Many people only start understanding the importance of a healthy digestive system when they begin to experience discomfort, or symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, sudden weight loss and frequent bowel movements. Your digestive system plays a crucial role in your overall health. You can’t beat an illness, feel energetic or have a balanced mood if you cannot digest and absorb nutrients.
Your lifestyle and the foods you consume have a great impact on your digestive health. The quality of your food is associated with the quality of your digestive health. This 30-foot digestive tube must be in good condition to deliver required nutrients to its critical digestive and absorption points. Nancy Spahr, Certified Body Ecologist, Certified Colon Hydrotherapist and Certified Natural Health Practitioner, says that the digestive system is the workhorse of the body that helps maintain our health.
Teresa Boyce, a nutritionist says, “Poor digestive function can lead to many health concerns including inadequate absorption of nutrients, low energy, compromised immune function and gastrointestinal discomfort.”
10 Powerful Tips for Digestive Health
- Consume a high-fiber diet: Maria Adams, a registered dietitian in Marblehead, Mass suggests that eating a diet rich in fiber that includes legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and whole grains can better your digestive health. She adds, "A high-fiber diet helps to keep food moving through your digestive tract, making you less likely to get constipated.” It also treats several digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. At least upto 30 grams of fiber per day must be included in your diet. High fiber diet also maintain your body weight by keeping you full for a longer time, thus reducing your craving to overeat during the day. Green vegetable foods like spinach, kale, alfalfa and wheatgrass are fiber rich food that can be added to your diet. Broccoli sprouts have the ability to stimulate enzymes for better digestion.
- Add probiotics into your diet: Adam says that probiotic are the healthy bacteria naturally present in your digestive tract. They keep the body healthy by fighting the effects of antibiotics, lack of healthy diet and stress, all of which are associated with poor digestive system. She also suggests that consuming good sources of probiotics like low-fat yogurt or kefir, regularly helps. Probiotic supplement or Yoghurt can elevate healthy probiotic bacteria in your GI (gastrointestinal tract).
- Opt for fresh organic foods: Nancy Spahr, certified Body Ecologist, certified Colon Hydrotherapist and Natural Health Practitioner observes amazing changes in the body, when people opt for fresh organic whole foods as part of the body ecology program. Eating a mix of raw and cooked foods helps, as raw foods have their own enzymes which are particularly essential when your body may be low on enzymes. Let 80 percent of your plate, include vegetables.
- Get insoluble and soluble fiber: Including both soluble and insoluble fiber in the diet helps your digestive system in different ways. According to Adam, insoluble fiber cannot be digested by the body and therefore helps add bulk to the stools. Soluble fiber draws in water and can help stop watery stools. Vegetables, wheat bran and whole grains are all good sources of insoluble fiber. Oat bran, seeds, peas, apples, carrots, nuts and legumes are all good sources of soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps cuts down conditions of the GI (gastrointestinal tract) like constipation, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.
- Manage stress: We cannot control every situation in life that causes stress, but we can change the way we respond to it. Too much anxiety or stress can cause your digestive system to go overdrive. Stress interferes with your digestive system and digestive process. According to the Psychology research and behavior management, meditation is another powerful method for improving your digestive health and process. Besides meditation, exercises like walking also works wonders in reducing stress.
- Chew your food properly: Chewing your food properly can help activate digestive enzymes and better your digestive function. Researchers indicate that the more you chew your food thoroughly, the less you eat. Chewing your food well also increases the digestive enzymes in your mouth, hence improving digestion as the food moves through your digestive tract.
- Drink good amount of water: Drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day is necessary to keep your body hydrated. However Boyce says squeezing lemon or adding ACV (apple cider vinegar) to water can help stimulate digestive enzymes. That’s because water is one of the most important elements for a healthy digestive system.
- Limit intake of fats and gluten: "In general, fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making you more prone to constipation,” says Adam. However, it is also essential to get some fat in your diet and hence combining some fatty foods with high-fiber foods is recommended to make them smooth on your digestive system. Experts prefer choosing a diet that offers no more than 30% of calories from fat, with most of those fats to be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Limiting gluten in the diet helps digestive system, natural gluten-free options like rice, potatoes and buckwheat are healthy.
- Consume protein: Protein is another important part of a wholesome diet. Eat sufficient amount of protein, particularly vegetable protein, as part of a balanced diet. The two main sources of protein are animal foods like chicken, beef and fish; and plant foods like soy and bean sources. While animal sources of protein have many essential minerals and vitamins, they also have cholesterol and saturated fats. Therefore choosing plant proteins such as soy products nuts and beans that is free from cholesterol and contain more beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats is beneficial to the digestive system.
- Work out regularly: According to Adam, "Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation.” One should exercise for at least half an hour regularly. Activities such as walking, aerobics, taking stairs instead of elevator and power walking during lunch breaks can power your digestive system. The Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that you can improve the health of your digestive tract by exercising regularly. It increases blood flow to the intestines and colon. A study showed the women who walk regularly, were nearly 31 percent less likely to develop colon cancer.