Hippocrates once said "all disease starts in the gut". Over 2000 years later, his words still ring true. The health of our digestive system is directly related to the health of every other system of our body. Digestive illnesses are at almost epidemic proportions in North America and there is not one chronic health issue that does not have a component of digestive disturbance associated with it. So, it goes without saying that if we can create and nurture a healthy digestive system, we can promote and maintain a state of optimal health.
There are many ways to support healthy digestion, but one of the most effective ways is through the foods we eat (and don't eat). Nutrition is the foundation of health. Here are five wonderful ways to help restore and maintain balance to your digestive system:
1. Eat a Whole Foods Diet
Whole foods are those which are in the form that they are found in nature. Foods that don't come in bags, boxes or cans, and foods that have no ingredient lists on them. Processed foods, on the other hand, are often filled with many substances such as preservatives, flow agents, MSG, artificial flavours and artificial colourings which are new to the food chain, having only been introduced within the last 75 years or so. These are "foreign" substances that disrupt the healthy balance of our digestive system and often cause a great deal of if disturbance including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and many other inflammatory conditions throughout the body. The more you can create meals from single ingredient items using fresh, whole foods, the more you can take the burden off of, and restore to balance to, your digestive system.
2. Eat Fermented Foods Daily
Fermented foods include items such as kefir, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. What makes them so beneficial for digestion is that they are loaded with rich and healthy probiotic bacteria which help promote and maintain a good balance of beneficial bacteria in our gut. The more good bacteria we have, the less likely we are to suffer from digestive disturbances. I often recommend to my clients that they have 1 serving of fermented foods each day. However, if fermented foods are not available to you, or you don't like the taste of them, it is helpful to take a good probiotic supplement each day.
3. Eliminate Food Sensitivities
There is a proverb that goes, "One man's food is another man's poison". No matter how healthy a food may be for one person, it may not serve another person well. Even if a particular food does not bring a classic allergic reaction such as stomach cramping or other diarrhea, other more subtle reactions can occur within the body, even as long as two or three days after the offending food is consumed. When we can determine which foods our body is sensitive to and eliminate them, even if only for a temporary period of time, we can allow our digestive system to restore balance and extinguish unwanted digestive upsets.
4. Avoid Overeating
This may seem like an obvious tip, but overeating has become a big problem in this "super sized" world we live in. Who hasn't gone to the buffet for a second helping only to regret it 30 minutes later? Our digestive system is the most labour intensive system in our body. It goes to work the second we smell the food we are about to eat and doesn't stop working until it exits at the other end. When we take in too much food, our digestive tract can become overwhelmed and over burdened leaving us feeling gassy, bloated and just plain miserable. Additionally, how we combine food can also play a role in how well we digest because different foods digest at different rates of speed. For example, a protein mixed with non-starchy carbohydrates is an easier food combination to digest than a protein mixed with starchy carbohydrates. If you experience a significant amount of digestive upset after meals, food combining may be worthwhile considering in order to achieve relief.
5. Use Herbal Remedies for Active Digestive Upset
It's inevitable. Every now and again we're going to experience some form of tummy trouble, whether it's from over eating, eating something that didn't agree with us or a tummy "bug". Fortunately, Mother Nature has been providing powerful and effective remedies to relieve common digestive ailments for thousands of years and there are plenty of herbal options, both in food form an in supplement form, that can help:
Of course, if you have had ongoing digestive disturbances that do not respond to natural healing methods, it is important seek the help of a qualified health professional for further investigation to get to the root cause. Some digestive disturbances such as an H. Pylori infection or chronic constipation can lead to more serious complications such as ulcers or even some cancers, so it is important to address these conditions sooner rather than later.
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best and most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your FREE 30 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you reach your wellness goals.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!