3 Steps To Improve Your Digestive Health
The digestive system is a major player in your overall health. It regulates what is absorbed and excreted from your body. We often underplay the signs and symptoms our body is giving us. Subtle indications from your gut can tell you a lot about what is going on inside your system. Much of the immune system is centered on the digestive system. When it is compromised it can affect your overall health and wellness, as well as your ability to fight off foreign bacteria and viruses.
Do you often feel bloated and gassy, experience heartburn or indigestion, have cramping and stomach pain, experience bouts of constipation, diarrhea or rely on antacids to feel comfortable after meals? These are all signs of some form of intestinal distress.
What are the three factors behind gut distress?
- Overgrowth of harmful bacteria
- Damage to the digestive tract (aka - leaky gut)
- Inflammation of the intestinal lining (inflammatory bowel)
These factors are primarily caused by:
- Food sensitivities/allergies
- High consumption of refined sugars/grains
- Heavy use of antibiotics/other medications
- Rushing through meals
Here are 3 (simple) steps to improve your digestive health
1. Practice basic food combining
Food combining supports digestion rather than fighting it. For example, a piece of fruit, like an orange, will digest much more rapidly than something that's high in fat and protein, like a piece of meat.
Eat fruit on their own, or at least15 minutes before a meal. Fruits digest rapidly, so mixing it with other foods causes the fruit to sit in the stomach longer than it needs to. Eating fruit before a meal will also help to stimulate the digestive system.
Don't mix heavy starch meals with heavy protein meals (think meat and potatoes). Unfortunately, meals combination like this can cause havoc in the digestive system. Try mixing starches with vegetables or proteins with vegetables, but not the two together. For example, meat and a salad, vegetable omelet or rice and veggies.
- Dessert. Obviously, we love you, but if you eat dessert after a heavy meal it will sit on top of everything you've eaten and likely cause gas and indigestion. When indulging in dessert consider having it an hour or so after your meal.
- Watch your caffeine intake while eating food. Caffeine causes your stomach to empty rapidly and may cause food to be improperly digested. Try drinking mild sources of caffeine like green tea.
2. Cut out allergenic foods
How do you know what foods you may be sensitive to? The top two allergens are wheat and dairy. Because these two are usually highly processed and over consumed, they end up causing reactions for many people. Corn, soy, and eggs are also common allergens.
- Try cutting any one of these (or all) out of your diet for 3 weeks.
- Slowly reintroduce each item, and you will notice which foods you have issues with.
- Remember that many packaged foods contain hidden ingredients, so read labels and eat whole foods whenever possible.
- Not only will you likely see positive impacts in your digestive health by eliminating allergens, but you'll also notice positive changes in your energy level, skin health and inflammation in your body.
3. Drink water
Adequate water consumption is necessary for healthy digestion, however, it's best to drink the majority of your water between meals. Why's that? When you drink large quantities of water with meals it washes away the digestive enzymes in the small intestine that breakdown foods.
- Drink small amounts of room temperature liquids with meals. Ice cold beverages cause the stomach to constrict which shuts down digestion.
- Try drinking a big glass of water with the juice from ½ a lemon first thing in the morning. This helps stimulate the digestive system and the liver and detoxify your system.
Other tips to improve digestive health
Eat more fiber
Raw fruits and vegetables, seeds (hello, chia seeds) and nuts. Fiber acts as a gentle scrub brush for your digestive tract contributing to intestinal health.
Consume less sugar
Refined sugars contribute to insulin spikes and to gastrointestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Take a high-quality probiotic
This is one supplement where price makes a difference. Look for one that is refrigerated with at least 10-15 billion live cells per serving.
Increase essential fatty acid
Essential fatty acids like omega-3 contribute to cellular health, anti-inflammatory responses and healthy skin. Hemp seeds are an amazing source!