The foundation of good health starts with a healthy, happy digestive system. The gut is where many of the most important processes happen in the body such as eliminating toxins, absorbingnutrients, filtering out viruses and bacteria, and supporting the immune system. When our gut is in optimal shape, our body tends to be healthier overall. Below are five areas everyone can address in order to help improve their gut function. However, keep in mind that each of us has an individual picture of health. That’s why it is always a good idea to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about your own digestive wellness.
Probiotics are beneficial strains of bacteria that occur naturally in the body. They help break down food, aid in digestion, make some nutrients more bio-available, and combat the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. The use of pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and chronic stress all compromise health levels of beneficial bacteria, making it harder for them to do their job. Many of us need daily supplementation with a high quality probiotic. Naturopathic Doctors are experts in knowing what brands, strains and doses are appropriate for individuals. It is important to maintain the quality of your supplement by keeping it refrigerated. Also, help feed good bacteria with soluble fiber and fermented foods.
One thing to eliminate from your diet to immediately improve your gut health are foods to which you have allergies and sensitivities. Food sensitivities are not as obvious as food that you have an anaphylactic reaction too — such as hives, inflammation, difficulty breathing or rashes. That deals with a different part of the immune system. Food sensitivities are foods that you might eat on a regular basis that your body has developed a chronic low-grade intolerance for. If the problem is left untreated, your body can become over-reactive to many kinds of foods, even some you don’t eat regularly. Your Naturopathic Doctor can test you for food sensitivities so that you can eliminate them from your diet.
One of the most critical parts of a healthy gut is good elimination. Naturopathic Doctors can tell quite a bit about your overall state of health by the number of bowel movements you have a day as well as the quality. Soluble and insoluble fiber will help with elimination, as does movement in the form of exercise and stretching. It is important to have the right balance in your transit time between when you eat and when you have a bowel movement. If you are constipated, it means that toxins and body waste are sitting in your intestines. You run the risk of reabsorbing some of the toxins. If your transit time is too quick, your body doesn’t have time to absorb the nutrition from your food.
An important aspect to elimination and a healthy gut is proper hydration. We need water to flush toxins, absorb nutrients through osmosis, and help the body from becoming constipated. Make sure to include clean sources of water in your daily routine. Staying hydrated throughout the day is more beneficial to your body than hydrating with several glasses of water all at once. While flavored beverages can be appealing, added sugars, caffeine, dyes, and other chemicals can negate any positive effects. Water is necessary in and of itself, so make sure to get enough pure, clean water in your diet as necessary.
Our gut is often thought of as our emotional center. We get butterflies in our stomach, or nausea with stage fright, or we may have a gut feeling. In truth, chronic stress, anger and anxiety can have a negative impact on our gut health. It is important to be mindful of the amount of chronic stress you have in your life. Conscious breath, or taking deep refreshing breaths several times during the day can help release any stored up tension in your gut. If you find yourself storing stress, try taking a walk outside, phone a friend, or listen to music that soothes you.
- Gaby, A. (2011). Nutritional medicine. Concord, N.H: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
- Murray, M. T. (1997). Chronic candidiasis: Your natural guide to healing with diet, vitamins, minerals, herbs, exercise, and other natural methods. Rocklin, CA: Prima Health.