Prairie Fee: Take Steps to Keep Your Digestive System Working | columnists

Julie Garden-Robinson NDSU Extension

“What is the topic of your grant proposal?” I asked the person sitting next to me on a plane.

Our conversation happened almost a decade ago, but I still remember it. She was a medical doctor who worked in gastrointestinal research.

“It’s a new line of research,” he said. “We are investigating fecal transplants as a way to treat infections.”

I looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Did I hear you correctly?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re called ‘poop pills’ in some literature,” he said with a chuckle.

My travel acquaintance certainly did not offer me a pill containing a freeze-dried “sample.”

He might have needed a parachute if that was the case.

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In 2022, the pills are still being researched for their safety and efficacy in treating difficult infections. The researchers were compiling results to submit to the Food and Drug Administration this year.

What we eat and drink affects our health. Healthy food intake and regular elimination are key parts of the equation.

You may be familiar with the term “gut microbiome.” This term refers to the different species of microorganisms that live in our intestines.

The pills under investigation are designed to “recolonize” the intestine with healthy bacteria. Antibiotic treatment for serious bacterial infections can cause changes in the bacteria in your gut.

By some estimates, our large intestine, or colon, is home to 100 trillion “friendly” bacteria.

These good bacteria help us fight off illness and produce certain vitamins like vitamin K. These bacteria help break down extra food residue left behind after digestion in the small intestine. This process in the colon is known as fermentation.

Our bacteria can become unbalanced due to stress, diarrhea, dietary changes, and antibiotics. Consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, probiotics, and prebiotics can help keep our bacteria in a healthy balance.

Most people experience some digestive problems from time to time. Sometimes travel and a change in diet can affect our bowel function, leading to the discomfort of constipation.

Choosing healthy foods and drinking enough fluids help keep your bowels working.

You may be familiar with the terms “probiotics” and “prebiotics.” The good news is that they are readily available in foods and beverages.

“Probiotics” literally means “for life.” Probiotics produce lactic acid in the intestine. They slow the growth of disease-causing bacteria, compete with disease-causing bacteria, and break down toxins.

We can obtain probiotics from foods with “live and active cultures”. Yogurt, kefir (a fermented product sold in the case of dairy products), buttermilk, and sauerkraut are among the readily available sources.

“Prebiotics” help the good bacteria in the colon grow. They act as a food source for bacteria. Some of the best sources are raisins, prunes, wheat, dried beans, and garlic.

Take care of your digestive system with these tips.

Eat a balanced diet with lots of fiber from grains, fruits, and vegetables. Stay hydrated, not just in the heat of the summer months but all year long.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large meals.

Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.

Take steps to reduce stress.

See for more information on nutrition.

Wondering what to do with prolific radishes? Try grilling them and pairing them with navy beans for a delicious side dish for a summer barbecue. Serve with a fruit parfait and yogurt for dessert.

Roasted Radish and White Bean Salad

1 pound radishes, washed, stemmed, and cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil), divided

Salt and pepper to taste)

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

⅛ teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)

¼ cup fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a large bowl, toss radish halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the seasoned radishes on a baking sheet or cast iron skillet. Grill for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized. While the radishes are roasting, place the cannellini beans in the same bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the radishes are done, add them to the bowl with the beans and add the parsley. Sprinkle with feta cheese and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm.

Makes eight servings. With no added salt, each serving has 120 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat, 6 grams of protein, 14 g of carbohydrates, 4 g of fiber and 190 milligrams of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson is a professor and food and nutrition specialist at NDSU Extension.

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