by Hannah Cobb, Ever'man Wellness Team Member and Certified Natural Health Professional
The importance of taking care of your digestive system cannot be stressed enough. Our digestive system plays a significant role in detoxifying our body as well as housing a considerable part of our immune system! Would you believe me if I told you that 80% of our immune system is in our gut? That’s why it’s so important to make sure it stays healthy. If your digestive system isn’t working correctly, then you will notice. Bloating, indigestion, gas, constipation, you name it! Unfortunately, with the way America eats with our SAD diet (standard American diet), it’s no wonder that we have trouble. Did you know that stress can even affect digestion? I bet you will notice that things can be “off” during travel or when you are going through a stressful time.
No matter what digestive issue you are having, there are things you can do to improve your gut health significantly.
Here are some key things to do if you want good gut health:
1. Eat Foods High in Fiber
Your large intestine relies on having adequate amounts of fiber every day. Fiber is the substance that “sweeps” out the colon keeping it clean (think of it as an internal cleanser). After your small intestine has absorbed all of the nutrients from your food, the fiber is sent to the large intestine where all of the water is taken out, and stool is formed. If we don’t have that “bulk” to our stool, then our bowels won’t move, and we will have constipation as a result. Besides eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can also supplement with fibers like psyllium husk.
2. Take a Probiotic
Probiotics are good bacteria that are naturally found in a healthy intestinal tract. When we eat a SAD diet or take an antibiotic, then the beneficial bacteria are killed. When we have an unbalance of good bacteria to bad bacteria, we can run into issues like yeast or bacterial infections, parasites, and an inflamed colon. There’s a whole lot that can go wrong when we don’t have that essential bacteria. You can also get probiotics from fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut.
3. Make Sure You’re Drinking Enough Water
We hear that a lot, I know, but it’s especially helpful for the bowels! One of the main things the large intestine does is it removes excess water from our foods so it can form a healthy stool. If you aren’t hydrated, then that can create hard stools, making it difficult to have a bowel movement.
4. Don’t Eat Fast
Eating fast can cause problems with bloating, gas, and reflux. When we eat quickly, we swallow air, and then that air can cause gas and belching. Eating fast can also hinder us from chewing our foods thoroughly. The first step in digestion begins in the mouth with the production of saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that help break down our foods. If we aren’t chewing well, that saliva doesn’t mix with our food and makes it harder for the stomach to break the food into smaller pieces.
5. Get Movement
Movement is so important. One main reason why we see constipation often in the elderly is that there is less movement taking place and not much exercise. Stretching and even taking walks will help to move the food through our intestines, avoiding constipation.
6. Don’t Eat When You’re Stressed
If we eat while we’re stressed, there won’t be much digestion going on. When we are stressed, our body produces hormones that tell our body that there’s a crisis and that we need to get as much blood, oxygen, and energy as possible to the brain and muscles. Digestion takes a back seat and gets shut off. When we’re in rest mode, digestion turns on.
Because everyone is so different and will need specific treatments to heal, there is not a one size fits all with this, but I hope these tips will be helpful for you along your healing journey!