Do you often experience digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, cramping, irregular bowel movements, lower abdominal pressure and stomach gargling? If so, this is your body telling you that you need to give your digestive system a little TLC. Don’t worry! It’s not as hard as you think. With a few simple and easy diet and lifestyle changes you can get your digestion back on track.
To understand the importance of having and maintaining a healthy digestive system, let’s first discuss the simple question, what exactly does it do? The digestive system is made up of many organs such as the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small and large intestines/colon. These organs work together to properly break down the food we consume so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients into our bloodstream and leave behind waste to be excreted. Having a healthy digestive tract is vital for health, especially in terms of proper and efficient nutrient absorption that gives us the energy we need (3). Let’s discuss some of the ways we can improve and support our digestion.
Adequate fiber intake
Consuming enough fiber in your diet is essential for a fit digestive tract. Fiber keeps the digestive tract moving smoothly by facilitating the elimination of waste. Not eating enough fiber can lead to bloating, cramping and abdominal pressure as your body doesn’t have the right means to properly eliminate the excess waste (3). So what type of foods should you be consuming that are packed with digestion loving fiber? The answer is simple - pretty much all plant-based foods are sources of fiber! To name a few:
2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain 10 grams of fiber
1/2 cup of oatmeal (dry) contains 4.5 grams of fiber
1 Banana (medium) provides you with about 3 grams of fiber
1 cup of chickpeas contains around 12.5 grams of fiber
1 cup of carrots gives you about 4 grams of fiber
…. Etc. etc. You get the picture.
Plant-based foods are packed with fiber and have heaps of other benefits for as they provide essential vitamins and minerals and provide the body with clean energy. The daily recommendation for fiber in an adult male’s diet is 38g (3) and an adult female’s diet should contain 25g (3). Feel free to consume more fiber than the suggested amount and watch your digestive track transform.
Taking a daily probiotic will nourish your digestive track with beneficial bacteria that your intestines need. Probiotics help restore the guts natural flora which is vital for a healthy and efficient digestive system. Many factors such as sickness, stress, poor diet, age and antibiotic use can disturb the guts microflora make-up (2). An improper balance of bacteria in the digestive tract can lead to poor nutrient absorption, gas, bloating, constipation and pretty much any unpleasant gut related distress. Aside from taking a daily probiotic pill, some food choices that contain probiotic cultures are miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. Consuming these foods weekly, as well as taking a good probiotic capsule, will help rebuild your gut’s flora and do wonders for your intestinal health.
Prebiotics are foods that help with the growth of good bacteria in your intestines. So, in addition to taking or eating daily probiotics, you should also consider consuming prebiotic food sources regularly. Prebiotics go through the digestive tract undigested and are fermented in the large intestine/ colon providing a great source of fiber. Good gut bacteria feed off the prebiotic allowing for its growth (1). Bananas, sweet potatoes, garlic (raw), onions, cocoa and asparagus are all great prebiotic sources.
Drink Your Water!
Water plays a big role in the elimination of waste and the breakdown of food by working with fiber to bind waste particle together. Consensus differs among experts, but a great gauge to stay hydrated is avoid being thirsty. Aside from drinking water, you can reach your water intake goal by eating foods that have a high water content. Some of these foods include tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, pineapple, celery and cucumbers.
And there you have it! Getting your digestive system back on track is not all that difficult if you are nourishing your body with a healthy diet. One thing you may have noticed is that each tip mentioned for good digestion contains plant-based foods. If you are currently experiencing digestive distress or upset, transitioning towards a plant-based diet may be just want your body needs to help get back in the groove.
Christina Kobzar loves all things that are wellness, nutrition and fitness. Being a former athlete, she understands the importance of nourishing the body inside and out. Christina firmly believes that a healthy mind, body and soul is the key to living a happy and wholesome life. She holds an HBA and is currently pursuing a diploma in Nutrition and Health Promotion. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and passion for nutrition and health with anyone who asks.
1. Brandt, L. A. (2001, September). Prebiotics Enhance Gut Health. Prepared Foods, 170(9), SN7. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.humber.ca/apps/doc/A78576180/AONE?u=humber&sid=AONE&xid=a53436ce
2. Fuhrman, E. (2011, March). Digestion aids expand beyond regularity: probiotics, fiber keep people's guts balanced. Beverage Industry, 102(3), 50+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.humber.ca/apps/doc/A251088480/AONE?u=humber&sid=AONE&xid=57824bf1
3. Sizer, F. S., Piche, L. A., & Whitney, E. N. (2018). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies. Toronto, Ontario: Nelson Education