You don’t notice your stomach’s functioning until it goes horribly wrong. It’s one of those things that’s completely taken for granted until due notice is given, and then you’re burping up fire or running toward the bathroom, green in the face and feeling like you’re going to explode. Worse yet, colon cancer is the most commonly diagnosed and second deadliest cancer in the United States, and an excellent reason why you should be thinking about and taking care of your digestive track. So let’s take a look at what’s going on in your belly, what some of the most common woes are, and how best to ameliorate them.

Heart Burn: One in ten Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a week, and while most simply blame it on a particularly fiery burrito, others suffer from a chronic condition that leave them gasping and with watering eyes, feeling like a fistful of lava has just been dredged up from their belly. Heart burn is a misnomer, in that the condition has nothing to do with your heart; rather, it occurs when your esophagus is irritated by acid from your stomach. Felt as a burning sensation behind your sternum that occurs after eating, it can last from two minutes to even hours.

While uncomfortable, heart burn doesn’t usually cause any serious problems for most people. Over-the-counter anti-acids can do the trick and neutralize all that acid in your stomach, but if this is a frequent complaint of yours, consider the following dietary tricks. First, take smaller bites. Remember, this is a condition of your esophagus; if you take huge bites, you’re forcing it to work harder and aggravating it further. Second, avoid common triggers such as onions, chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruits, garlic and tomato-based products. Finally, don’t eat four hours before bedtime. That’s how long it takes your stomach to empty out, and should make a difference when it comes to trying to get some sleep. Warning: if you experience heartburn 3 or more times a week, get it checked out. Could be it’s become Gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) which happens when the acid strips the layers off your esophagus and causes ulceration. Left untreated, it could become cancerous.

Easy Elimination: If you’re digestive system is working right, not only should you be absorbing the nutrients from your food easily but you should also be eliminating waste consistently, and for that you need fiber. There are two kinds: soluble and insoluble, and your body needs both. Soluble fiber can be found in beans and fruits; insoluble fiber can be found in wheat grains, nuts, wheat bran and veggies. Women under 50 need 25 grams of fiber daily, while men need a little more at around 38. Increase your fiber intake with these dietary changes:

Eat more beans. Not only are they a good source of protein, but they also contain a healthy dose of soluble fiber, with pinto and black beans having about 15 grams/cup. Also, try and have a good amount of fiber for breakfast: bagels, whole wheat bread or oatmeal can go a long way to helping you clear out your digestive track, and can be delicious when complimented with other food items that are high in fiber such as bananas, blueberries or hummus.  Finally, eat fresh fruit! A half cup of raspberries has 4 grams, and the same goes for a medium sized apple (make sure to eat the skin, since that’s where most of the fiber is).