You are what you eat. But to be completely truthful, you are what you digest and absorb. Digestive health is the foundation for obtaining optimal health. What you eat becomes part of every living cell and takes part in every biological function in your body; therefore how your digestive tract absorbs the nutrients you eat, dictates how healthy you are.
Digestive issues can be disruptive and cause significant health issues and discomfort. Waking up to stomachaches, pains, and cramps that intermittently jab you throughout the day can be irritating, cause discomfort, and create inflammation that can severely impact the quality of your life. Controlling the factors that invariably affect your digestive system can help provide sustained relief and optimize your health. You can have the best diet possible, but if your body can’t adequately absorb the nutrients you eat, then your health will suffer. Before we get into how you can improve your digestive system, we need to understand what the digestive system is and what it entails.
How The Digestive System Works
Your digestive system is comprised of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), the liver, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs that stretch from the mouth to the anus, which include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and the anus. When you eat food it passes through the digestive system and the hollow organs of the digestive tract.1
One of the most important aspects of your digestive health is the bacteria found in the GI tract called the gut flora or the microbiome. The GI tract is colonized by nearly 3 million gut microbiota that help with digesting the food you eat, absorbing the nutrients and vitamins your body can utilize, and boosting your immune system health. Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Genome Institute of Singapore recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that gut flora have a significant impact on brain development and subsequent adult behavior.2
How To Naturally Improve Your Digestive Health
Improving your digestion health will ultimately and dramatically improve your health and well-being overall. Here are some natural ways to improve your digestive health and optimize your nutrient uptake to power your active lifestyle.
Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria we need in our gut to make a bountiful gut flora. Eating fermented foods such as Kimchi, kefir, miso, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and yogurt will help build your body’s reserve of healthy bacteria to absorb the vital nutrients you need. Building your healthy gut flora will improve your digestive health and your immune system.
Supplement With A High-Quality Probiotic
One of the easiest ways to obtain the healthy microbiota that build the foundation of your digestive health is to supplement with a high-quality probiotic supplement. Most probiotic supplements will contain an abundance of healthy bacteria. If you find it hard to incorporate fermented foods at least once a day in your diet, then supplementation is a great way to deliver the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs for optimal function.
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Exercise Regularly & Move More
Without regular movement and exercise your body is restricted of the oxygen, blood flow, and energy that courses through your body to function properly, which translates into slow, stagnant digestive function. But don’t just move; find a fitness program that challenges you. That you’ll stick with and incorporate into your every day, or weekly routine. We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Well, it’s true. Use it! Otherwise your digestive health will suffer.
Remove Inflammatory Foods
One way to naturally improve your digestive health is by by removing inflammatory foods, which will help your digestive tract absorb vital nutrients and boost your immune system. Foods high in sugar can create micronutrient deficiencies and chronic inflammation as excess glucose is expelled into the blood stream, releasing increased levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokitones. Other foods that cause chronic digestive inflammation also include but are not limited to Fried foods, Vegetable oil, Processed meats, Gluten, Trans fats, Alcohol. Try to limit these types of foods and replace them with whole grains, healthy fats, and lean grass-fed proteins. 8
Include more Prebiotics
Prebiotics are foods classified as a non-digestible fiber. Since they cannot be digested and broken down by the stomachs gastric acid or digestive enzymes, they make there way through the small intestine. After they reach the colon, they are fermented by the gut flora, which provides fuel for good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics play a fundamental role in preserving good health by maintaining balance and diversity of intestinal bacteria and increasing the number of good bacteria, called Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Supplement With L-Glutamine
L-Glutamine is the most abundant conditionally essential amino acid in the human body. Conditionally essential meaning the body can synthesize them under certain conditions. Glutamine is a vital nutrient for aiding in the process of rapidly dividing cells from the immune system and gut to rebuild and repair. 9 L-Glutamine is also proven to help fight intestinal inflammation and help those with food sensitivities.
Among the various tissues using glutamine at high rates, the intestine utilizes about 30% of total glutamine indicating that it is a key nutrient for the intestine (10) L-Glutamine is a very helpful treatment for digestive health as well as leaky gut, since it helps strengthen the cells that line your intestines.
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Digestion is the foundation of your health. If your body does not sufficiently break down the foods you eat, you won’t receive the nutrients that are fundamental to your health. Get the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.
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- “The Digestive System & How it Works.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Sept. 2013, niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works.
- Martone, R. “The Neuroscience of the Gut.” Scientific American, April 19th, 2011. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-neuroscience-of-gut/
- Diaz heijtz R, Wang S, Anuar F, et al. Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011;108(7):3047-52.
- Thursby, Elizabeth, and Nathalie Juge. “Introduction to the Human Gut Microbiota.” Biochemical Journal11 (2017): 1823–1836. PMC. Web. 1 Jan. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433529/
- Selhub, Eva M, Alan C Logan, and Alison C Bested. “Fermented Foods, Microbiota, and Mental Health: Ancient Practice Meets Nutritional Psychiatry.” Journal of Physiological Anthropology1 (2014): 2. PMC. Web. 1 Jan. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904694/
- Hemarajata, Peera, and James Versalovic. “Effects of Probiotics on Gut Microbiota: Mechanisms of Intestinal Immunomodulation and Neuromodulation.” Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology1 (2013): 39–51. PMC. Web. 1 Jan. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/
- Verna, Elizabeth C., and Susan Lucak. “Use of Probiotics in Gastrointestinal Disorders: What to Recommend?” Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology5 (2010): 307–319. PMC. Web. 1 Jan. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002586/
- Wu Y, Wu T, Wu J, et al. Chronic inflammation exacerbates glucose metabolism disorders in C57BL/6J mice fed with high-fat diet. J Endocrinol. 2013;219(3):195-204.
- Van der hulst RR, Von meyenfeldt MF, Soeters PB. Glutamine: an essential amino acid for the gut. Nutrition. 1996;12(11-12 Suppl):S78-81.
- Kim, Min-Hyun, and Hyeyoung Kim. “The Roles of Glutamine in the Intestine and Its Implication in Intestinal Diseases.” Ed. Marica Bakovic. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 18.5 (2017): 1051. PMC. Web. 5 July 2018.