Digestive Health: Unlock the secrets to better digestive health.
Tips to improve your digestive health
Our digestive tract is home to millions of bacteria. They influence not just our digestive health – but the health of our whole body. Disturbances in our gut bacteria have been linked to anxiety, depression, allergies, heart disease and weight gain. This is not to say that it’s the only cause – but looking after our gut health can be an important first step. Bloating, pain, constipation and/or diarrhoea and excessive flatulence are all symptoms that something is out of balance in your gut.
Modern diets with high sugar, excess alcohol, stress, lack of sleep, too little exercise, not enough fibre have all been linked to changes in our gut microbiome.
Below I am going to outline some things that might help. However, digestive issues can be
complex, and symptoms don’t disappear overnight.
Chewing food in your mouth stimulates the taste buds, which signal to the digestive system that food is coming and to release digestive juices. Stomach acid helps to kill off harmful germs. Low stomach acid can lead to poor digestion and the malabsorption of nutrients. Symptoms of low stomach acid can be feeling full after a small meal, belching, flatulence, morning diarrhoea, diarrhoea after heavy meals, heartburn, indigestion, a sensation that food sits for a long time in the stomach. As we get older, we naturally have lower stomach acid. As well as making sure you chew your food well or could also try eating bitter foods before a meal to increase your stomach acid – rocket, watercress, chicory, apple cider
vinegar, dandelion greens and grapefruit are all good sources.
One of the most common findings in the guts of people with IBS is a decline in bifidobacteria, which is normally the most abundant species in our gut. To increase bifidobacteria you need to make sure you eat lots of vegetables and some fruit. This provides the fibre that these species like to munch on to multiply. Other useful fibre sources are oats, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, asparagus, onions, garlic, apples and banana. You might find that you get some transient bloating or gas in the first few days upon increasing
fibre – but this should ease. You can increase slowly to help with this.
For much of history we have used fermentation to preserve and improve the nutritional quality of foods. Fermented foods include kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and natural yoghurt. By using fermented foods, we can help to keep our digestive system healthy and improve your gut bacteria.
Chronic constipation is a common symptom of IBS, but laxatives don’t get to the cause of the problems. Eating kiwi fruits can help with constipation – try 2 kiwi fruits for breakfast for several days. You could then try 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your diet. This can easily be added onto oats for breakfast. Or you could simply mix in water and drink – follow this with 2 glasses of water. Flaxseeds can help with bowel regularity and can be taken on an ongoing basis. They don’t tend to produce gas or bloating and so are a good option.
For many with IBS eliminating gluten from your diet can have a quick response. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. Eliminating gluten can be particularly useful for those experiencing symptoms such as pain, bloating, stool consistency issues and tiredness after eating.
Like us our gut microbiome have a circadian rhythm. Eating late at night can disrupt this rhythm and cause us digestive issues – our gut microbiome might have already gone to bed and therefore won’t be doing their job of helping us to digest our food. Try eating earlier in the evening – at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime and see if this helps.
Regular physical activity can be an important step in improving your digestive health. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore – it should be fun! Find something that you enjoy and stick to. It could be walking, dancing, cycling, swimming or tennis. If you haven’t exercised in a while start slow – even walking counts as exercise.
The GreggWallace.Health diet
We have noticed that some people have experienced changes in their bowel movements after first starting on this plan. This is due to the increase in fibre. This should ease after several weeks and many members have gone on to notice an improvement in their digestive issues from this plan.
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Author: Katherine Bright MBANT, CNHC