The digestive system is one of the most sensitive organ systems. Everyday aspects of life such as, stress, diet and illness are just a few examples of what can weaken the body’s ability to digest food. Although a weakened digestive system can cause harm to our quality of life do not be too alarmed, digestive health can be reversed through a series of steps.
Signs of poor digestion
Foods to Avoid
In theory the body should be able to digest all types of food however, changes in the way food has been processed over the years has caused some difficulties.
Saturated fats and fried foods
Of course these foods are not ideal for optimal health in general so it should be of no surprise that same applies for digestive health as well. These foods upset the stomach causing heart burn and acid reflux. Foods high in saturated fat have a tendency to also worsen irritable bowel syndrome, a digestive condition many North Americans suffer from.
As many people age they begin to develop an intolerance to lactose. The severity of intolerance can vary person to person and is not always easily identified. Lactose Intolerance occurs when the body does not produce enough lactase, which is used to break down lactose found in dairy products. Side effects of consuming dairy with a Lactose Intolerance are diarrhea, cramping, bloating and gas. Overtime, the intestinal lining can be damaged if harm is repeatedly brought upon it.
Alcohol consumption can inflame the stomach lining causing the absorption of vital nutrients to be impaired.
Yes, unfortunately beloved chocolate can weaken digestion. The problem is not the cocoa itself but rather the ingredients found in chocolate (milk, eggs and caffeine).
Carbonated beverages and caffeine
Beverages with carbonation or caffeine over-relax the muscles of the esophagus causing stomach acid to spill out of the stomach and into the esophagus. Overtime this acid causes permanent damage and thinning of the esophagus lining.
Foods to Consume
Contrary to what is stated above, yogurt is a great source of healthy bacteria necessary to restore good gut health. If you are certain you are not lactose intolerant, it is safe to incorporate yogurt into your diet. However, not all yogurt contains this bacteria so be sure to read the label before purchasing. This label should read something along the lines of “contains live and active cultures”.
Aside from fruits and veggies, whole grains are an excellent source of fibre.
One thing to remember about ginger is to consume this spice in moderate amounts. High quantities of ginger can actually have the opposite desired result. Ginger has been used for centuries in all cultures as a means to reduce nausea, vomiting and gas.
Although this fruit remains high in carbohydrates, bananas can be used to restore a normal bowel function as they are high in potassium and a natural source of electrolytes. During a period of diarrhea, potassium and electrolyte levels are lost so it is very important to replenish these amounts once normal bowel function has been restored.
Increase Fibre Intake
Adequate fibre consumption has been proven to improve digestion. Sources of fibre should come from primarily natural products such as, fruits and vegetables. On average, a person should strive to consume approximately 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Fibre helps to alleviate constipation and increase frequency of regular bowel movements.
Colonics and Digestion
Except for those who suffer from the contraindications of colonics, all could benefit from taking part in colonics. Colon hydrotherapy used purified water which circulates through the entire 5-6ft of the colon as a means to loosen and gently remove old fecal matter. Doing a full cleanse allows the body to detoxify itself allowing toxins from not just the colon to be eliminated but the liver and other cells as well. The number of necessary sessions for a full cleanse can vary from person to person, but on average is about 3 or 4. Once the colon is cleansed entirely it is important to keep up with monthly routine maintained for optimal digestive health. Constipation, bloating, and gas are just a few of the many unwanted symptoms of poor digestion relived through regular colonic sessions.
Probiotics are microorganisms which help to restore the “good” gut flora to promote improved digestion. Small quantities of probiotics are naturally found in foods such as, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso and tempeh. To ensure a sufficient amount of these healthy microorganisms are consumed daily it is recommended individuals add good quality probiotic supplements to their daily health regime. How do you know what to look for in a quality supplement? To put it simply the probiotic should be comprised of at least 10 different strains of bacteria and 50 billion active or live cultures.
When beginning a probiotic supplement many tend to develop more gas and bloating than normal in the first few days. Generally, these symptoms are mild and will subside after 2-3 days on their own. The reasoning is due to similar properties found in dairy products which is why if someone is lactose intolerant they should avoid typical probiotics. To help keep the unwanted side effects away it is recommended to refrain from consuming gas forming foods and dairy products for the first few days.
Posted by Meaghan Lafranca, M.