If you are like a large majority of the population, you may just take gas, bloating and irregularity as a part of life (sometimes embarrassing and crippling) that can’t be changed. But by paying attention and making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, digestive troubles could be a thing of the past, and your digestive system can work the way it is supposed to.
What is the ‘Digestive System’?
The digestive system (gastrointestinal [GI] tract) is basically the bodies ‘food processor.’
It is comprised of the mouth and salivary glands, stomach, small and large intestines, colon, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
For a healthy digestive system, every person requires different food and needs to be aware that every food eaten (and the combinations eaten) has the potential to impact the body positively or negatively.
The digestive system (along with the human body) is very intelligent and as such will ‘reject’ foods in an attempt to protect the body by disliking the taste, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other digestive warning signs.
Remember, everyone is different so every person needs to find what works for them and their body.
So what are the Signs of Digestive Trouble
If any of the following are frequent occurrences in your daily life then you may have some form of digestive problems.
- Excess gas/flatulence
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite
- Irregular hiccups
- Vomiting or nausea
- Even chest, back, and abdominal pain can be caused by a digestive disorder (seek advice from your doctor for further information).
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Irregular bowel movements
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Weight Gain (yes a poor digestive system can lead to weight gain!)
Foods and Lifestyle Factors to Help Improve your Digestive System
Below are some foods and lifestyle changes you can implement in your daily routine and diet to improve digestive distress (this is an extract from a larger module on healing your digestive from this Program). Remember to listen to your body and find which ones work for you. When in doubt, or if you are on any medications seek advice from your doctor first.
- Drink water: water helps to move things along and to remove toxins and waste from the body. It also help to soften your stool and make bowel movements more regular. Drinking adequate amounts of water is key as is drinking at the appropriate time (more support provided in here).
- Avoid unhealthy fats: think fried foods, chips, and processed junk. Not only are these no good for the body, but they are hard to digest and can cause weight gain (which has been linked to an increased risk of GERD).
- Eat a diet rich in fibre: fibre helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and keeps you regular by softening the stools (and regularity is key to keeping your digestive system running smoothly).
- Eat a diet rich in probiotics: probiotics are the good bacteria that help the GI tract (as well as many other bodily functions) function optimally. Whilst there are probiotic supplements which may be suitable, you can also include foods rich in probiotics such as coconut yogurt, kombucha, and fermented foods like sauerkraut (recipe in this post).
- Try to limit your consumption of sodium, starchy foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners as they can cause bloating.
- Ginger: ginger is known for its ability to relieve nausea and vomiting. An easy way to get this in to your diet is by either chewing on some fresh slices of ginger, grating some to soups, stews, stir-fry’s, or by placing a few fresh slices of ginger in a cup of boiling water and leaving for ten minutes before drinking.
- Turmeric*: turmeric contains curcumin, has anti-inflammatory effects, is a source of antioxidants, can be used to aid digestion and liver function, and to treat acid reflux and flatulence. You can simply add it to stir-fry’s, juices, or smoothies, or make it in to a calming tea.* However it may not be safe for everyone as it may worsen gallbladder issues and may cause stomach upset and exacerbate GERD symptoms in some people. So if these issues bother you speak to your doctor first.
- Slippery Elm*: this contains a gel-like substance called mucilage which helps to coats the oesophagus, and can in turn be an effective treatment for GERD. * This can reduce the absorption of some medications so it is best to avoid taking it around the same time as other medications (and speak to your doctor first).
- Aloe Vera: this has a similar effect to slippery elm.
- Oregano Oil: this has a similar effect to slippery elm and also has antibacterial properties.
- Pineapple Extract: Pineapple contains bromelain which is a digestive enzyme, and some studies have found that eating pineapple can be helpful for the treatment of heartburn and indigestion.
- Honey: honey has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its ability to coat the upper gastroesophageal tract, preventing the stomach acid from rising and in turn being helpful in treating heartburn.
- Fennel, anise and chamomile:The easiest way to include this is by having it as a tea ease the discomfort of gas, bloating, and to soothe an upset stomach.
- Apple cider vinegar: the addition of ACV is helpful for digestion when taken before meals (and after; more guidance provided here).
- Bone Broth: bone broth (recipe here) can heal leaky gut syndrome and improve and aid your digestion and digestive health as bone broth contains gelatin, collagen, minerals, nutrients, and loads of amino acids
- Stop smoking: whilst there are many other health complications associated with smoking, studies have shown that it also has a negative impact on your digestive system by increasing GI distress.
- Stress: similar to smoking, stress too has many negative impacts on the body and also places a large amount of distress on the GI tract. Some studies have even found links between stress and heartburn and indigestion. So time to take a step back, breathe and participate in activities that help lower your stress levels.
- Exercise: movement helps to speed up your digestion as it increases the blood flow to your body’s organs and stimulates the GI tract muscles.
- Avoid overeating and eat slower: it takes around 20 minutes for your body to register that you are full, so slow down and listen to your body because overeating causes your digestive system to have to overwork and places excess stress on it, leading to many of the symptoms listed above. Eat sitting in a calm environment (not in front of the TV) and enjoy your food, don’t rush through it to ensure you actually pay attention to how much you eat and how much you focus on chewing.
- Chew your food: by chewing your food more you make it easier for the digestive system to break it down (it doesn’t have teeth like that lovely mouth of yours so give it a hand and break it down as much as possible). Aim to chew each mouthful for 30 seconds or 20-30 chews. This will make you more mindful of what you are eating, which can lead to greater satisfaction and it also helps to stimulate saliva production which helps your body break down the food when it reaches your belly.
Use some of the above tips to help improve your digestive system and get rid of any of those nasty symptoms that too often can interrupt your day. For me support with this join the Wellness Revolution Program today to sort your body out – and as a special thank you use this code ‘DIGESTIVE10’ to save £10/$20 this week!!!!