A healthy digestive system is vital for the overall health of the body as that is the place where the nutrients are extracted from the foods in order to be distributed throughout the body. This is also one of the first areas of the body where disease begins. Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, heartburn and obesity are all signs of a poor digestive system. If left untreated, those conditions will eventually cause problems in other areas of the body.
The digestive tract is the primary home for the immune system, which is responsible for warding off harmful diseases, such as cancer and HIV. It is also responsible for helping to prevent the common cold, allergies, asthma and many other common conditions and diseases.
When the digestive system is in order, the immune system is strengthened, energy levels are increased and the risks of many diseases of the mind and body are reduced. Therefore, it is essential to take the necessary steps and improve digestion in order to enjoy a disease-free life. Following are some tips to help you get started on the right path.
What to Eat
Probiotics and Fermented Foods. Good bacteria is necessary in order for the digestive system to efficiently break down all the nutrients. This bacteria can be obtained from probiotic supplements and fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, apple cider vinegar and yogurt. In addition to breaking down the food, the good bacteria also helps to destroy bad bacteria and helps restore a healthy environment within the digestive tract. If the bad bacteria is allowed to flourish it will not only result in digestive problems, but other health problems as well.
High Fiber Foods. Fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds are excellent sources of fiber. Fiber is essential for good digestion as it helps to eliminate waste from the digestive tract. This helps to ensure that the new food coming in can move through the system smoothly and efficiently. A clean digestive tract also helps to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients.
Eat Raw Foods. Although it is not necessary to consume raw foods 100% of the time, they nevertheless should be a main part of your diet. Unlike cooked foods, raw foods contain living enzymes that help with the digestion of food. The stomach does not produce these enzymes, which means that if there are no enzymes in the food then the real enzymatic digestion cannot begin until the food enters the small intestine. When the enzymes are present in the food the digestion can begin when the food is still in the stomach. This then speeds up the rate at which the nutrients can be absorbed into the body as well as the rate at which the body can eliminate the waste.
Another benefit of enzymes is that they can help to eliminate bloating and gas that may often occur, especially after a large meal.
In addition to raw foods, you can also get enzyme supplements, however, they are not as effective as the real thing from fresh plant-based foods.
Eat Organic. It is not always possible, but eating organic foods will help you to avoid harmful pesticides and other chemicals that are used on conventionally grown produce. These chemicals make it difficult on the digestive system as they are foreign to the body.
Another benefit of organic produce is that it contains much higher concentrations of nutrients than conventionally grown produce. As a result, you don’t need to consume as much in order to obtain your nutrients.
Avoid or Reduce Animal Proteins. Animal proteins, such as meat, dairy and eggs, do contain valuable nutrients for good health. At the same time, however, animal proteins take a long time to digest and thus can dramatically slow down the digestive system. For someone who is healthy, these proteins generally do not pose a problem when consumed in moderation; but in a compromised system they can contribute to many health problems.
Avoid Unnatural Foods. Unnatural foods, such as hydrogenated oils, fast foods, boxed and canned foods, and foods that are genetically modified or contain any type of artificial ingredients, are very harmful for the digestive system because they contain many unnatural substances that the body does not know what to do with. As a result, these unnatural substances build up along the walls of the intestines, which then hinders digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
How To Eat
Eat Slow. Eating slow at each meal can also help to improve digestion. One of the main benefits of eating slow is that it helps to prevent overeating by giving the body more time to send the signal to the brain to let it know that enough food has been consumed. If the digestive system is bombarded with excess amounts of foods on a regular basis it can lead to a toxic buildup and unwanted weight gain.
Another benefit of eating slow is that it allows you to enjoy your food at a deeper level. It gives the mind time to absorb the various flavors and feel satisfied, thus diminishing the want for overeating.
Chew Your Food. Properly chewing your food will not only help you to eat slower, but it also makes it a lot easier on the stomach as it does not have to break it down as much. In addition, chewing your foods thoroughly helps to coat it with saliva, which is filled with enzymes that help to break down the food as well.
Don’t Drink. Although fluids are essential, they should be avoided or consumed sparingly during the meal. This is because fluids interfere with the activity of the saliva and the stomach acids, both of which are responsible for breaking down the food. Ideally you should wait to drink for about an hour after each meal in order to give the stomach a good start on the digestive process.
Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can help to keep the body well hydrated so that the need for liquids during meals is reduced or eliminated. Water mixed with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and taken 20-30 minutes before the meal is especially helpful in preparing the stomach for the food that it is about to receive.
When to Eat
Eat When Hungry. Always eat when you are hungry, unless you are cleansing or fasting. This reduces the risk of binging and overeating, and also helps to maintain good energy levels.
Don’t Eat Before Bed. Ideally you should not eat 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This allows the stomach to be empty when you go sleep. An empty stomach in return allows the body to focus on healing itself instead of on digesting food. It is very important that the body is able to rest and replenish itself in order to be healthy.
Bedtime snacks often help to give the body and mind the comfort needed in order to fall into a good sleep. However, there are many other methods that can be used to bring about the same comfort, which include meditation, aromatherapy or a hot bath.
The Right Fluids
Drinking plenty of water can help the body to eliminate waste and other toxins from the body more efficiently. Clean water and warm teas are very beneficial for improving digestion as they can help to promote regular bowel movements and reduce the risk of constipation. The fluids are able to wash away any waste material that otherwise would build up within the intestinal tract.
Warm Liquids. Warm liquids at room temperature help to increase the heat in the digestive tract in order to strengthen and improve digestion. Cold liquids, on the other hand, have to first be warmed up by the body before it can use them.
Avoid Dehydrating Drinks. Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, soda and caffeinated teas, dehydrate the body of the necessary fluids that help with digestion. Alcohol is also dehydrating and should be avoided.
Drinking herbal teas and making your own juices from fresh produce will help to curb the cravings not only for the caffeinated drinks, but for the alcoholic drinks as well.
The Right Combination
Learning a few rules about combining your foods will go a long way in helping you to improve digestion. Different types of foods need a different acid/alkaline environment in order to be digested properly. If the wrong foods are combined it causes different stomach acids to appear in the stomach simultaneously. These different acids will then counteract one another and the digestive process is slowed down. In a compromised system, this can slow digestion down to the point where the food begins to ferment before it can be properly digested. This fermentation can result in gas and bloating, as well as other health problems, including yeast and candida.
There are many rules when it comes to food combining, but these are basic guidelines that will help you go in the right direction.
1) Animal proteins and starches should never be consumed together at the same meal. The proteins require a highly acidic environment in order to be digested, and starches require an alkaline environment. If they are consumed together, the stomach will secrete both acid and alkaline fluids, which then provides an environment where neither one of those foods can be digested properly.
2) Meat does not digest well with other fats and should not be mixed with them. It is a complete protein, which should not be mixed with another complete protein.
3) Fruits should not be eaten for dessert because they digest quicker than what is already in the stomach. If eaten with or after other food, they will simply remain in the stomach with the other food and ferment before they can be properly digested. Therefore, they are always best when eaten on an empty stomach.
4) Non-Starchy vegetables can be mixed with just about all foods, including proteins and fats. These should be about 80% of the diet, with the remaining 20% either starch or protein as long as the starch and protein are not consumed at the same meal.
A toxic body can throw off the balance between the acid and alkaline levels. As a result, the stomach does not have the proper acids in order to digest the food efficiently. There are many ways to go about detoxifying, which include colon cleansing and fasting.
Colon Cleanse. A colon cleanse is a good place to start in order to detoxify the whole body. High fiber foods are excellent for cleaning the colon as the fiber will remove the harmful substances that tend to build up along the walls of the intestines. Once the colon is clean, digestion is improved, allowing the rest of the body to go through a deeper cleanse as well.
Fasting. Fasting is another good way to eliminate toxins and improve digestion. The fast can last anywhere from a day to a month or longer, depending on how toxic you are. Naturally the more toxic you are, the more difficult the fast will be and thus, you won’t be able to fast as long. However, you can start with a day or even just half a day and work your way up as your body slowly detoxifies.
There are different types of fasts, such as a juice fast or a water fast. A juice fast is ideal for detoxifying because it not only helps to restore nutrients back into the body, but it also helps the body to heal from the damage caused by the toxins. A water fast, on the other hand, is difficult and is more suitable for once the body is already cleansed.
Yoga. Yoga designed specifically for digestion can dramatically help to improve digestion. The yoga poses are designed to give the intestines an internal massage in order to strengthen them and allow them to release their contents.
Deep Breathing. Deep breathing exercises through the diaphragm may sound irrelevant in regards to improving digestion. However, they can make a huge difference not only for digestion, but for the overall health of the body as well.
One of the benefits of this type of deep breathing is that each breath massages the intestinal tract. With each inhale, the diaphragm is pushed down towards the digestive system, and the abdominal area is pushed outward. During the exhale, the diaphragm retracts to its original position allowing the the abdominal area to return to its original position as well.
Laughter. “Laughter is the best medicine.” This is a familiar, yet truthful phrase. It is a powerful exercise that not only helps to massage the intestinal tract, but it also relieves stress. Being able to feel calm and relaxed while eating is very important in order to improve digestion as it allows the body to focus on the digestive process instead of on unnecessary worries.