Several hours after you’ve swallowed that delicious first bite from your breakfast meal, the process of digestion has already started helping you get the most essential nutrients from your food. Your gastrointestinal tract, around 30 feet of prime digestive real estate, has the important function of breaking down food to absorb carbohydrates, proteins and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals, necessary for you to survive. However, your digestive system may not always function seamlessly.
Is digestive health important for overall wellness?
In fact, approximately 60 percent of adults suffer from gastrointestinal diseases and often experience symptoms such as gas, bloating and constipation. While an occasional abdominal discomfort might appear normal to most people, it could signal the beginning of a much bigger digestive health issue and you may find that it can be quite a relief to know that you can take action to feel your best. Listed below are five digestion health tips everyone can put into practice to achieve optimal gut wellness.
Understanding the Gut’s Microbiome
One hundred trillion of your body’s greatest allies, bacteria found throughout various areas of the gastrointestinal tract, make up what’s referred to as the microbiome. Researchers believe that digestive health can provide an insight into the well-being of the entire human body and there’s evidence that both the type and amount of bacteria growing on your gut can affect other functions as well, from your immunity to even your mood. The good kinds of bacteria, commonly known as probiotics, also need to eat in order to survive and help control the growth of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are the essential “food” for probiotics. There’s been many discussions regarding those probiotics found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi, but it should be understood how vital it is to nourish these probiotics with prebiotics. Some prebiotic foods include raw asparagus, cooked onions, bananas and kiwifruit, among others.
Understanding How to Maximize Digestion
When it comes to achieving optimal digestive health, fiber can promote that sought after, comfortable digestion. The best sources of fiber include plant foods. In addition to enjoying those deliciously, colorful fruits and vegetables, make sure to fill up on whole grain foods to get enough fiber. The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines recommends making half your plate fruits and vegetables and half of all your grains, whole grains. The United Nations called 2016 the International Year of Pulses, yet another name for beans and lentils, which are also rich in fiber. Some foods have compounds known as proteases which help break down protein, easing digestion when eating a hearty meal with meat. For instance, pineapple has a protease called bromelain, kiwifruit contains actinidin and papaya has papain. Another essential that can help maximize digestion which many people overlook is the simple principle of slowing down when you’re eating to make digestion easier. Taking time to properly chew your food is one of the smartest tricks anyone can do in order to optimize digestion.
Understanding How to Get the Gut Back on Track
Many of you may well know that sensation when your digestion is thrown out of whack and “things” get backed up a little. Although you may not have constipation, one can experience bloating and discomfort. In order to get your gut back on its regular track, you should maximize three things: water, exercise, and fiber. When that alone isn’t enough, many men and women can turn to fiber supplements such as psyllium and other bulking agents. Preliminary evidence from a study in New Zealand demonstrated that eating two green kiwifruit a day eases constipation as effectively as fiber supplements. Kiwifruit is an excellent source of fiber, like many fruits, but research affirms that kiwifruit fibers have a higher capacity of holding water, helping in laxation in the colon. Research studies are now underway in Italy and Japan to add to the understanding of kiwifruit as a natural remedy for relieving constipation. It’s a pretty exciting notion that using whole foods over supplements can be all that’s needed to get your digestive health back on track.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disease estimated to affect 1 in 10 people. In the last few years, those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, have found digestive relief following a low FODMAP eating strategy. Certain carbohydrate foods, many of which can be nourishing fruits, vegetables and beans, are saturated in FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols, and may not be absorbed by people with sensitive intestines. Subsequently, these can create gas and other uncomfortable symptoms in the colon when bacteria ferment them, triggering irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. To ease IBS symptoms, the FODMAP foods must be removed from the individual’s diet and then later reintroduced in tolerable amounts. Talk to your gastroenterologist or a registered dietitian specializing in the low FODMAP protocol in case you have IBS and are considering trying this diet to improve your digestive health.
Understanding the Link Between the Brain and the GI Tract
You may also have already heard that stress can ultimately affect your digestive health. When some people feel stressed and anxious, their gastrointestinal tract often goes into hyperdrive. Nevertheless, the link between the brain and the GI tract is more than just that. More than 60 percent of our immune cells call the digestive system home. The gut has its own nervous system as well, frequently referred to as “the second mind,” containing more than a million nerve cells. Additionally, around 95 percent of people with IBS also struggle with depression or other mood disorders.
The concept that the gut microbiome can influence mood has become one of the most interesting areas of research today. Studies have revealed that the gut synthesizes significant levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps calm and relax the body. Adequate vitamin C is required for the gut to turn tryptophan into serotonin.
Scientists are analyzing how modifications to our eating patterns may contribute to an improved and diverse microbial community. Those studying kiwifruit have supplied evidence that consuming two kiwifruit per day (200 mg per day of vitamin C) was associated with optimal blood levels of vitamin C to benefit immune function and well-being. One study demonstrated a 35 percent decrease in mood disbalances based on self-reported perception of an improved mood once the participants consumed kiwifruit. While many different foods, such as oranges and strawberries, can provide vitamin C, SunGold kiwifruit is a particularly rich source of the nutrient.
Now that you’ve understood how to manage and maintain your digestive health better, you can start to make lifestyle changes that can help you support it. The good news is these changes can be simple, delicious and beneficial to your overall wellness. Whether you begin to eat more slowly, build a balanced plate to get more fiber, be sure to consume probiotics and prebiotics, get sufficient water, exercise, or do a bit of each of the tips mentioned above, you’ll feel the difference with better digestive health. Keep your eyes open for further evidence of what creates a healthy gut microbiome, because we’re just digging into the knowledge base of beneficial bacteria. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Wellness
Overall health and wellness are essential towards maintaining the proper mental and physical balance in the body. From eating a balanced nutrition as well as exercising and participating in physical activities, to sleeping a healthy amount of time on a regular basis, following the best health and wellness tips can ultimately help maintain overall well-being. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way towards helping people become healthy.