Top tips for a healthy digestive system
Look after your digestive system and it will look after you – naturopath and Kombucha City founder Gail Matthew tells us how.
Digestion is one of the body’s most important processes – food is our body’s fuel and we can only keep going if our digestive system can extract the nutrients we need for energy, growth and cell repair.
When we are talking about digestion, we are not simply looking at what happens in our stomachs – our digestive system starts in the mouth and ends at the anus, and it impacts almost every organ and system in our bodies as it breaks down carbohydrates, protein and fats, removes toxins and extracts nutrients, then eliminates waste.
In fact, 80 per cent of our immune system lies within the gut, and our digestive health can even impact our mood and mental health.
So, how can we best support our digestive system? Here are a few simple tips that you can incorporate into everyday living.
- Aim to eat balanced meals offering a wide variant of nutrients and a good variety of fermented food so you can replenish your gut from a variety of probiotic sources. Delicious Kombucha City kombucha is one way to add fermented foods to your diet but you can also try cultured yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, sourdough bread or fermented sausage. Get nutrients from a variety of protein sources – don’t forget about nuts and seeds – and make your plate a rainbow with as many different-coloured foods as possible
- Ensure you are getting enough fibre. Your body needs two different types of fibre. Soluble fibre creates a gel as it dissolves which can help digestion in a number of ways including reducing blood cholesterol and sugar. It’s found in apples, citrus fruits and psyllium – in fact, all fruits and veges have some portion of soluble fibre in them. Insoluble fibre (found in wholewheat flour, wheat bran, rice bran, nuts, fruit and vege skins) supports bowel health and regularity by drawing water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass without strain.
- Stay hydrated. The digestive enzymes in our bodies need water to work effectively and liquid also helps everything move through your system, reducing the risk of constipation. But you don’t want to flush out the nutrients, so it’s best to drink half an hour either side of eating or limit the amount you drink with meals.
- Eat slowly and mindfully. In order for our digestion system to work properly, we need to trigger our parasympathetic nervous system, which is also known as our rest and digest response. For that to happen we need to be calm and relaxed. So don’t watch TV, look at your phone or work while you’re eating – activities that can raise your stress levels will make it harder for your body to digest food.
- Chew your food well – this not only produces smaller chunks of food for your body to digest, it also acts as a trigger to the digestion system that food is on the way so it kick-starts all those important digestive processes.
- Don’t eat late at night. When we sleep, our digestion naturally slows down as our metabolism enters a resting state. Heading to bed soon after you have eaten can cause issues such as acid reflux or indigestion/heartburn.
- Keep moving. Exercise is essential when it comes to bowel transit – the time it takes for food to move from the mouth to the anus. Ideally, transit time should be about 24 hours. If it takes longer than that, waste material can build up in your body and you can have issues such as constipation and bloating. Moderate exercise such as walking is great - you don’t need to get your heart rate up to get your digestive system working. But your body can’t do its job if you are sedentary all day.
- Reduce your alcohol intake to support your liver. The liver has to process the toxins we ingest, such as fragments of pesticide that may remain on the fruit and vegetables we eat, so they can be removed by the bowel. If we overtax the liver by drinking too much alcohol, it becomes less efficient.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Digestion is one of the processes that takes place while we rest. If you are trying to survive on a few hours of sleep, your digestive system will not have enough time to work its magic.
Making a few simple changes to support your digestion will improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Posted: Monday 30 May 2022