Perfect Digestive Health is Attainable!
Many people think it is normal to live their lives suffering from constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, discomfort, acid reflux or even serious inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s or colitis. On the contrary, digestive health is not only simple to attain, but is key for one’s overall health, wellbeing, and a healthy and balanced immune system.
For my own survival, I have had to become somewhat of an “expert” on digestive health. Those who have heard me speak know that I suffered greatly from very advanced ulcerative colitis, which landed me in the hospital unable to eat or walk with internal bleeding that wouldn’t stop. After getting myself out of the hospital, avoiding surgery and more harmful medications, I discovered ways to resolve my digestive issues. Luckily, there are very basic points that when followed, digestive health is assured.
Key points for a healthy digestive system for optimal health overall:
1. Hydrate – In order for every cell of your body and your digestive system to work properly, you must be properly hydrated. Starting your day off right with a full glass of filtered or spring water is one of the simplest things that can be done. Drink your second glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to hydrate while rejuvenating your liver and gallbladder. Too many people start their day with a cup of coffee, which has the opposite effect. Bathing your body’s cells in good clean water helps support your liver (important to reduce acid reflux), your metabolism, your digestive system and even the cells of your brain. Be sure to drink plenty of fresh clean water between meals throughout the day too. Well-hydrated cells provide you an opportunity to be healthy in both mind and body.
2. Encourage Beneficial Bacteria – We often think that bacteria are bad, but your body must have beneficial bacteria to work properly. The human body has 100 trillion of these microorganisms in the intestines and this is good! Unfortunately, stress and taking antibiotics and other medications can damage the beneficial bacteria. This can lead to digestive problems, an imbalanced immune system, and even obesity and depression.
So, how do we encourage a nice balance of beneficial bacteria? You have already learned to start you day with a glass of water and then have a second glass with lemon or lime. Instead of lemon or lime, try a splash of raw unfermented apple cider vinegar. To really speed up your digestive flow, drink some water with the “mother” in it. It is the visible bacteria from the natural fermentation process. It is wonderful for both rejuvenating your liver and gallbladder and populating your gut with good bacteria.
You can buy this raw apple cider vinegar at any health food store or online, and it is wonderful to cook with. I make my favorite oil and vinegar salad dressing with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, three tablespoons of olive or flax oil and one half teaspoon of sea salt. People always rave about my salads when I use this dressing. You may add other herbs and spices to this simple mixture too to make it even tastier.
Other ways to access a supply a beneficial bacteria is through other healthy fermented foods. I highly suggest you consider trying vegetables that are naturally fermented with sea salt, apple cider vinegar or even with just herbs and spices. You may want to get some from a local health food store and try different brands until you find one you like. I am very partial to BAO Food and Drink’s raw fermented products, which are available online and are slowly coming to the Whole Foods Market scene. Also try fermented drinks at the health food store that contain kombucha or apple cider vinegar. I am not a fan of dairy such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, yogurt or kefir as these often cause people digestive issues. You may want to consider trying one of the non-dairy yogurts, but please be careful with the sugar as this may backfire on your goal to achieve healthy digestion.
Miso is another wonderful fermented food to aid in healthy digestion. Miso is a fermented soybean product that is sold as a paste that you can dissolve in vegetable soups to make a miso soup or to use as a seasoning for other dishes. Try my favorite miso soup recipe in my book, “Fabulous Recipes for Vibrant Health”.
And finally, taking a probiotic supplement is a good insurance policy for getting beneficial bacteria in your system to support your health. I recommend using Healthforce Nutritionals Friendly Force.
3. Only eat when you are calm and stress free – Eating right after or during a family argument or an issue with your boss or co-worker is NOT good for your digestive system. Stress depletes your stomach acids which are very important to support the process of breaking down the food so that you can assimilate the nutrients. If you are upset about something, please wait until you calm down before trying to eat.
4. Chew well and slowly – Avoid eating in the car or in a hurry. Take the time to breath deeply, relax, give thanks, and savor every bite of wonderful delicious food. The digestive process begins in your mouth. My mother used to say, “Chew your food because your stomach does not have teeth!” This gives your body more time to absorb and assimilate nutrients leaving you more fulfilled and satisfied. By chewing slowly, your brain will have more time to receive that message from your stomach signaling that it is full, which actually take 20 minutes to travel from the time you start eating! By doing this, it is less likely you will feel a need to overeat.
5. Avoid foods that upset the digestive system – This may be different for each person, but there are some basic things to try to avoid and see if things improve. Processed packaged foods that are filled with extremely unhealthy ingredients such as hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives and processed vegetable oils are the first culprits. Moving to more real whole foods is a huge step in the right direction. Then, to improve things even further, consider moving away from wheat (and all gluten) and dairy (including casein which is milk protein and found in many processed foods). Processed non-organic soy foods and corn (which is so hybridized today) are also common triggers for tummy problems. Try eliminating one or more of these for a few weeks and see if your health improves.
6. Eat a diet rich with high fiber low fat plant foods – Fiber only comes from plant foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds) and we know that fiber keeps our system running smoothly, even resolving constipation. I have also known many clients to resolve chronic diarrhea once they begin to incorporate more fiber from whole plant foods into their diet. Plant fiber also provides prebiotics that help feed the friendly bacteria that we now know is so important for our health.
Plant foods, raw or uncooked, also are believed to contain enzymes that may assist in the digestive process. Try to include something fresh, like a salad, with your meal to help you digest. If you do find yourself feeling bloated or having gas, consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement. Again, I suggest taking Healthforce Nutritionals Digestive Enhancement Enzymes. It is very helpful to take these while you are eating a meal that you feel may cause you discomfort, but they can be taken after too once bloating begins and should help resolve things within a few minutes.
A diet filled with low-fat plant foods also supports the health of the liver. A healthy liver and gallbladder will enable healthy digestion and will help to avoid or eliminate issues with acid reflux and GERD. Bringing a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your diet and your health is sure to improve.
7. Include foods from the list of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet to help prevent and reverse inflammatory bowel diseases. Some of these foods include green leafy vegetables, flax seed, chia seed, walnuts, turmeric and ginger. Be sure to see my full article on anti-inflammatory foods for good health on our website. These can be added to your “food as medicine” list to help resolve very serious digestive disorders.
So, take it from me, someone who suffered greatly from digestive concerns and who has discovered ways to live symptom free with no medication. Healthy digestion is the key to overall health and wellbeing. It is time for you now to follow these simple tips for living the healthiest and happiest life possible.
“Natural Way to Health” by Dr. David Brownstein, April 2012 Vol 5, Issue 4.
“The Body Ecology Diet” by Donna Gates