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Natural Approaches to Improving Digestive Health Digestion, an essential part of our well-being, is an activity our body must endure daily. This complex process may seem out of our reach in terms of control. However, there are many things that we can do to keep our digestive system healthy and regular. The following list includes natural and easy approaches to improving your digestive health.
- Drink More Water: Divide your weight by 2 and that should equal the total ounces of water you drink each day. Water helps break down foods, carry nutrients to the body, and remove wastes from the body. Click here for more information on hydration.
- Exercise Your Gastrointestinal Tract - Eat More Fiber: While doctors recommend 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day, people with irritable bowl syndrome may find benefit in eating more than 30 grams of fiber per day. Fiber prevents diarrhea by absorbing water, as well as preventing constipation by inducing the large intestine to quickly void waste. This helps condition the muscles of the intestinal tract, therefore causing them to work normally. Click here for more information on fiber.
- Eat Good Fats vs. Bad Fats: Good fats such as flaxseed and salmon provide essential fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation caused by excess acids. Click here for more information on the types of fats you should eat.
- Eat Protein at Every Meal: Protein helps digestive juices in the stomach to activate. Click here for the protein content of common foods.
- Identify Food Allergies/Intolerance: Identifying and removing or reducing foods that you are sensitive too is critical for controlling digestive health. Click here for more information on food allergies and intolerance.
- Try Fermented Foods: Fermented foods use probiotic bacteria as a natural reserve, these same bacteria help the body digest foods. Therefore, this is a natural way to incorporate these healthy bacteria into your diet. Some types of fermented foods you could try include:
- Raw Sauerkraut
- Kefir: similar to a drinking-style yogurt. Learn more about Kefir
- Miso: a soy paste that contains enzymes that aid digestion More on Miso
- Tempah: made by fermentation of cooked soybeans and Rhizopus mold, with similar flavor to mushrooms. More on Tempah
- Kimchi: a spicy condiment made of a fermented cabbage dish with a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices. More on Kimchi
- Try Apple Cider Vinegar on Your Salad: The acidic nature of the vinegar helps the digestive system break down fats. Furthermore, it is a mere 2 calories per tablespoon with no fat or sodium. More on Apple Cider Vinegar
- Try Raw Vegetable Juices: Bored with eating your raw, steamed, or cooked vegetables? Incorporating raw vegetable juices into your diet not only creates a new way for you eat your vegetables but also helps your digestive system because of vegetable’s high fiber content. Many books are available on good mixes, types of juicers, and nutritional content of different juice mixes.
- Include Probiotics In Your Diet: It may seem shocking to think that you would want to take bacteria. However, studies have recently shown that probiotics, a type of good bacteria, may provide health benefits - especially for your digestive system. This helpful bacterium inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria and increases resistance to infection. Studies have shown that probiotics can be used to treat diarrhea, gastroenteritis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the intestines), improve the immune system, and improve lactose digestion. Studies have also shown that probiotics can reduce infant allergies, thus indicating that probiotics may possibly be used in food allergy treatments. Probiotics have even shown a reducing effect on cancerous tumor growths. However, it is important to keep in mind that our body’s inner workings are a delicate part of nature that may never completely be understood, and the potential long term effects of probiotics are still unknown. Probiotics are available in live cultures like yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and other dairy products as well as in capsule and pill form. Visit these websites for more information:
- Stonyfield Yogurt contains 6 active cultures, which provides a wide array of beneficial bacteria.
- ConsumerLabs gives a product review of some of the probiotic supplements available.
- Take a High-Quality Multi-Vitamin: Don’t forget to take your multi-vitamin! For information on what to look for when choosing a multi-vitamin, click here.
- Consider Taking Digestive Enzymes: Although the body is equipped with some enzymes, many of the enzymes we use to digest food occur naturally in the food itself. However, foods natural enzymes are destroyed when they are processed in order to prolong shelf-life. The result is that processed foods are harder for our bodies to digest. Digestive enzyme supplements can be taken to assist these digestive processes. However, you should talk to your health care provider to see if these may be right for you. They should not be taken if you have gastric ulcers, gastritis, or persistent abdominal pain.
- Consider Taking Herbal Bitters: Herbal bitters activate the bitter taste receptors on the tongue which stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. This can be helpful in activating your body’s natural digestive enzymes. However, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Some common bitters include, barberry, chamomile, dandelion, golden seal, horehound, southernwood, tansy, wormwood, and yarrow. – click here for more information on how to use bitters