Digestion is a big part of health. No doubt you’ve already noticed a lot of talking about gut health, especially when it comes to things like probiotics. Digestion isn’t something that people will think about a lot, even when trying to focus on building a healthier lifestyle. Not only can lifestyle changes suddenly affect it, but there are habits that a lot of us have that can make those effects even worse. If you’re wondering why gut health is so important, and what you can do to maintain it, read on.
Why it matters so much
The idea of keeping healthy digestion is one that naturally makes sense to us. No-one likes suffering from diarrhea, constipation or other complications. However, keeping the plumbing working smoothly isn’t the only reason we should worry about gut health. Poor digestion also increases the likelihood of getting sick.
It can lead to a whole range of problems with short-term and long-term health.
- Autoimmune diseases
- Even cancer
- What’s more, it can contribute to mental issues like mood disorders.
The gastrointestinal system is an important part of our health that cannot and should not be ignored.
So what do you about it?
What you should eat
It should be no surprise that our diet plays a huge role in how good our digestive system is working. There are a lot of different ways to make sure our guts get what they need. We all know, for one, that fiber is very important, so getting your whole grains and high fiber fruit and vegetables is a mandatory part of a healthy diet. There’s a high range of gut healthy fruit and veg, too. Apples, bananas, sweet potatoes and even kiwi. “Probiotics” are another good way to introduce the kind of healthy bacteria the stomach needs, too. Even combining lemon with water can have a lot of positive effects, as the Alternative Daily points out.
What you shouldn’t eat
Similarly, there are a lot of things we eat that can have negative effects on our digestive system. Usually, when we change our diet, we suffer some short term adjustments to digestive health. There are certain aspects of a diet that can be a lot worse, however. For example, there are all the low fiber carbohydrates that we tend to consume.
- White bread
- White rice
- Artificial sweeteners that people might like to try cut their calories
- Coffee and chocolate
Artificial sweeteners can have worst effects than sugar. In particular, they are a common cause of bloat, gas and diarrhea. Caffeine contained in coffee and chocolate can also do some damage. Particularly in causing heartburn and indigestion when over consumed.
After you eat
It’s not just what we eat, however. It’s how the meal fits in with our daily schedule. The time after a meal is some of the most important. We need to give our body time to digest what we’re eating. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that there are a lot of ways to disrupt our digestion from working properly after we have a meal. For example, we might all experience a bit of sleepiness after a meal. However, resting it off can lead to digestive juices to travel up the esophagus. Furthermore, digestion, like all our processes, slow when we sleep. So we’re a lot likely to wake up feeling terrible and bloated. Exercise is another habit that should wait until after we digest. Blood is carried towards the parts of us working hard, leaving less oxygen to be distributed to our gastrointestinal system.
Drinking too much water after we eat can dilute our intestinal juices when we need them to be strong. Otherwise, however, making sure we get a healthy amount of hydration through the day plays a key role in healthy digestion. Water helps move food waste through our intestines, with dehydration often playing a big role in constipation. Similarly, it’s key to how we eliminate waste through our urine. An easy way to see if you’re drinking enough water is to look at the color of your urine. The darker a shade it is, the worse. The clearer it is, the better.
A lot of us have some bad habits that we know are, overall, not very good for our health. Besides the health risks that most of us intrinsically know, they can also have a bad effect on our digestion.
- Smoking, for example, plays a big role in the risk of heartburn as well as forming peptic ulcers.
- Alcohol is one of the leading factors causing gastroesophageal reflux disease. It also damages the liver’s ability to filter waste from our body.
- Energy drinks and caffeine, as mentioned, also harm digestion. They do this much like exercise, diverting blood and oxygen flow from our digestion. Serious long term effects of these bad habits can lead to things like Crohn’s disease.
The mind and the gut are a lot more strongly linked than a lot of us might initially believe. Stress is one of the most harmful mental disorders in terms of the very physical changes it can have on our body. Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system. Stress, much like exercise or energy drinks, shuts down this system. Instead, blood is diverted around our body in response to our ‘flight or fight’ mechanisms. Stress can also lead to inflammation of the gastrointestinal system. This in turn makes us more likely to catch an infection. That’s one of the reasons that it’s recommended we take some time to cool off before eating dinner. Coming in after a hard day at work to eat can only make it harder for our systems to digest what we eat.
Without stronger gut health, a lot of our energy towards a healthy lifestyle can be wasted. Not only do we absorb as much from our foods, but we leave ourselves at risk of getting sick. Hopefully, this article has given you a better look at how to keep your gut healthy.
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