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How healthy is your digestive system?

Many people don’t realise how important our digestive system is. Many of us believe that its only role is to receive food, break it down, absorb nutrients and expel the residues. However, there are two other important aspects of the digestive system that I would like to highlight.

1. It supports the body’s detoxification system by elimination of the toxins and waste that have been denatured by the liver. 2. It has an abundance of healthy bacteria called our microbiome that plays a key role in enhancing our body’s immune system, supports hormonal balance, reduces the risk for problems like cancer and even enhances metabolism.

When our digestive system is healthy, all these processes and functions happen smoothly and our health is optimized. But sometimes our digestive systems become compromised or begin to suffer problems that affect our well-being and our health.

Many of us may not even notice that our digestive system is having some challenges because we continually experience some mild level of digestive discomfort or digestive health issues that we think are normal.

But if you experience any of the following symptoms, then your digestive health may not be as healthy as it should.

  • Gas or flatulence (an accumulation of gas in the digestive tract). Do you pass out more gas than you would like to?

  • Bloating. – This is a feeling of abdominal swelling because of the retention of gas

  • Feeling of fullness even when you haven’t eaten so much

  • Constipation

  • Loose stools or a running tummy

  • Heartburn or reflux of acid back up the oesophagus

  • Belching

  • Abdominal discomfort in any area of the gut

If you experience any of these it is time to get your gut checked out. A few things that can help you identify problems with your digestive health.

1. How often do you have a bowel movement and pass out stool? A healthy person should pass stool once or twice a day. If you don’t have a daily bowel movement then you may have an issue. And if you have constipation please avoid enhanced detoxification programs as the toxic waste from the liver may be reabsorbed in the large intestine if not removed in time.

2. If you get any one or more of the following symptoms including fatigue, poor sleep, headache, brain performance issues that could include brain fog, poor concentration or poor memory, lower back pain, irregular periods or premenstrual symptoms it could be a sign that your gut is not healthy.

3. Are you sensitive to foods in general? Many people are sensitive to milk, wheat, eggs, groundnuts and some even to foods like bananas, chilli, wine and eggplants. If you eat these foods and get unwanted symptoms you may have a sensitive gut.

4. Unexpected weight gain. If you have unexplained weight gain it may be a sign of your gut having a problem.

5. Recurrent infections with H.Pylori. This bacteria has been linked with digestive ulcers. But we need to understand that if you are having it more often than not and if it keeps recurring even after treatment, the problem may be that you have an imbalance between your good healthy gut bacteria and the bad type like H.Plyori. And this generally signifies an underlying problem with your gut health.

6. If you regularly have to take anti-acids like Nexium, omeprazole and other medications to help you feel better, then there is something wrong with your gut.

So what can you do if you suspect your gut health has a problem?

1. First, get it checked out. Visit a nutrition informed doctor who can help you try and assess the condition of your gut. It is always best to identify and manage the cause of the problem and not just treat the symptoms with medications. Functional medicine doctors are best suited for this. I would be happy to help you out if you would like. Simply send me an email or call our clinic. 2. Try and eliminate the following foods for a short while (about 2 to 3 weeks) and see if you feel better. If you feel better then those foods likely contribute to the problem. The foods include;

  • Milk. Yoghurt is not as bad as milk but it may be good to also avoid it

  • All gluten-containing products like wheat, barley and rye. So foods like bread, cake, chapati and even beer should be avoided

  • Eggs

  • Groundnuts/ Peanuts

  • In a few people elimination of beans, garlic, and foods like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (cruciferous vegetables can also help)

3. Foods that are linked to improving digestive health include ginger, Aloe Vera, peppermint, bone broth and green tea.

4. There are certain herbs that are very useful for digestive health. Fennel, Slippery elm, and Licorice are particularly useful. Look them up.

5. Adding omega 3 fats and probiotics are useful especially if you get bloated, and have abdominal discomfort.

6. If you have constipation add lots of seeds to your diet. The best seeds for constipation are pawpaw seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. Drinking lots of water especially in the morning can help.

7. Try and avoid stress. Believe it or not, the stomach is the second brain. Anything that causes us stress or destabilizes our emotional wellness can affect our digestive health. Stress is usually one of the triggers of digestive symptoms. We should avoid stress to improve our digestive health.

Our digestive system is so important to our health that it should stay healthy. But being able to accept and identify that it has some problems is the first step to getting better. Everyone can have a normal digestive system and everyone can live a life free of digestive discomfort. By following some of the tips above, you should be able to get your digestive health into a much better place or even restore it to normal function.

If you, however, do need some help please get in touch with myself or someone else who can help.

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