Thursday, 17 October 2013

Four Ways To Improve Your Digestion

We have often heard the mantra "You Are What You Eat" but in actual fact "You Are What You Absorb".
This means that we can be eating the best food but we may not be actually absorbing all the nutrients we need. 

Various things can impact on our digestion; stress, gut dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalances), low enzyme levels, food allergies or gut permeability. 

Many people may not even be aware that they have poor digestion, but they may be experiencing unexplained symptoms. 

Symptoms of Poor Digestion

  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Acne
  • Candida
  • Acid Reflux
  • Eczema, Psoriasis
  • Food Allergies
  • B12 Deficiency 
If you regularly experience 3 or more of the symptoms above, chances are you are not digesting your food correctly. 

What Can I Do About It? 
 Good digestive health is crucial to overall health and immunity. Not only does proper digestion mean you are absorbing and utilizing the most from your food, it also means you are eliminating toxins properly through frequent excretion. 

Luckily there are a few things you can do to solve these issues.

1. Chew Properly
Digestion begins in the mouth with adequate chewing. Do not underestimate the importance of proper chewing - an enzyme known as amylase is released in the mouth which begins the breakdown and digestion of carbohydrate foods (this is why carbohydrate rich foods get sweeter as you chew, the enzyme has begun to break apart its molecules). Poorly chewed or larger particles are more difficult for your body to work on further along the digestive tract and can inhibit nutrients being absorbed. If you often see undigested food in your stool you may need to focus more on this important stage. Chew your food thoroughly until the food is almost liquefied and slow down! 

2. Remove The Bad
This involves removing all the toxins which may be causing stress to the GI tract. Food itself may be the toxin so eliminating the most likely culprits wheat, dairy, sugar and soy (which a Paleo diet already does!) allows the body to break from inflammatory responses. A healthy gut can block 98% of food antigens from entering circulation, but a compromised gut lining allows these to enter causing an immune response. This can lead to the symptoms illustrated above. 
Focusing on organic meats and vegetables also decreases the toxin burden and allows the gut to heal. 

3. Replace the Good
This involves replacing enzymes and bacteria required for proper digestion. 
A number of different enzymes have been used in replacement therapies but a common one is hydrochloric acid (HcL). What most people do not realise is that LOW stomach acid and not HIGH stomach acid is associated with many of the reflux and heartburn symptoms many experience. It is particularly prevalent in those over 60 as the amount produced naturally falls in older age. Low acid can lead to poor nutrient absorption such as B12, iron and calcium. HcL can be bought in tablet form from your health store. Acidic environment can also be improved by taking apple cider vinegar 1/2 hour before meals. 
"Good bacteria" is also necessary for proper balance of bacteria in the gut. Bad diet, stress, antibiotics, medications such as the OCP and alcohol can also disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut. Too many "bad" bacteria can lead to a build up of toxins including exotoxins which can disrupt immunity. Adding probiotic foods such as sauerkraut (find out how to make here) or taking a probiotic supplement can help to repopulate the good guys, rebalancing the gut flora and improving bacteria. 

4. Increase Fibre
The end of product of digestion is, as we all know, excretion. We should be emptying our bowels 1-2 times a day, stool should be well formed (like a banana), smooth and light brown. It should neither sink nor swim and should be light brown in colour. Now I know many do not like to speak about their stool but it tells us alot about our digestive health so it should be respected! A good digestive system is removing harmful toxins which might otherwise contribute to health issues such as cancers. 
How so we help things along? If you are already taking the probiotic mentioned above, you are well on the way. However, fibre is an important tool in moving them movements along! Include nuts and seeds to our diet such as linseeds, which can be taken last thing at night with water. It forms a gel like substance which aids the movement of the stool more easily. 

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