A healthy digestive system is key to optimal health. In order for us to benefit from the nutrients from the food we eat, our gut has to be in tip top shape. If you are experiencing gas, bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn, diarrhea and/or constipation, it may be time to talk with a Naturopath about fine tuning your digestive health.
Here are 10 Naturopath approved tips to help improve your digestive health.
1. Healthy Balanced Diet
Having a healthy diet that is full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help to improve your digestive function. These foods are nutrient dense and are high in fibre, which helps keep your gut happy. Avoiding processed foods, sugary foods, transfats and fried foods as often as possible will also help to improve your digestive health by reducing inflammation.
2. Sit Down for Meals
When it's time to eat, take that time to sit down and relax your body. This will help your body's nervous system shift into parasympathetic mode - thus, helping the body digest the food you are consuming and divert blood to your digestive tract so that nutrients are absorbed.
3. Kill Off 'Bad' Bacteria
If you are experiencing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria. An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth), or an imbalance of bacteria in the large intestine might be to blame. A Naturopath will be able to help you determine whether or not this is an issue, by ordering specialized lab work that consists of breath testing and stool testing. Once a gut bacteria imbalance is diagnosed your Naturopath will recommend antimicrobial herbs, or gentle antibiotics to help kill off the 'bad' bacteria.
4. Remove Food Intolerances, Allergies & Sensitivities
Feeling bloated? Have skin issues? You might be reacting to a food that you are eating. A Naturopath will be able to order food sensitivity and allergy testing, or guide you through an elimination and challenge diet to help you determine what food(s) you are reacting to.
5. Consider Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, yogurt and kefir are all foods that have been fermented and your gut will love you for eating them! The process of fermenting breaks the food down making it easier for you to digest, preserves the food, and enhances the flavours. It also produces beneficial bacteria (ie. probiotics) that are incredibly important for gut health!
6. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are known as 'good' or 'healthy' bacteria that are very beneficial for your overall health and digestive system. Your digestive system is full of 'good' bacteria that help digest your food, produce important vitamins (ie. vitamin K), outcompete 'bad' bacteria, and help support your immune system.
7. Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics act as food for your 'good' bacteria in your gut. Without prebiotic foods, probiotics won't flourish. Prebiotic foods are foods that are high in non digestible fibre. However, not all non digestible fibre sources are prebiotics. The best known sources of prebiotics are Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, asparagus, banana, and leeks. For most people, these foods are incredibly beneficial. However, for those with known IBS stemming from SIBO, these foods can make your symptoms worse.
8. Repair Your Gut
Your intestinal lining can become damaged from chronic exposure to food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies, diets high in sugar and processed foods, as well as imbalances in your gut microflora (ie. gut bacteria). To repair your gut lining your Naturopath may recommend supplements like L-glutamine (amino acid), probiotics, and omega 3.
9. Try Gut Soothing Herbs
If you suffer from heartburn, gastritis or indigestion, gut soothing (ie. demulcent) herbs may be beneficial. Common gut soothing herbs that a Naturopath may recommend are deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), slippery elm, and marshmallow root. Digestive enzymes can also be helpful in these cases.
Exercising regularly and staying active for at least 30 minutes/day three days a week is beneficial for your overall health, but also your digestion. Regular exercise reduces stress, and helps promote peristalsis of the intestines (ie. movement of food throughout the intestines) - these are both crucial factors in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
At Juniper Family Health, our Naturopathic Doctors will listen carefully to your concerns, perform an abdominal exam, and suggest laboratory testing if needed, in order to discover the root cause of any digestive symptoms you may be having. To book an appointment with a Naturopath at Juniper Family Health click here.