Easy Steps to Promote a Healthy Digestive System

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM


Healthy Digestive System and a lifestyleA healthy digestive system ensures a healthy life. Your body requires energy to function and survive. Food acts as a source of energy but your body cannot directly absorb nutrients from the food you eat. In the digestion process, your digestive system converts the food into simpler forms for easy absorption. The digestive system comprises of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, along with organs that aid digestion such as the pancreas, liver and gall bladder. Your body contains hosts of good bacteria which are extremely healthy for your body and immunity system. Over 80 percent of these good bacteria are present in your gut alone. Therefore, a healthy gut is the key to a healthy life.

Digestion And Nutrient Absorption

Digestion starts from the mouth when you start chewing your food. The enzymes in your saliva combine with bits of food and start breaking the carbohydrates in food to sugar. The bits of food reach your stomach where digestive enzymes are released for digestion of proteins. Your stomach then sends the partially digested food to the small intestine. Bile salts and pancreatic enzymes are released here for proper digestion of the food and nutrient absorption.

The small intestine is an important part of your gut as it completely digests food and absorbs the vital nutrients needed for your body. After the food is properly digested in the small intestine, the semi-permeable intestinal barrier absorbs nutrients from the digested food. The nutrients from the small intestine are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to every cell in your body. The remaining food reaches the large intestine for further absorption of nutrients and water. Finally, the leftover solid waste is excreted from your body.

Maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential as it converts food into easily absorbable nutrients that your body needs to function properly. Neglecting your digestive health can cause a problem to your body in nutrient absorption. When your body does not receive the required nutrition, it can lead to several health problems.

Digestive problems can be painful, inconvenient and sometimes embarrassing. Some common digestive problems include constipation, nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You may also end up feeling stressed out and fatigued.

There are several ways to maintain smooth functioning of your digestive system. However, real foods are the best medicine to ensure a healthy digestive system. Following a healthy lifestyle, making few adjustments in your eating habits and exercising every day can noticeably enhance your digestive health.

Best Steps To Ensure A Healthy Digestive System

Here are some great tips that can help boost your digestive health:

Make Sure to Include Probiotics

Healthy Digestive System and probioticsProbiotics are good bacteria. There is a world of healthy bacteria living in your body and a major portion of them is found in your gut. These healthy bacteria help in healthy hormonal secretion, digestion, nutrient absorption, boosting immunity, repairing damaged tissues, and managing a healthy body weight and appetite. Including probiotics everyday to your diet promotes a healthy gut and strengthens the immune system. Fermented and cultured foods such as kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha are rich in probiotics. Look for the products that contain ‘live cultures’. Consider making your own yogurt or kefir at home as store bought versions are loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Get Your Daily Dose of Prebiotics

While there has been a huge demand for probiotics owing to their immense health benefits, prebiotics often goes unnoticed. Prebiotics are basically non-digestible food that supports the growth of good bacteria or probiotics in your gut. Dietary insoluble fibers are sources of prebiotics. The good bacteria present in your gut helps in maintaining your digestive health. They grow by feeding on prebiotics. Thus having a healthy dose of prebiotics is essential for a healthy gut.
But your body requires both soluble and insoluble fibers for a good digestive health. This means soluble fibers from vegetables, lentils, fruits, and nut as well as insoluble fibers from wheat, whole grains, corn bran, and seeds. Make sure you include both the form of fibers in your diet for a healthier gut.

Gorge on Veggies and Fruits

Fresh, whole foods are being replaced with packaged foods which hardly have any nutritional value. Moreover, processed foods contain artificial additives, MSG, and sweeteners which can have a detrimental effect on your gut and health. What you eat is a major factor that determines the health of your digestive system. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is great for your digestive system as well as overall health. Include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet as they are all loaded with several nutrients, antioxidants, and fibers. The edible skin of certain fruits and vegetables are rich in insoluble fibers. Next time make sure to eat apples and sweet potatoes with their skin on to reap the full benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soft fruits such as avocados, bananas, and watermelons are easy on your digestive system. However, those with AFS should avoid certain fruits such as oranges, bananas, and grapefruits as they can cause sodium-potassium imbalance. This can worsen symptoms of AFS. Fruits should be avoided for breakfast as they are high in sugar. Consider eating whole fruits and avoid packaged fruit juices.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, and kale are very high in fiber. They require more energy for digestion and thus may lead to stomach discomfort and bloating. Consider to sauté or steam these vegetables before eating them to ease digestion. Taking a healthy amount of fiber can help in adrenal fatigue. However, be careful not to include excess fiber in your diet as your digestive system requires more energy to digest fiber. This can exert strain on your body which can increase adrenal exhaustion. Make sure to drink adequate amounts of water to prevent constipation. Also, if you have symptoms of estrogen dominance, such as PMS or heavy menstrual flow, refrain from excessive cruciferous vegetables.

Stay Hydrated

Healthy Digestive System and hydrationOne thing that is vital for great health is drinking adequate amounts of water. When we say water, we are referring to pure drinking water and not flavored drinks. There are people who include fiber and probiotics to their diet but do not drink adequate amounts of water. Drinking water one hour before and after meals help for better digestion. Water plays a crucial role in digestion by helping to digest food, absorb nutrients and circulate the nutrients in your body.

Drinking less water can lead to a host of health problems including constipation. In addition to low water intake, constipation can also occur due to a low fiber diet, inactivity, and pregnancy. Constipation strains the entire body and can be very uncomfortable especially if you have AFS because the body is weak and is not in the position to take much strain. To keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, it is recommended to drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in water content such as watermelons, cucumbers, pineapples, and tomatoes.

Identify Food Sensitivities

What you eat has a direct impact on your digestive system. Hence it is vital to identify foods that cause a digestive disorder. Gluten sensitivity has been on the rise. Foods such as dairy products, simple and refined carbohydrates, peanuts and corn can trigger inflammation in some people. Hence it is important to identify trigger foods that cause inflammation and avoid them to keep your gut healthy. Antibiotics, poor diet, alcohol and nicotine can disturb the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut which can affect your immune system and trigger inflammation. Chronic inflammation and AFS are closely inter-related. Adjusting your diet will reduce inflammation, maintain good digestive health and help in adrenal fatigue recovery.

Manage Stress

When it comes to digestive health, psychological and physical health is often overlooked. When under stress, you tend to get inclined to comfort foods which are bad for your gut health. Studies show that stress can affect the growth of good bacteria in your gut thus affecting digestion. Chronic stress can cause loss of appetite, indigestion, and constipation.

Stress affects your immune health and digestive system. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is the natural stress fighting mechanism in your body. It is comprised of various systems in your body including the digestive system and six circuits. When under stress, the NEM Stress Response signals your adrenal glands to secrete the anti-stress hormone called cortisol.

However, continuous stress can exert more pressure on your adrenals to secrete more cortisol. With time, your adrenal glands get overburdened. Your body’s stress fighting ability is impaired. Therefore, in order to fight stress, your body enters into a fight-or-flight state for survival. During this phase, your body also secretes adrenaline which works with cortisol to produce immediate energy. To conserve maximum energy, the other systems in your body including the digestive system start to slow down, which leads to loss of appetite and worsened adrenal fatigue. Hence it is vital to manage stress for a healthy digestive system. Yoga and adrenal breathing exercises are effective stress management tools that help fight stress.

Digestive Health and Adrenal Fatigue

A Healthy Digestive System and adrenal fatigueFrequently experiencing fatigue along with symptoms such as brain fog, insomnia, low energy levels, anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, constipation, stubborn weight gain and loss of appetite can be due to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Here is how digestive health and adrenal fatigue are interrelated:

Those with a weak digestive system may experience fatigue. In poor digestion, the food you eat does not break into absorbable nutrients. Further, nutrient absorption also starts to decrease. As a result, your body does not receive the required amount of nutrition, which can leave you feeling fatigued.

People with adrenal fatigue are stressed out and tend to have a weak digestion. Stress can impede the secretion of your digestive hormones thus affecting the digestive system. In the initial stage of adrenal fatigue, your body’s energy is low. In order to conserve maximum energy, the various systems in your body including the digestive system start to slow down. The body becomes weak making it difficult to excrete waste. As digestion starts slowing down, the transit time of food in your gut increases. This results in accumulation of waste material internally thus causing inflammation and toxicity. The internal toxin buildup can cause several health problems including leaky gut which can further aggravate AFS.

Poor digestive health can impede your adrenal fatigue recovery. If you have AFS, maintaining a healthy digestive system is pertinent for a smooth and successful adrenal fatigue recovery process. It is significant to first deal with the problem in your gut. Taking probiotics can help improve the gut flora and normalize bowel movements. As your gut health improves, your body will start getting relief from adrenal fatigue.

Conclusion

Healthy digestive system plays a vital role in maintaining your overall health. Your body contains good bacteria and a large portion of it is present in the gut. Therefore, a good gut health ensures stronger immunity. Healthy digestion helps in nutrient absorption, elimination of build-up toxins, managing a healthy weight and strengthening the immunity system.

People with adrenal fatigue often suffer from decreased appetite, low energy levels, constipation and stubborn weight gain. A weak digestive system can slow down your adrenal fatigue recovery. Following a nutritious diet plan and healthy lifestyle, along with regular exercise and good sleep all contribute to maintaining a healthy gut. Taking probiotics can greatly help in improving the health of your digestive system.

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

A healthy digestive system is essential for overall health. Poor digestion can lead to several health problems including weak immune system, constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, leaky gut syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders.


Healthy Digestive System