Do you have a healthy digestive system?
We would hope that the answer is “yes!” but in all honesty, many of us eat and act in a way that appeals to us, and not necessarily with healthy digestive system maintenance in mind.
Why is a healthy digestive system important?
Our digestive system breaks down what we eat and unless the nutrients are absorbed, the food will not be able to supply what our body needs to be healthy and function well. We need energy to get through the day, our body needs energy to grow, renew and for cell repair. Unless nutrients can be broken down into the smaller components of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins so as to be absorbed by our blood for distribution to cells throughout our entire body, then the food we ingest is not doing for us what we need.
What makes up our digestive system?
pretty much everything inside us that relates to our food intake starting with our mouth and ending with our anus! In between we have our gastrointestinal tract which is a series of “hollow organs” that are joined by way of an undulating tube. The “hollow organs” are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine with the rectum. The digestive system includes along the gastrointestinal tract the liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
What steps can I take to improve and maintain my digestive health?
We have been made aware that a high fibre diet is important as that moves everything along in our system. This reduces the chances of being constipated. High fibre also prevents diverticulosis (little pockets – diverticula – that form at weak points of the alimentary canal. These pouches can become inflamed or infected and be painful. It is thought that constipation can lead to diverticulitis as the colon has to work harder to move the stool along and that extra pressure may cause these pouches at form at weak points along the colon), haemorrhoids (swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. These can bleed and be uncomfortable) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
And what constitutes high fibre?
Whole grains, vegetables, fruit and legumes (the bean family).
Insoluble fibre is roughage that our body cannot digest so it passes through our system and bulks up the stools. Whole grain, vegetables, wheat bran. Soluble fibre (from oat bran, legumes, nuts and seeds) acts differently in that it draws in water so the stool is soft without being watery.
Fatty foods can slow down digestion so limit fat intake to “good healthy fats” as opposed to there unhealthy trans fats.
… and fatty cuts of meat can make one feel uncomfortable. Lean meat is digested better.
Exercise helps reduce constipation by helping everything move through our system so it is best to avoid an overly sedentary lifestyle.
Too much stress can interfere with healthy digestion causing it to speed up and be less effective. This is not the same as increasing metabolism to lose weight!
Having probiotics in your diet is a good thing. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that we need in our system that works with us to improve digestion. Remember that antibiotics kill harmful bacteria but they also kill useful bacteria so eating yoghurt with lactobacillus acidophilus is a way to replenish the good bacteria in our body. Yakult is also a good source of good bacteria as is kefir. Both these are fermented dairy products.
Interestingly, it appears that eating at a similar time each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks is healthy for our digestion. Also, take time to eat … no gobbling because time is tight! And chewing food thoroughly helps because it increases the surface area in readiness for digestive processes further down the tract. Once swallowed, we’ve no grinding mechanism from here!
We need to drink fluids and stay hydrated. Clean, filtered water is perfect. Ingested fibre draws water into the colon creating bulkier and softer stools that pass through our system more easily. And how much water should we drink? Refer to our February 2017 Newsletter “How Much Water To Drink?”
And as suspected, habits like smoking, excess alcohol and caffeine can interfere with digestion and lead to stomach ulcers and heartburn.
What do I risk by ignoring digestive health?
As said before, unless we maintain a healthy digestive system, our body can’t properly absorb and utilise the food we eat. Our body does not then have access to the nutrients it needs for us to be healthy … resultantly we can become sick and suffer a variety of illnesses and conditions.
Are there natural products that can assist?
Absolutely … healthy food and lifestyle is necessary. Both Aloe Vera and Sea Buckthorn are helpful for gastrointestinal health. Mango and Papaya are great and a good apple cider vinegar is a bonus. Lemon juice and water between meals, and apple cider vinegar with some water just prior to eating both help to keep healthy stomach acid levels.
We are not healthcare or medical professionals and the information contained here is not to be taken as medical advice. It is recommended that you consult you healthcare professional prior to taking any supplements and always read the label, use only as directed, and if symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.