Our gut holds more solutions to our health than most of us could ever imagine. Obviously not all disease begins in the gut, despite Hippocrates’ proclamation 2000 years ago. But there is strong evidence that our gut plays an underestimated role in the prevention - and origin - of disease, from simple ailments such as headaches, right through to chronic metabolic diseases.
Unfortunately, most of us feed our taste buds before thinking about how it affects our digestive health. We’ve forgotten the correlation between the quality of our food and the quality of our digestive health. Here’s my top 5 tips for ensuring that your digestive system functions at its best:
- Choose high quality, fresh organic foods – Your digestive system can’t read labels, but it can recognise fresh wholefoods. Ditch the highly processed, boxed and canned ‘foods’ that fill most pantry’s around the country. Listen to your body and incorporate a mix of lightly cooked and raw foods that best suits your digestion. And follow the 80/20 rule – 80% of your plate should be food that can either grow in the ground or fall from a tree i.e. fruits and vegetables!
- Try belly breathing – A lot of people hold stress and tension in their gut, and the best way to relax this is through belly breathing. Imagine that behind your belly button there’s an empty balloon. When you breathe in, you want to try to fill this balloon, and when you exhale, the balloon should deflate completely. This technique sends a burst of oxygen-rich blood to your digestive system, so try to make this a daily habit.
- Chew thoroughly – I know we all lead busy lives, but the benefits of chewing your food properly can’t be underestimated. Most people believe our digestive system starts in our bellies. Nope! Digestion actually starts in your mouth with saliva and enzymes to help further break down the chewed food. Food that isn’t chewed properly is much harder to digest when it reaches your stomach.
- Incorporate Prebiotics and Probiotics – Pre- and probiotics work together to create positive benefits for the digestive system. Prebiotics are essentially the fuel and nourishment for good bacteria and allows them to survive in your gut, keeping your immunity strong. Great dietary sources of prebiotics include garlic, onion, bananas and apples. Look to kombucha, sauerkraut and yoghurt to boost your gut with good bacteria.
- Drink plenty of water – I can’t stress this point enough! It’s the simplest thing we can do to improve our digestive health, yet it’s the most neglected aspect. Most people think the only function of our colon is to eliminate waste. But equally as important, when our body is dehydrated it pulls water from our stool for re-use, leaving us dry and constipated. When you’re thirsty it’s too late to drink, the damage has already been done. Aim for at least 2-3L per day to assist normal digestion.