Digestive Health – 5 Top Tips from our Natural Medicines Pharmacist
Our digestive system is integral to our overall health, but often we take it for granted until it starts to play up and give us symptoms that something is not quite right. And in our fast paced world of quick fixes and time pressures, it is all too frequently becoming a problem area for people.
Today’s blog post will be focusing on 5 simple tips that you can incorporate into your daily life to improve your digestive health.
Tip number 1
Time your water intake – We all know drinking enough water is essential for good health. In fact it is one of the first things I assess with clients is how much and when they are drinking their water. However, most people don’t realise that timing when you drink your water can impact on your digestion. When we eat, our body secretes digestive substances to help us break down our food, so that we can absorb the nutrients. If we are trying to catch up on our water intake at meal times, we end up diluting the digestive secretions and making them less effective at breaking down the food into absorbable size particles. Instead, try drinking water at least 30 minutes to an hour before meals as your body can quickly uptake the water and be ready for your meal time.
Tip number 2
Have a relaxed eating environment – The way in which we eat our food is almost as important as our food choices. I am also guilty of this most basic eating mistake – rushing! Too often we eat on the run, either standing up or in our cars, which is great if you’re late for work, but it doesn’t provide a good foundation for healthy digestive processes. When our bodies are in ‘stress mode’ such as when we’re rushing to work, it is similar to us running away from danger. In this state, the body puts digestion on the back-burner, and what we end up with, is digestive upset. This can cause symptoms like reflux, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea to name a few. So turn off the TV, get some chairs around the dining table and return to the age old tradition of family dinners and make time to eat.
Tip number 3
Chew your food – Again, it seems so basic to focus on this, but digestion begins in the mouth. Your saliva contains enzymes that breakdown carbohydrates and chewing is the first way that food is broken into small enough pieces for chemical digestion further on. If we don’t chew properly, food will sit in the stomach longer and large pieces of food will make it further down the digestive tract, contributing to bloating and gas production as our gut bacteria feeds on the food we haven’t absorbed. Remember, if you take the time to chew, the better you will poo!
Tip number 4
Choose anti-inflammatory foods – Choose foods that are predominantly wholefoods as this will reduce how many chemicals and hidden nasties you are consuming. This means cooking from scratch, however if you are busy, it doesn’t have to mean complicated and insta-ready fancy meals. It could be as simple as a fresh salad with some steamed fish. Or a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit for a snack, rather than a packaged item. Try to include lots of different colours and types of fruits and vegetables to get all your vitamins and minerals. Avoid sugary foods and highly processed foods as these can contribute to inflammation in the body, including the digestive tract.
One of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so highly regarded as health promoting, is that it contains many anti-inflammatory properties, including the use of a large amount of garden herbs and spices. Including cinnamon, turmeric, onions, dill and rosemary, among other herbs in your cooking, can provide good anti-inflammatory support to the digestive tract. For a sweet treat, try stewed apples with cinnamon and dates, as the apples are very soothing to the digestive tract.
Tip number 5
Increase fibre intake – Fibre is nature’s prebiotic. So if you want a healthy digestive system full of beneficial bacteria, then fibre is the key. Generally in the west, we don’t consume nearly enough fibre for a healthy digestive tract, which can create all kinds of problems. Fibre is great at slowing the uptake of sugary carbohydrates to keep you full for longer and can help reduce cholesterol levels. In addition, fibre can add bulk to the stools for those prone to diarrhoea, and increase regularity for those prone to constipation. Just keep in mind to increase fibre intake slowly to avoid any tummy aches and pains.
If you find benefit from this and would like to know more, please visit our Digestive Wellness page for more information on how our 6 week digestive program may benefit you.
Please keep in mind that this is general information only and that you should seek medical advice for your individual situation.
Natural Medicines Pharmacist