When your digestive system is off, your health can suffer in all sorts of ways. This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn or gas. You may also experience food allergies, weight gain, skin problems and more. If unaddressed, these symptoms can easily manifest into more chronic health conditions such as adrenal burnout, thyroid conditions, motility issues, depression and more. Here is a list of what helps me support my own digestive system and manage my symptoms naturally.
Swap refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta for complex carbs like fresh fruit and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also high in fibre, which acts as a prebiotic in your digestive system and promotes healthy gut function. Make sure the majority of your meals comprise vegetables, salads and fresh whole fruits.
Swap store-bought sauces for fermented, probiotic-rich foods
Use fermented foods such as cultured yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir and include them regularly as part of your meal plan. Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. The gut contains around 2 - 3 kg of bacteria, around 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the body. If the balance of bacteria is off, you'll get sick more often and it can also be a precursor to more serious diseases. With the right amount of good bacteria, you will build your immune system, your body will absorb the nutrients from food better and it will help with gut motility.
Swap sugar for bitter foods
Sugar feeds bad bacteria in the gut, causing an imbalance. The sweet stuff might be a party for your taste buds, but your tummy won't be celebrating. Stimulate your digestive system by introducing bitter foods that incite the digestive juices and cleanse the liver. Lemon juice in water, for example, helps stimulate the production of bile, which acts like a natural laxative, and increases stomach acid, helping you to break down food more effectively. Limes, grapefruit, dandelion, bitter greens and ginger are also fantastic to include daily in your diet.
Swap processed foods for whole foods
Avoid foods that contain additives and chemicals and anything loaded with preservatives, flavour enhancers (like MSG), artificial sweeteners, refined wheat, gluten, soy, bulking agents, gums and thickeners. This rules out such items as store bought biscuits, cakes, crackers, processed cereal and meats. Whole foods are alive with all of nature's enzymes, protein, vitamins and minerals - prepare food yourself, because then you know what's in it. People often think they have to be gourmet chefs in the kitchen, but the simplest meals often taste the best and can enhance health. There is nothing better than enjoying a bowl of fresh steamed vegetables with a drizzle of cold pressed olive oil and a little sea salt. If there's one thing you need to do for your health ..... it should be to get back in the kitchen and cook.
Avoid inflammatory foods
Inflammatory foods include refined wheat, refined sugar, alcohol and coffee, all of which can can aggravate and bloat your digestive system. If you love a morning caffeine hit, swap coffee for a matcha green tea that is loaded with antioxidants and is alkaline to your digestive system. Make a green juice or smoothie or a wheatgrass shot a daily habit. Greens are rich in chlorophyll, that help alkalise the body and work as a natural anti-inflammatory. Chlorophyll will also helps to nourish the digestive system and supports the elimination of waste.
Move (and do it often)
Doctors agree that exercise helps prevent early ageing and diseases like diabetes, dementia and obesity. Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow, and stimulates the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. The aim is to do at least 30 minutes every day. Make a commitment to regular exercise and you will really start to see some happiness in your belly.
Meditate (10 minutes a day)
The benefits of meditation are immense! Even a few minutes each day can elicit profound effects in your mental wellbeing. Regular meditation has been shown to improve mental clarity, concentration, minimise stress levels (reduce cortisol), stabilise moods, lower blood pressure, reduce pain intensity and improve sleep patterns. Chronic stress is very common in our busy lives and can play a direct role in digestive dysfunction and disease. Regular meditation not only provides you with a regular space to still your mind and breath, but it will do wonders for your digestive system as well.