Written by Athina Crilley
The Importance of a Healthy Digestive System
Our digestive system breaks down the food that we eat so we can obtain energy and nutrients. It provides a path to excrete unwanted waste from the body. Our guts also contain millions of microorganisms that protects and boosts our immune system.
It’s important that we maintain a healthy gut so that these processes can continue efficiently. However, a number of factors can throw off the balance of healthy gut bacteria such as poor diet, lack of exercise or sleep, increased stress, and ageing. If our digestive system is disrupted, it can cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, and IBS.
Keeping a Healthy Digestive System
Luckily, making small changes to your lifestyle can improve your digestion. Here are some changes you can implement to keep your digestive system healthy.
Eat whole foods and eat your veggies
High fibre diets are linked to improved digestive health. Whole grains contain fibre, which can be used by our gut bacteria to help us gain energy and nutrients. Fibre slows the rate of absorption of foods, so can regulate energy release, so instead of having large peaks and troughs in energy throughout the day, you have a long-term steady level of energy. Lack of fibre can also cause irregular bowel movements and constipation, which can be very uncomfortable.
Fruits and vegetables provide us with essential vitamins and minerals that are important for many processes in our bodies, including digestion and metabolism.
Limit the amount of red meat you eat
High consumption of red meat has been linked to digestive issues and increased risk of a number of diseases. Choose poultry or fish over red meat when you can, or opt for vegetarian alternatives such as beans, legumes and meat alternatives.
Probiotics are supplements or foods that contain live bacteria. They can help feed out gut microbes and help them fight against infection, and can also produce healthy substances that provide nutrition. Examples of probiotics are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchee, yoghurt, and apple cider vinegar.
Eat healthy fats
Food that is high in saturated fat can slow down the rate of digestion. However, that does not mean we should completely eliminate fat from our diets. Consuming healthy fats can help you feel full and satisfied after a meal, and is required for healthy digestion. Eating omega 3 fatty acids can lower the risk of digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Decrease your stress levels
Stress can disrupt our digestive system. The gut and brain are closely connected, so excess stress can trigger digestive issues such as stomach ulcers, constipation, and ulcerative colitis. It can also mess up your hormones, which affects the rate at which food is moved through the digestive tract. Stress management, meditation and relaxation practice have all been shown to improve symptoms in people with IBD.
Water helps to push food through your digestive tract by providing fluid for the food to move with and
stimulating muscle contraction. Aim for 1.5-2 litres of water a day. Remember that the more active you are the more fluid you need.
Limiting the amount of alcohol that you drink will also help to keep your digestive system health. Alcohol is a relaxant and can increase the acid content in your stomach, both of which can cause digestive discomfort. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to gastrointestinal bleeding and increases in harmful gut bacteria.
Exercise can trigger muscle contractions in our digestive tract to help speed up the movement of food. This means you’re less likely to suffer digestive issues or constipation. Regular exercise is also beneficial to maintain your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Be mindful when eating
Eating mindfully can reduce digestive symptoms in those with ulcerative colitis. To practice mindful eating, eat more slowly and focus on your food. Pay attention to the taste, smell, and texture. This will reduce the risk of bloating and indigestion.
We offer a range of health supplements that can help to keep your digestive system healthy. If you have any questions about the products that we offer, or want to know more, contact us using the details at the bottom of the page.