1. Reach Out to Fiber
What you put in your mouths directly affects your body, especially your gut. Therefore, it is important to be conscious of what foods you choose to eat each day. Eating a diet rich in whole foods provides the body with essential vitamins and nutrients, promoting a balanced digestive system.
Start by making fiber part of every meal. Fiber helps slow down digestion and absorption so that glucose doesn’t enter your bloodstream too quickly, spiking blood sugar levels. It also keeps everything moving smoothly in your intestines, helping to pass stools more regularly and comfortably. Without fiber, we experience gas, bloating, constipation, and general abdominal discomfort.
Try eating foods rich in fiber to avoid these uncomfortable symptoms. These foods include whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat, fruits like berries, mangoes, and bananas, legumes like lentils and splits peas, nuts like almonds and pistachios, and vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, and yuccas.
2. Incorporate Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms found naturally in the gut that are essential to basic digestive functions. Your natural gut flora is a careful balance of millions of microorganisms that make sure you are able to digestive your food properly, absorb nutrients efficiently, and prevent harmful invasive bacteria from taking over.
Without a healthy gut flora, you would be extremely ill. Some conditions are known to damage or wipe out your natural flora, and certain medications (especially antibiotics) can also do the same making your digestive system work poorly. And that is why you sometimes need probiotics to help maintain or repair your damaged gut flora.
Probiotics can be found in a host of foods and through dietary supplements. Some common foods include Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, micro algae, Brewer's yeast, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. There are also dietary supplements specifically designed for restoring probiotics.
3. Manage Your Stress
Stress, both acute and chronic, can cause your digestion system to function improperly. When stressed, your nervous system redirects the flow of blood away from the digestive system affecting the contractions of your digestive muscles, decreases secretions needed for digestion, and increases the acidity of your stomach, which all leads to symptoms like sudden diarrhea, gas and bloating, acid reflux and heartburn, and in some cases vomiting. This is why some people during high stress situations have the sudden urge to use the restroom or vomit.
While results from severe acute stress may be more apparent, low grade chronic stress can also be extremely harmful in the long term. A slow build up and continuation of any of the symptoms listed above is greatly detrimental to your health beyond just the symptoms themselves. Long term diarrhea can lead to chronic dehydration, inability to properly absorb nutrients, and severe conditions like IBS or IBD. Long term acid reflux and heartburn can erode the esophageal lining and cause ulcers. If left unchecked, both acute and chronic stress can cause many extremely undesirable conditions in the digestive system.
However, there are things you can do to help alleviate and reduce your stress. Try incorporating these into your daily routine can greatly help: meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, journaling, and moderate exercise. Additional methods such as using aromatherapy, taking herbal supplements, and drinking lavender and chamomile herbal teas can also help reduce stress.
4. Make Water Your B.F.F.
There is nothing better for your digestive system and overall health than drinking enough water; and only water. When your body has lost 1% to 2% of its entire water content, it triggers you to feel thirsty. However, most people don't realize that being as little as 1% dehydrated can negatively affect your mood, attention, memory, and motor coordination. Water is vital in helping break down the food you eat so that your digestive system can absorb the nutrients. It also helps to soften your stool making it easier to pass and maintain regularity.
The type of beverage we choose to drink is also very important. Plain water is simply the best drink for you compared to any other beverage (tea, coffee, sports drink, energy drink, alcohol, etc.). The simple rule of thumb is, when thirsty drink water and only water. Sugary drinks are obviously bad for your health, but sugar free or non-sugary drinks can be just as bad because many beverages will actually dehydrate you more in the long run because they are a diuretic, meaning they increase the secretion of liquids from the body. These drinks mostly include caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
If you find it hard to drink enough water or drink only water, try these tips. Set alarms and reminders to drink water. Make sure to have a large bottle of water with you at all times, convenience is key. If you want flavor in your water, try adding fresh fruit and veggies such as lemons, cucumbers, or mint leaves.
5. Part Ways with Saturated Fats
Not only are fatty and friend foods enemies to your waistline, they are also hard on your digestive system. These heavy foods cause your digestion to slow down and are very taxing on your gastrointestinal system. When your digestive system slows down symptoms like acid reflux, heartburn, and constipation can happen. The simplest way to combat these symptoms as a result of saturated fats is to cut them out of your diet or greatly reduce them.
Try reaching for lean meats and replace saturated fats like butter and animal fats with plant based oils. Meats like fish, chicken, and turkey have less saturated fats, and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil also have less saturated fats compared to their counterparts.
It is important to remember that you don't have to be perfect when it comes to your diet, just make sure to make an effort and try your best. If you slip up or find yourself reverting back to old habits, don't beat yourself up or give up! Remember to take it one day at a time and focus on your end goal: better digestive health leading to better overall health.
Need more help healing your digestive system? Ask your acupuncturist about how acupuncture can help treat digestive disorders. While most doctors are stumped and frustrated by chronic digestive disorders, acupuncturists have a great understanding of how to treat these problems from a holistic perspective taking your whole health into account. Don't just fix your digestive system, improve your overall health.