An often-overlooked element of overall wellness is healthy digestion. Approximately 70% of our immune system is located beneath the surface of our gut lining which means that much of the chronic illness and inflammation people experience is linked to the state of their digestion. Digestion refers to the breaking down of food in the digestive tract, into substances that can be absorbed and used by the body. Ultimate Performance personal trainer Matthew Leeb shares simple and natural strategies to improve digestion and overall wellbeing.
The health of your digestion is evaluated based on the frequency of bowel movements and the consistency of stool. Any irregularities in digestion means you’re not absorbing the nutrients from your food or detoxifying optimally. Regularly poor digestion may also be the symptom of an underlying food intolerance or your body’s response to stress. Here are some simple and natural strategies to improve your digestion and overall well being.
Manage stress and avoid eating in a state of anxiety
Your brain and gut are linked, so what affects your brain may also impact your digestion. Chronic stress or trauma regularly manifests itself in digestive symptoms. Therefore, strategies such as regular exercise, yoga, prayer, and meditation are great ways to improve not only your mindset but also your digestion. Similarly, when eating in a rushed or anxious state our bodies shift blood away from the digestive system and into extremities which leads to inefficient digestion or discomfort. Before a meal, take one to five minutes to focus on breathing and calm your heart rate in order to put your body into a parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” state.
Chew your food thoroughly and eat mindfully
Many common digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, and gas can be resolved by becoming more mindful during meals. Digestion begins in the mouth where your teeth and saliva help to break down food into more manageable pieces. When you chew your food longer you allow your body to more easily absorb what you ingest. Furthermore, chewing your food longer is an element of mindful eating or the practice of paying attention to all aspects of your food and savoring your meal. Eating mindfully makes you more in tune to hunger and fullness cues which may help reduce digestive symptoms from overeating.
Maintain a healthy diet
The typical western diet is high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and food additives, which may cause inflammation and an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. To alleviate digestive issues, consume a diet based around whole foods and reduce the intake of processed foods wherever possible. If symptoms such as bloating, loose stool or constipation persists, an elimination diet may be an option to find out which food is causing the problem. Start by structuring a diet composed of easily digestible whole foods. After establishing a baseline of normal digestion, attempt to introduce one food at a time and notice how your body responds. The entire process may last several weeks but it is a necessary way to identify food intolerances.
Reduce bad habits
Lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking in excess, and eating late at night may be responsible for common digestive symptoms. According to a 2004 study, smoking nearly doubles the risk of acid reflux. Similarly, alcohol can increase acid production in the stomach and may lead to heartburn, acid reflux, and stomach ulcers. Simply reducing or avoiding these will help to relieve the gut. Try to reduce or avoid late-night eating to give your body time to digest and help the food process through your digestive system. Try to eat three to four hours before bed to avoid or reduce indigestion.
Support digestive tract health through supplementation and fiber consumption
A healthy and regular digestion system depends on gut flora and the excretion of waste. Firstly, nutrients that cultivate and promote a healthy gut include probiotics and glutamine. Probiotics provide beneficial bacteria and can be ingested via fermented foods or in capsule form. Glutamine is an amino acid that supports intestinal integrity and can be found in meats, eggs, beans, and almonds or supplemented in powder form. Lastly, adequate daily fiber will serve to add bulk to stools and help waste move through the digestive tract. It is recommended that males consume 30-40g and females consume 20-25g of fiber daily.
For more information on meeting your weight and fitness goals or to learn more about Ultimate Performance, check out upfitness.com.hk.