The digestive system breaks down food to provide energy to every single cell in the body. The gastrointestinal (GI) system uses digestive enzymes to break down food into vital nutrients that the body can process and distribute. When the GI system is impaired, the food passes through the tract without yielding its beneficial constituents and results in poor nutritional status, which might cause numerous diseases.
Incomplete digestion can cause bacterial overgrowth and in turn, the bacteria in the colon might feed on the undigested food and can cause flatulence. A healthy gastrointestinal system provides digestive comfort, decreases inflammation and improves immune health. Therefore, it is essential to care for your digestive system to stay healthy.
Follow these tips in order to improve digestion
and maintain good digestive health.
- Eat Healthy
Consume foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber and reduce your fat intake. Eating foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat such as avocados, walnuts, olives, flaxseed, and salmon. A high-fat diet could make your digestive system sluggish and aggravate diseases of the digestive system. Also, stop consuming processed foods. They are usually very low in nutrition value and quite often they possess a lot of salts, saturated fat and preservatives that could be harmful to your body. Consume non-starchy vegetables and greens. They are very important sources of nutrients with lesser amounts of high-glycemic carbohydrates. Make sure you cook your vegetables and greens well so that it could be digested easily.
- Consume Fiber-rich diet
Dietary fiber is an important ingredient that can keep your digestive system healthy. It is present in cereals, fruits and vegetables and comprises of indigestible compounds of plants. Apart from improving digestive health, it stabilizes glucose and cholesterol levels of the body. The moment a mouthful has been swallowed and until the waste product leaves the bowel, the digestive system undergoes a process called peristalsis, which involves muscles that push food along the tract. Soluble dietary fiber absorbs water like a sponge, helps feces to bulk out, and enables it to pass via the gut easily. Consuming a diet rich in fiber can cure constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
- Chew your Food Thoroughly
Chewing is essential for proper digestion of food and is quite often overlooked. Chewing breaks down huge aggregates of food particles into smaller ones, resulting in making the surface area of the food larger. This is an important factor for proper digestion as it reduces esophageal stress. Also, the saliva not only lubricates the food but also contains enzymes that contribute to the chemical process of digestion.
Salivary alpha-amylase digests carbohydrates and the lingual lipase aids the first stage of fat digestion. Also, the stimulation of the taste receptors in the mouth can signal the lining of the stomach to secrete hydrochloric acid which helps break down protein substances. Most of us chew only a couple of times and swallow our food quickly. However, the ideal way of eating as recommended by health professionals is that you chew the food well to make it easily swallowable.
- Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is very important to improve digestion. Drinking enough water daily promotes digestive health as it is essential for lubrication, to get rid of waste substance from the body via urine, sweat and feces. Water helps break down food in such a way that the body can absorb nutrients and also soften stools to prevent constipation.
- Follow an Exercise Regimen
Being physically active helps maintain body weight and reduce stress levels. Getting regular physical activity keeps your digestive system healthy. It aids digestion and regularizes bowel movements. Being overweight puts an extra amount of pressure on your stomach and diaphragm and causes acid refluxes. If in case, you are overweight, try to reduce weight by strictly following an exercise regimen. It is recommended that you do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity daily.
- Abstain From Alcohol
Alcohol first passes through different segments of the gastrointestinal tract and might interfere with the function and structure of the segments of the tract. Alcohol might impair the function of the muscles that separate the stomach from the esophagus and cause heartburn!
The damages induced by alcohol to the mucous lining of the food pipe increase esophageal cancer risk. Inside the stomach, alcohol interferes with acid secretion, impairs the muscle movement in the intestines, inhibits the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, increases the transport of toxins across the walls of intestines and damages the liver and other organs of the digestive system. Thus, to maintain good digestive health, it is important to abstain from alcoholic beverages.
- Reduce Stress
All of us feel stressed from time to time. Though it is unavoidable, it is essential to cope effectively with stress and/or recover quickly to avoid health effects, in particular on the digestive system. Chronic stress lowers immunity and impairs digestive system and excretory systems. In addition, among people with IBS, the colon seems to be extra sensitive to stress and certain foods. The effects of stress tend to develop over time and taking practical measures can help maintain your health.
Recognize signs of your body’s stress response, avoid dwelling on problems and explore programs to cope with stress. Seek a qualified mental health provider’s help if you feel you are unable to deal with stress.
- Consume Fermented Foods
Probiotics (live bacteria and yeasts) known as “good microorganisms” benefit the digestive health. Fermented foods and supplements contain probiotics, which assists the job of the good bacteria that is already present in the gut. It decreases the number of “bad bacteria” in the gut, which causes inflammation or infections. Probiotics restore the body’s bacterial balance between the good and the bad bacteria and help in proper functioning of the digestive system.
Probiotics treat inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract like bowel diseases, Crohns disease, IBS and ulcers. It can also treat constipation and infectious diarrhea. Examples of foods with probiotics are buttermilk, milk, miso, cheese, Sauerkraut, Kim chi, kefir and pickles. There are dietary probiotic supplements available commercially too. They are available in natural food stores and vitamin shops in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid extracts and powders.
- Detoxify Your Body
Detoxification is a process of eliminating toxins from your body. A detox diet includes raw vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, herbs, water and supplements like enemas (colon cleansing) to empty the intestines. Toxins slow down metabolism and can cause dysfunction of organs. A gentle detox followed regularly can help reset your entire digestive system. Ayurveda suggests aloe vera and amla juice as good detox agents.
- Opt for Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Sometimes, aging causes digestive systems to become less effective and it results in a decline in digestive enzymes and naturally occurring probiotic microorganisms. As a result, digestive system gets impaired leading to symptoms such as bloating, gas, inflammatory conditions and malnutrition. Such age-related decline in enzyme production can be treated with the help of digestive enzyme supplements. Also, cooking and processing destroy digestive enzymes. Upon taking enzyme supplements of good quality, it has been ensured that it is very effective in optimizing digestion and nutrient absorption.
Recipe: Green Juice for Healthy Digestion
- Switch to multigrain bread and brown rice and snack on fruit, nuts or wholemeal crackers.
- Do not switch from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber one suddenly. It can cause abdominal pain and flatulence. Rather, make the transition a gradual one.
- Carry a bottle of water wherever you go and choose water from other sweetened drinks while eating out.
- Eat slowly and stop eating when you feel satiated.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Fresh mint leaves- 1 small handful
- Cucumber- 1
- Apple- 1
- Lime- 1
- Ginger- 1 inch
- Celery stalks- 2
- Aloe vera- 100 gms
Combine all these ingredients except aloe vera and pulse few times in a blender. Stir aloe vera gel into this juice. This healthy digestive tonic aids in digestion, reduces inflammation, relieves stomach aches, removes toxins and serves as a great energy booster too!