There has been a shift in awareness not only amongst mainstream health circles, but in our own language and understanding surrounding ‘gut health’. We are beginning to recognise and fully connect the dots between our gut health and the health of our entire person. Healthy digestion is critical for the body and its essential daily functions. What’s more, it directly boosts our energy levels, positive outlook, mental clarity and sleep quality.
More specifically, it is believed that every system in the body is interconnected. Your digestive and hormonal systems, for example, aren’t independent of one another. When your gut is unhealthy, it can cause more than just stomach pain, bloating, or gas. As the centre of our immune system is located in our gut, digestive imbalances have been linked to hormonal issues, IBS, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, anxiety, depression, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, eczema and other chronic health ailments.
Unfortunately, as a rule, when it comes to fuelling our bodies most of us are governed by our taste buds, rather than considering how and what we eat affects our digestive and gut health. Think of your gastrointestinal tract as a complex, delicate inner ecosystem that requires nurture and care to function in balance. Here are a few tips to keep you and your gut healthy and happy…
1. The first step is painfully obvious, but, clean up your diet. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar. When possible choose fresh, high quality or organic foods.
2. Experiment with including a healthy mix of raw and cooked foods into your meals – raw foods contain their own digestive enzymes, which are especially important when your body is unbalanced or healing.
3. Eat mindfully. Are you truly hungry? Or are you simply thirsty or tired? Overeating can cause the digestive system to become overworked and lethargic.
4. Exercise regularly. Regular movement and exercise helps keep foods moving through your body, flushing the digestive system. This aids in reducing constipation and inflammation.
5. Chew, chew and chew some more. This one can be hard to put into practice, though chewing thoroughly and not gulping our food is key to successful digestive function. Digestion starts in the mouth as the enzymes in saliva not only help break down food, they also attack bacteria.
6. Eat in routine. Consuming your daily meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in tiptop form. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner around the same time each day.
7. We’ve all heard it before, but fizzy drinks, coffee and alcohol aren’t great for the body. They dehydrate digestive systems, leaving bodily functions sluggish and unproductive at best. Opt for filtered water, calming herbal teas and probiotic liquids to provide adequate hydration and energy.
8. Aim for the 80/20 guideline. Try to fill your plate with 80% fresh, colourful, tummy-happy vegetables. Furthermore, aim to use this guide within your overall diet: eat healthy whole foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to relax a little in the 20%.