Life & Health

10 Simple Ways to Optimize Digestive Health

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In the human body, the digestive system is an extraordinary network of organs and processes that work together to convert food into nutrients and ultimately energy. When your digestive system is not functioning optimally, it can result in compromised nutrient absorption and lead to a number of symptoms, including acid reflux and indigestion, as well as directly impact your overall health, including the immune system and nervous system. So in order to enhance your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, it’s critical to start by tuning into your digestive system to ensure it’s running as smooth as possible.

  1. Manage Stress Effectively. Research has shown that the intestinal tract responds negatively to stress. One way to manage stress is to ensure that ample time is set aside for meals with minimal emotional and environmental distractions. Try turning off the TV, lighting candles to set the mood and tuning into the food in front of you.
  2. Boost Your Water Intake and Add Sea Salt. By not drinking enough water, our bodies can easily become dehydrated, especially this time of year in Guanacaste. Upping your water intake also helps combat constipation and keeps things flowing smoothly. Add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to filtered water to increase your minerals intake. Magnesium is a critical mineral to ensure good digestion and also helps calcium do its job in the body.
  3. Practice Mindful Eating. A pilot study at Indiana State University found that practicing mindfulness while eating, such as savoring the flavor of food and remaining in the moment, helped to decrease binge eating from an average of four binges per week to one and a half.
  4. Get Ample Physical Activity. Exercise is critical for a smooth running digestive system and increases blood flow to all your organs, stimulating muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.  Plus physical activity helps balance mood, which helps balance appetite and decreases the urge to binge eat or overeat as a way to soothe emotions. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day.
  5. Eat Healthy Fats. Choose healthy sources of fat such as coconut oil, olive oil and butter versus margarine or vegetable oils that are refined.
  6. Drink Homemade Broth. An incredibly nutrient dense food, broth is rich in minerals, gut-soothing gelatin and two important digestive boosting amino acids: proline and glycine. Broth is stunningly dense with natural gelatin, which is like gold for the digestive tract. And when eaten alongside other food, broth can actually help boost nutrient absorption.
  7. Supplement with Probiotics. Take a probiotic supplement or add in fermented food or foods that contain probiotics such as unsweetened yogurt. Probiotics are different strains of beneficial bacteria found in the human gut. They can help alleviate many different digestive conditions and are especially important for those who weren’t breast fed as infants.
  8. Limit Fried Foods, Excessive Amounts of Processed Food, Alcohol and Sugar. Both high-fat and fried food can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn. Drinking also can inflame the stomach lining, impairing certain enzymes and preventing nutrients from being absorbed. Keep sugary foods and sweet carbonated beverages to a minimum, especially caffeinated beverages, which can be a problem for everyone but especially for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other digestive conditions.
  9. Choose Fiber Rich Foods and Good Sources of Protein. Choose a mix of animal and non-animal protein. Add ground flax to other foods and eat whole grains versus refined.  Black beans, lentils, raisins, mango, almonds and walnuts are great foods, loaded with minerals and nutrients necessary for good digestion.
  10. Experiment with Certain Food Combinations. Some individuals find that eating certain foods at the same time can irritate digestion and exacerbate gas and bloating. For example, due to the varying time it takes to digest different types of food, eating fruit with grains or animal protein such as meat may exacerbate gas and discomfort for people with sensitive digestive tracts. Try eating fruit 10 to 20 minutes before eating grains and animal protein for optimal digestive wellness.