Posted on Oct 09, 2020, 3 p.m.
Almost everyone knows that gas, constipation, diarrhea and stomach are signs that your digestive system is experiencing issues. Not many are aware that low energy and brittle hair can also be a sign of issues, or that certain foods can either make this worse or better.
Following a healthy diet is important to maintaining a healthy digestive system; eating the good kind of foods can help to improve digestion while eating badly can leave you feeling down in the dumps. It is true that what, when, how much, and the way you eat can affect the way you feel.
“If you don’t digest your food properly, your cells don’t get what they need to function optimally,” says Liz Lipski, Ph.D., a clinical dietitian and author. “Two-thirds of the immune system is in the digestive tract,” Lipski says. “There are more neurotransmitters in the GI than in the brain and more nerve endings than in the spine,” she adds.
Science is showing that the more red meat one eats the higher the risk is for colorectal cancer due to it often being high in saturated fats which according to studies is linked to cancer of the small intestine. When eating red meat it is recommended to choose lean cuts and eat in moderation to avoid excess intake.
All those lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages and other processed meats are just loaded with saturated fat, sodium and nitrates; processed meats have been shown to be linked with colon cancer which may be due to being cooked at high temperatures which can increase carcinogens.
Hydrogenated oils are another no-no for your tummy as trans fats are created when liquid oils are hydrogenated which allows them to become solid at room temperature and last longer on the shelf. But your tummy pays the price for this because trans fats are hard to digest and have been linked to many health problems. The US FDA is pushing for food companies to phase out trans fats.
10-20% of Americans have food sensitivities which can really mess with the tummy causing gas, cramping, bloating, heartburn, indigestion and other GI symptoms. Around 18 million Americans are estimated to have gluten sensitivity which is about 6 times the amount that have celiac disease. Lactose is another potential cause for tummy troubles, this intolerance is estimated to affect some 30-50 million Americans according to the NIH.
When it comes to your gut, dietary fibre is your friend, it helps to keep things moving through your digestive system and leaving as well. Without fibre, your colon could become full of toxins, hormones and other substances that can build up which would be absorbed by the body. Without regular bowel movements, the body will retain wastes that the body has finished with. Diets rich in fibre will help to protect against certain forms of cancer while helping to keep blood sugar levels in check. Legumes, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fibre.
Intestinal flora is made up of trillions of bacteria that aid in digestion and help to promote immunity and health. Pre and probiotics are the good bacteria that help to support a healthy community in the digestive system. Yogurt is perhaps the most common source of probiotic foods to help calm digestive complaints because it contains live cultures of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, that help lactose digestion. Prebiotics are basically food for probiotics to help them thrive while driving down the bad bacteria. Lentils are a great source of both fibre and prebiotics but it can also be found in onions, garlic, leeks, legumes, bananas, asparagus and much more.
Quinoa is one of the best of the bests, this gluten-free grain is a great source of fibre and it is also a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids along with many minerals. Quinoa is fairly versatile cooking like rice, and will add a unique texture to salads, casseroles, soups, smoothies and much more.
Fermented foods are great for giving your GI tract a little break because fermenting/culturing makes food more digestible and it helps the absorption of the other nutrients in the food. Kefir, miso, tempeh, tamari, soy sauce, pickles and sauerkraut are good examples, so is sourdough which is becoming a rather popular choice.
Perhaps the most important but most overlooked essential of all is water. We can’t live without water, we can’t digest without water either. We are, after all, to use a quote from Star Trek, “Ugly giant bags of mostly water!” Make sure that you are drinking enough water, especially on hot days, when you are exercising or not feeling well to keep everything running smoothly and promote optimal health.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement