Digestive problems affect the great majority of the population. Heartburn, gas, bloating, belching, constipation and diarrhea are daily symptoms for so many people.
The part of the body involved with digestion can collectively be called the gut. It runs from your mouth to your rear end (anus), and also included the liver/gall bladder/pancreas.
The health of the gut influences inflammation, immune function, weight, metabolism, cardiovascular function, mood and more.
But pharmaceuticals are not the answer to your gut ailments, despite what your doctor may tell you.
Simple diet, supplement and lifestyle changes can help to improve your digestion, relieve symptoms and boost overall health.
Below are our top ten ways to give your digestive system a reboot.
Fiber is necessary for digestive system health. A high-fiber diet keeps food moving through your digestive tract, fuels your gastrointestinal cells and lowers inflammation.
Both types, soluble and insoluble, serve important yet distinct functions. Insoluble fiber helps to promote movement of material through the digestive system and bulks up the stool for easy passage. Soluble fiber soaks up water, promotes normal bowel movements and protects against both diarrhea and constipation. Both fiber types are key to gut health. Simply put, these different fibers and their unique constituents are fuel for the bacteria in your gut microbiome. Different strains of bacteria feed off of these fiber sources. A healthy human gut microbiota depends upon a diverse and adequate fiber intake.
Here’s a list of our favorite Paleo fiber-rich foods.
Proper digestion requires plenty of quality fats in the diet. Adequate fat is needed for the absorption of certain fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Additionally, omega 3 fats (like those found in seafood) are protective against inflammation of the digestive tract. A recent study showed that omega 3 supplementation restored the health of the gut microbiota by re-balancing the gut microbe composition and increasing production of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids (which are fuel for gastrointestinal cells).
Taking a daily probiotic is one of the best things you can do to stimulate digestive health. Probiotics are live bacteria that keep your gut healthy. A diverse array of beneficial bacteria is crucial to gut health. When you flood your gut microbiota with the good bacteria then the bad, inflammatory bugs get pushed out in a competitive manner.
Probiotics are pro-health, meaning they keep your gut healthy and your microbiome balanced. They control gut movement, reduce risk of digestive disorders, lower inflammation and prevent or heal leaky gut syndrome. Probiotics also help to break down fibers that can cause gas and bloating. And they also have been shown to improve symptoms of diarrhea and constipation.
Get tested for leaky gut syndrome and evaluate your level of intestinal permeability. Leaky gut is a root cause disorder. It causes widespread inflammation and contributes to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegeneration.
If you have leaky gut, then digestion and absorption can become impaired. You must heal leaky gut to get your digestive system back on track. You must remove foods that cause inflammation and then re-establish your diet with healing, anti-inflammatory foods. Next, you need to rebuild your gut ecology with supplements like probiotics, immunoglobulins, digestive enzymes, butyric acid, glutamine, vitamin A and zinc to “heal and seal” the gut lining. Lastly, reduce stress to allow full healing to take place.
If you have questions, you can talk to a health coach for free to learn how to best manage or prevent this condition.
Intermittent fasting (IF) can improve gut health and get your digestive system back on track. Regular fasting also helps to favorably balance the bacteria in your gut. Fasting is like a reset for your entire digestive system. When you are always eating, then your digestive system is always working to breakdown food and absorb nutrients. Fasting, defined as abstaining from food and some caloric beverages, allows the digestive system to have a break from these energy-intensive tasks such as digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
IF can restore the diversity of the gut microbes and ward off pathogenic bacteria. A recent study in 2018 showed that IF can help to heal leaky gut and improve gut barrier function.
Read more about the health benefits of IF here.
It is important to drink plenty of quality water to keep your digestive system running at the right speed. Water is also necessary to promote the full breakdown and absorption of essential micronutrients within the gut lining. Not drinking enough water every day is similar to what happens with a fiber deficiency in the diet. The end result is that is slows down the digestive system. In fact, dehydration is the most common culprit of constipation.
Focus on drinking enough quality, mineral-rich water every day. Our favorite brand that we recommend to our patients and our families is the Pristine Hydro water system. The Pristine Hydro water system filters water through ten different stages and re-mineralizes and re-energizes it to provide the highest quality and safest drinking water.
Regular movement is one of the best ways to improve your digestive system function. Exercise helps to move food through your digestive tract at the right speed. This regulated movement of food through your digestive system is called gut transit time.
Research has shown that moderate intensity exercise, such as jogging or biking, significantly increases gut transit time, which is beneficial to the digestive system. Regular, daily physical activity has also been shown in research to improve symptoms of chronic constipation. Additionally, exercise is anti-inflammatory and helps to protect the digestive system from inflammatory disorders.
Stress can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Chronic stress keeps the body in flight or fight mode by activating the sympathetic nervous system. Stress management techniques are imperative to activating the parasympathetic nervous system and putting the body back into “rest and digest” mode. It is also established that stress hormones such as cortisol, can directly impact digestion. During these stressful events, digestion comes to a halt and the body is not able to effectively digest and assimilate nutrients.
Research has shown that stress management techniques, including yoga or meditation, can help to improve symptoms in people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Seeing a chiropractor can help to get your digestive system back on track and maintain proper functioning. Chiropractic care can help to reduce pressure on nerves and can prevent constipation. Regular chiropractic care also reduces systemic inflammation and stimulates healing.
Another important component to chiropractic is that it can also help to put you back into parasympathetic mode, or that rest and digest state. Lastly, if there are certain areas of your spine that are misaligned, this can prevent proper digestion from happening.
Misalignment of the spine is a root cause problem and must be fixed for optimal digestion and health.
If you have symptoms such as gas, bloating and indigestion then this is indicative that your entire digestive system needs a reset. We recommend going carnivore, which entails simply eating quality meat, seafood and eggs.
Check out our upcoming seven-day carnivore challenge with the TDW team. We guide you through this strict elimination diet to remove inflammatory, toxic foods that could be wearing down your digestive system. This seven-day reset is just what your body needs to get your digestive system back on track. It includes detox supplements, a health coaching call, unlimited access to our Facebook group to connect with others and a seven-day recipe planner and meal guide. Many people have reported improved digestion along with a decrease of symptoms and inflammation in just seven days.
Take the time for you this busy holiday season to get your digestive system back on track.
Digestion is truly one of the most important biochemical processes that occurs within the body. Your body needs to be able to fully obtain nutrients from foods and drinks and use them in order to function optimally and stay healthy.
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