent milk, cheese, and ice cream.
  • Drinking plenty of water and moderate amounts of wine-five ounces a day for women and ten ounces a day for men. Although if you're unable to limit your wine intake to those amounts or have health problems, that preclude you from drinking wine, refrain from drinking it.

If you're experiencing digestive or stomach-related problems, check with your doctor to see if switching to a Mediterranean diet could benefit you.