As gastrointestinal health can be the root cause of a variety of health issues working towards addressing your digestive function is crucial in order to maintain overall body overall health.
Beneficial bacteria in your digestive system had the capability of affective the body’s vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, immune response, the ability to eliminate toxins, as well as your overall mental health.
The gut-brain connection
Digestion, mood, health and even the way we think is linked to our “second brain” which is located in our gut. The brain and gut are in constant communication, not just through its complex network of neurons but also through a number of chemicals and hormonal pathways, creating what is generally referred to as a brain-gut axis. The Enteric Nervous System, ENS, controls blood flow, modulates immune and endocrine function, local blood flow and digestion. The ENS is equipped with its own sense reflexes, which control gut behaviour independently of the brain. Symptoms related to poor gut health can be as obvious as abdominal pain, bloating after meals, reflux, or flatulence, but also less obvious symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, joint pain and a weakened immune system.
The health of your gastrointestinal (GI) system is determined by the types of bacteria in your digestive tract. Our intestinal microbiota, the ecosystem of microorganisms that live in our gut, has over 400 known diverse bacterial species with the surface area of the gastrointestinal tract measuring 30 – 40 square metres, and not 300 square metres “the size of a tennis court” as often stated online.
These ideally reside in a balance, however, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria results in gut dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is often the result of an overgrowth of bacteria, yeast, and sometimes parasites, with a lack of commensal, beneficial, bacteria.
What are digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes are produced and secreted by the gastrointestinal system to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, digesting food so we can absorb nutrients. When digestion is impaired supplementing with digestive enzymes can improve digestive function and nutrient absorption.
Top Tips to Achieving a Healthy Gut
- Avoid overusing Antibiotics as they are particularly effective at destroying the diversity of the gut flora. Always supplement with probiotics when taking antibiotics.
- Load up on fiber as this will help to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Foods rich in fibre include; wholegrain cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit.
- Aim for 30 g of fibre daily for a 2000 calorie diet (in the UK the average fibre intake for adults is just 18 g).
- Eat a diet rich in probiotic (kefir, fermented vegetables, tempeh) and prebiotic (onions, whole grains, asparagus) foods.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly.
- Reduce your intake of sugar/ processed foods/ refined carbohydrates.
- Learn to manage your stress levels and aim to get 8 hours of quality sleep a night.