One of the general truths revealed from naturopathic medicine is this: “death begins in the colon”. As alarming as that may sound, it emphasizes the fact that an unhealthy gut is a reflection of someone’s overall health. At a recent conference of leading physicians and nutritionists, the take away message to all practitioners was this: when in doubt, treat the gut! It’s easy to take for granted our digestive system’s amazing capacity to metabolize unhealthy, processed foods, but it’s time to start taking seriously what we eat – after all, we are what we digest and absorb! Here are some diet & lifestyle tips that may help improve your digestive system:
Chew Well – Digestion begins in the mouth when you start chewing your food. When you take the time to properly chew high fiber foods, it not only slows down the eating process, but it also stimulates the flow of saliva that contains important salivary enzymes such as amylase, which is essential for breaking down and metabolizing carbohydrates.
Sit Down – Instead of eating on the run or in between appointments, try to sit down at a table and enjoy your food. This will help you to relax and may help to improve digestion. Remember, a desk is not a table, so if possible, take your lunch away from your office desk and enjoy your food at a leisurely pace.
Snack – Try to eat small nutritious snacks throughout the day to avoid overeating unhealthy food when famished. Usually, when we’re starving, our bodies crave foods that are high in sugar content, so consuming healthy snacks throughout the day will help you from falling into that afternoon donut trap.
Probiotics – Unhealthy diets and overuse of antibiotics can lead to unbalanced levels of natural probiotics. Fermented foods that are rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut or supplementing your diet with good quality probiotics may help to restore the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Digestive Enzymes – In a normal day, we consume a combination of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. In order to properly metabolize these macronutrients, we rely heavily on digestive enzymes. Although your body naturally produces the enzymes it needs, supplementing with a digestive enzyme blend that contains amylase, lipase and protease may provide added support for your digestion and metabolism.
Glutamine – This is a key amino acid that is not only essential for a healthy gut but may also help control those late night unhealthy food cravings.
Licorice – This nutrient has long been used to treat gastric ulcers and may be helpful in supporting digestive health and healthy levels of inflammation.
(1)Hanaway, Patrick. 2016. When in Doubt, start with the Gut…Microbiome. AIHM Annual Conference Slides.
(2) Heber, David. 2007. Physicians Reference Desk for Herbal Medicines 4th Edition. Thomson, Montvale, NJ. 522-523.
(3) Wartian Smith, P. 2008. What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Square One Publishers, Garden City Park, NY. 30-31.
(4) Whitney, E, Rady Rolfes, S. 2005. Understanding Nutrition. Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, CA. 111.