Nourish - 6 Ways to Encourage a Healthy Digestive System
Just think about how amazing the human gut really is. It’s a fantastic system of intake, distribution, and elimination. It’s always hard at work, digesting everything we put inside, balancing out what are the nutrients we need and the rubbish that we don’t need.
When your digestive system is sluggish or overburdened, you may notice some effects in your health, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, or gas. In some cases you may even experience food allergies or intolerances, skin rashes, eczema, lack of energy and lethargy.
Taking good care of the gut really is essential to our well-being. Here are 6 ways to encourage a healthy digestive system.
No. 1 – Chew your Food
Remember, your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Good digestion starts in your mouth so you must make sure to chew your food well for optimal digestion. One cause of poor digestion is the under-production of digestive enzymes. This can be from a diet lacking in enzyme rich foods (think raw fruits and veggies) through to rushed eating and a lack of chewing. A lot of people gulp their food down, barely taking the time to chew.
Have you ever felt tired after eating? The complete opposite of what you are generally aiming for!
It takes a lot of energy to break down large chunks of poorly chewed food and this puts a strain on your already busy digestive system. When you’re falling asleep after eating, this can mean that your body simply doesn’t have enough energy to process your food and keep you awake!
No. 2 – Cut the Junk Food and Eat Real Food
Wave your goodbyes to processed, refined foods and fast foods. All of these are typically high in refined sugar, salt and processed oils which do you and your digestion no good. When a diet is predominantly consisting of processed foods, refined sugars and fats, caffeine, and fizzy drinks, this can cause havoc on any digestive system.
These types of foods are incredibly difficult for your body to digest, and you receive no nutritional value from them. They do nothing but give you empty calories and a distinct lack of nutritional benefits.
Instead, eat REAL food that doesn’t require an ingredients list. Real food is gut-friendly food. Embrace whole fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. They’re loaded with natural dietary fibre which is essential to a happy healthy gut and digestion.
Fibre helps us feel full, helps prevent over-eating and keeps us regular. Fibre rich foods can aid in relieving constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other gut-related conditions
Just remember though, fibre absorbs water in your digestive system, giving bulk and softness to the stool. Make sure to drink plenty of water when you eat a lot of fibre, otherwise it will have the opposite effect!
No. 3 – Add in Probiotics and Eat Fermented and Cultured Foods
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in our gut and are necessary for digestive health. They are miracle-workers for your digestive system and are often put under enormous stress as a result of our modern diets, lifestyles and environmental stressors.
Our modern diets also lack the enzyme-rich food that was once a prominent food in our eating cultures.
How do increase my good bacteria?
Start eating plenty of probiotic-rich cultured foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, Kombucha, miso, coconut kefir, and fermented vegetables (we have a great range in-store!). Or you could try making your own. See my blog here on The Benefits of Vegetable Fermentation in a Nutshell and making your own sauerkraut.
Eating them will help you to regenerate your gut flora naturally and will enhance your digestion and help boost your immune system.
Remember, over 70% of your immune cells live in your gut, so a healthy immune system depends partly on your intestinal health.
No. 4 – Reduce and Manage your Stress
Your stress levels have a strong relationship with your digestion. When your body is in a heightened state, your digestive system literally shuts down. It’s unable to properly break down and absorb the nutrients from your food and deliver them to your cells. This can lead to a sluggish and unhappy digestive system, promoting IBS symptoms, low mood and energy levels and an overall rundown feeling.
Stress is not a friend to the digestive system. It turns off the digestive process and increases inflammatory reactions.There are many ways to reduce your stress levels and I advise you to discover what relaxing activities work best for you.
Many people find that gentle activities such as yoga, deep breathing, walking or meditation, really helps to reduce stress levels.
Others may find a session at the gym, a kick-boxing class or a swim helps.
Of course there are plenty of other ways, from catching up with friends, playing with your kids or pets, making time for a hobby and so on. The list is endless!
Stress is a big culprit to poor eating habits too. Not making time to sit down and eat in a relaxed state, and instead shoving down a sandwich at your desk or a breakfast bar on the way to the bus stop is a surefire way to give yourself a bloated belly and indigestion.
It’s very important to make sure that you always sit down to eat rather than eating on the go.
Try taking a couple of deep breaths before eating and bring yourself into a relaxed state. Taking this time to pause and be present will signal to your brain that you’re ready to eat, which helps to activate your digestive fire, resulting in a better digestion of your food.
No. 5 – Get Moving!
If you’re not moving, you’re insides will follow suit, so make sure to get up and get moving!
Getting that heart rate up and those digestive juices flowing is a sure way to start improving your digestion.
Try walking, cycling, running, dancing, or how about some Pilates or Yoga? Yoga poses that involve twisting can also be very helpful for digestion.
Inactivity is associated with constipation and other digestive issues so avoid becoming a couch potato and get that body movin’!
No. 6 – Get Plenty of Water
Many people with digestive disorders or problems are often extremely dehydrated.
Water is essential and plays a major role in healthy digestion.
You can eat all the fibre you could possibly desire, but if you don’t ensure you’re well hydrated at the same time, your digestive system will remain stubborn and unhappy.
You don’t need to knock back litres of plain water a day to stay hydrated.
Get creative and make a fruit infusion for a more delicious way to hydrate. Add some orange slices, cucumber slices, lemon, or even some berries like delicious raspberries to a glass/bottle/jug of water and leave for a few hour or overnight.
Herbal teas are another brilliant way to hydrate, plus a lot of them have fantastic digestive supporting properties too. Try including herbal teas such as peppermint, ginger, fennel, fenugreek or dandelion.
You can also opt for cold press juices or homemade smoothies, and maybe even try adding in a splash of aloe juice to really help soothe and relax your digestion system.
A favourite of many of the Nourish staff is to drink a glass of warm water in the morning with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice. You can start with a teaspoon and build it up.
Your gut should be alive with good bacteria, creating a healthy environment in which food can be broken down and nutrients can be absorbed to give you endless amounts of energy, a perky immune system, glowing skin and a happy bowel!
We are only as healthy as what we choose to put into our bodies. Restoring the health of your digestive system is one of the most significant things you can do for your overall health. That’s why combining plenty of pure water, an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies, fibrous foods and probiotics into our diet is so important; not only for our digestion but for our overall health as well.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication