Whether you're trying to make your bowel movements happen around the same time each day or aiming to relieve constipation, you can drink a variety of beverages to get things moving. Some drinks have side effects if you drink too much or if your body can't tolerate them. This could possibly cause more digestive problems than benefits.
Plain Old Water
Water is nature's digestive aid. It's a component of every single cell that lines your digestive tract, meaning you need plenty of it in your diet just for those cells to function. Water keeps tissues in your digestive tract pliable while creating a moist environment that's easy for food to move through. In addition, fiber -- which helps regulate bowel movements -- relies on water to do its job. Without water, fiber could slow things down, leaving you constipated. Aim for 91 ounces of water a day if you are a woman, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine suggests. You'll need 125 ounces daily if you're a man. All fluids count toward this recommendation, and foods account for an average of 20 percent of it. But water is completely free of sugar and calories, making it a top choice for meeting your fluid needs.
Cup of Joe
Your morning brew isn't just a wake-me-up for your brain, it's also a stimulant for your digestive tract. Coffee gets things moving quickly in your gut, creating somewhat of a laxative effect. While coffee can help you time your daily bowel movement before you head out the door for work, you shouldn't rely on it too much to help with digestion. Excessive amounts of caffeine can make you have diarrhea all day, which is not only uncomfortable but it also means that your body is pushing out nutrients before they have a chance to be absorbed.
Acidophilus milk is different than regular dairy milk. It's fortified with a probiotic called Lactobacillus acidophilus. This probiotic builds healthy intestinal flora, the kinds of bacteria that break down food throughout your intestinal tract. Lactobacillus acidophilus can prevent diarrhea and promote stool regularity. If you have lactose intolerance, acidophilus milk isn't a good choice for you, however. Because you're body isn't able to digest lactose, the probiotic milk could actually cause diarrhea, rather than treat it.
The Fiber Addition
No matter what you're drinking -- smoothie, bottled water, juice or milk -- you can always add digestive-boosting fiber to the mix. Some supplements, such as powdered psyllium, blend completely into water, making their presence virtually unknown. Soluble fiber, including psyllium, helps digestion by slowing things down to allow vitamins and minerals to absorb properly. Insoluble fiber, like wheat bran, leaves your stools bulky and easy for you to pass. Because insoluble fiber holds its form and doesn't absorb water like soluble fiber does, these supplements might be better fitting for smoothies. Shoot for the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" recommendation of 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet -- 28 grams total for 2,000 calories. Increase your intake in tiny increments every few days, as a quick surge of fiber can cause digestive distress.
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Drugs.com: Caffeine (Oral Route, Parenteral Route)
- Today Health: Water Good, Coffee Bad? Ain’t Necessarily So
- MedlinePlus: Lactobacillus
- NHS Choices: Good Foods to Help Your Digestion