Most people at some point in time have experienced mild to moderate digestive issues, usually occurring in the form of indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. In some cases these symptoms cease to be transient issues and become an uncomfortable part of everyday life. Why? Generally a combination of factors including poor diet, environmental toxins, inflammation, lack of exercise, stress, food intolerances/allergies and autoimmune conditions.
Good health starts in the gut
Ever heard the saying “The gut is the seat of health’? Our digestive tract is the main site of digestion/absorption of all nutrients the human body requires for survival.Observing the digestive system from this angle helps us to understand how important a well-functioning, efficient, healthy gut is to the wellbeing of the rest of the body. Many people find that by improving their gut health, suddenly they start to sleep better, have more energy, less pain, better motivation and stronger immunity.
5 steps to improve your gut health
I’d thought I’d share with you my 5 core treatments for improving gut health. They certainly don’t have to be completed in order, but I do recommend you do all of them to ensure the best possible result, and (as always), make sure you consult your qualified natural medicine practitioner to ensure this treatment is right for you.
Supercharge your diet
I can’t stress enough how important fresh foods are to support a well functioning digestive system. Poor diet = poor gut health. You can’t get around it. Eating processed, high carb/low fibre foods and loads of sugar is going to kill off good gut bacteria and attack gut integrity. Eating well doesn’t have to be difficult, and in many cases fresh food is easier to prepare and more accessible.For example, an easy-to-prepare brekkie could consist of a boiled egg, carrot/celery sticks and some hummus. High protein & fibre, packed full of nutrients…perfect!
2. Apple cider vinegar
This is an old but tried and tested digestive remedy. It increases production of gastric juices, improves gastrointestinal motility and nutrient absorption. I usually recommend a tablespoon in around 200ml of water first thing in the morning. All apple cider vinegar is not created equal, so make sure you purchase vinegar that contains ‘mother’, a combination of amino acids and good bacteria that is fantastic for supporting gut health.
No blog post on gut heath would be complete without discussing probiotics! I highly recommend that you do your research on this one, and your local natural medicine practitioner is your best port of call. You can also check out my recent blog post on probiotics here. Depending on your overall health, there may be certain strains that are more suited to your specific condition, but a good broad spectrum (practitioner only) probiotic will cover off most things. Good bacteria help to keep the digestive system in balance, as well as supporting immunity and reducing inflammation throughout the body. Prebiotics in the form of fibre also support the health of bacterial colonies in the gut, as well as improving bowel movement regularity/consistency and helping to draw toxins out of the body.
4. How healthy is your liver?
Of course, the stomach and intestines are not the only parts of the the digestive system that require regular attention. The liver and pancreas assist digestion by producing bile and digestive enzymes. Gall bladder sludge and stones can frequently upset both, and this is where herbs come in. Natural remedies such as St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke, Gentian and Dandelion improve liver function and stimulate digestion. These same herbs are often used to aid constipation and abdominal bloating. You can also add culinary herbs to your meals – Rosemary, Parsley, Fennel and Turmeric are great digestive aids and widely available.
5. Support your digestive system with nutritional supplementation.
Obviously, we should be getting as much nutrition as we can from food but this can sometimes be challenging. When there is moderate to severe disruption of gut integrity and/or function it’s generally a good idea to supplement with essential nutrients that are required for repair and basic function. Glutamine, vitamin A, C and zinc reduce inflammation in the bowel while at the same time repairing tight junctions between cells. Slippery Elm powder is widely available and is both soothing and healing for gut lining and conditions like constipation or abdominal bloating. Psyllium husk provides bulk to improve gut motility and is very useful if fibre intake is low, or stools have become loose.
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