There’s a lot of focus around physical health such as exercising and keeping your heart healthy, and there’s growing focus around mental health and how to keep your brain healthy, but there’s one aspect of health that’s commonly overlooked: digestive health.
Why is digestive health important?
Like all aspects of your physical health, looking after your digestive health is of utmost importance. This is because your gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients and breaking down food, allowing the rest of your body to functions normally and healthily.
When there’s an issue with your digestive system, you’re likely to feel very unwell and uncomfortable which can impact your day-to-day life. So, it’s important that you look after your digestive health not just because it keeps the rest of your organs in good working order, but because if you don’t, you’ll physically feel ill and this will impact other aspects of your everyday life.
How to aid digestive health through food
There are a number of ways you can improve your digestive health through your diet. The digestive system is complex and involves several organs, so there’s no single thing that can target every part of the process. This means you will need to implement several conscious steps to keep everything in good working order.
Step one is to eat plenty of fiber. Most people don’t eat enough fiber and this can result in inconsistent bowel movements and the slowing down of the digestion process, causing all sorts of issues and symptoms. If you don’t go to the toilet regularly, routinely experience bloating for extended periods of time, or if you have multiple bouts of stomach aches and cramps, it’s likely that you’re not eating enough fiber and things have slowed down in your gut.
Ideally, every adult should aim for 30g of fiber a day. There are multiple ways you can achieve this, with oats/cereal, wholemeal bread, beans and brown rice being excellent sources. Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome may find that eating fiber through the medium of oats and grains can irritate their symptoms, so instead they should opt to get their fiber through vegetables and fruit.
Water is the basis of life and digestion is no exception. People who are dehydrated may experience a range of symptoms such as headaches and feeling faint, but they also commonly suffer from constipation and hard stools. Water can help make you feel more awake and energetic, and it can greatly help with preventing constipation and softening stool, too. This should ease uncomfortable stomach cramps make bowel movements more regular, improving the function of your overall gut.
Those who partake in diets like intermittent fasting may struggle with this as their drinking is limited to select hours. Muslims may also struggle with this during Ramadan because part of the purpose of Ramadan is to demonstrate self-control, as with IF diets. The way to avoid dehydration and poor bowel movements is to drink plenty during the allotted times.
Your digestive system spans more than just your stomach. A common symptom of poor digestion is heartburn, and this is more often than not a result of too much fat and grease caused by junk food. Fried foods and those laced with grease are harder for your body to digest, so try to avoid too much of them.
Exercise and digestion
It’s not just food that has an impact on your digestive system; exercise does too. Regular exercise strengthens almost all the muscles in your body, including those in your digestive tract. The benefit? More efficient digestion and less risk of constipation and slow bowel movements, thus further improving your overall gut health.
If you suffer with heartburn, constipation or stomach ache, try implementing the tips above and see how a healthy gut can improve your quality of life.