Digestive health is key to our overall health and wellbeing. Continuously breaking apart and absorbing nutrients from the food we eat, the digestive system forms the very core of our body and works to nourish all our cells. When our digestive health is compromised or dysfunctional due to poor lifestyle and dietary habits, our body is imbalanced and lets us know by exerting symptoms. Common health complaints, such as constipation, bloating, cramping, acid reflux, recurrent headaches, and skin disorders and breakouts, are often symptoms deeply rooted in digestive imbalances that, when addressed properly, can be resolved by fixing it at the core. By restoring a healthy digestive balance naturally, by cleansing and nourishing our gut back to good health, the integrity of our digestion is strengthened and digestive issues will disappear naturally. Since every body is different, a customized treatment & eating plan is obviously ideal. However, below are some of my general guidelines and favorite natural foods & remedies that help improve and promote a healthy gastrointestinal system.
- Fresh papaya and pineapple are rich in the digestive enzymes, papain and bromelain, and naturally aid the digestive process while helping reduce symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux and other digestive upsets. When cutting pineapple, make sure not to waste the stem as this part is particularly rich in these beneficial enzymes. Alternatively, you can also buy digestive enzymes extracted from pineapple and papaya in capsule form, which typically offer a more potent dose.
- Aloe vera has soothing and cleansing properties and is great for relieving bloating, constipation & stomach cramps. As a bonus, aloe vera is also great for the skin, whether taken internally or applied topically, and can be found at most health food stores. Make sure you get a 100% pure aloe vera juice or gel made from the inner leaf, which is the most potent part. I usually take 30-60 ml mixed with a little water first thing in the morning and before bed. The taste is quite pleasant and resembles cucumber juice.
- Taking a good probiotic supplement improves the intestinal flora and supports the digestive system, immune system & overall wellbeing. Our intestines naturally have a balance of thousands of intestinal bacteria that help digest and absorb the nutrients from all the foods we eat. However, if this balance is disrupted our entire body, and especially out digestive system, is affected. A poor diet too high in sugar and refined foods, paired with a stressful lifestyle and constant eating on-the-go literally feed the “bad” intestinal bacteria (e.g. candida), leading to an overcrowding of them and a disrupted balance. This leads to a downward spiral of digestive problems, skin breakouts, headaches, weight gain, bloating, and the list goes on. What probiotics do is supply the body with the “good” bacteria that effectively help restore the balance, addressing the root of many digestive problems that, coupled with appropriate lifestyle & dietary changes, can be resolved. But as always, there’s no magic. Simply taking a supplement isn’t going to fix it – a healthy diet and lifestyle will. I’ve experienced first hand how my symptoms of IBS resolved over time as I changed my diet, abstained from sugar and other “dead” foods (anything that comes in a bag, bottle or box) while restoring my intestinal balance with probiotics. But it’s a multi-faceted treatment and not all about the supplement. When buying a probiotic supplement go for a potent dose of at least 30 billion organisms per capsule. Take 1-2 capsules on an empty stomach before bed to allow them to work its way through your system while you’re asleep (alternatively first thng in the morning 1 hour before you eat works too) . Keep it up for at least 2-3 weeks and remember to cut out all the sugar and refined “dead” foods that feed the bad bacteria you’re trying to ged rid of.
- Apple cider vinegar is not only great for aiding digestion and improving gastric health, it also stimulates circulation and aids the detoxification processes as its unique acids help bind toxins, making them easier for the body to eliminate. Take 1-3 tbsp in water once or twice a day before meals for max benefits. Also, make sure to get a good quality product by going for an organic raw unfiltered brand.
- Fresh mint has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties and is also beneficial for improving digestion. Mint leaves effectively activate saliva glands in the mouth, stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes that facilitate digestion by breaking apart proteins, fats & carbohydrate molecules. Chewing fresh mint leaves or drinking a cup of peppermint or spearmint tea after a meal can improve indigestion and reduce things like bloating, gas, and other symptoms related to indigestion.
- Dietary fiber is essential for a healthy digestive function and helps promote a good intestinal health as it rid the body of waste. Psyllium husk & chia seeds are both very high in fiber and very effective for relieving constipation and bloating. They are especially rich in soluble fiber, which works by drawing in water and forming a thick gel-like mass that clean out the intestines, acting as a natural detoxifier by ‘sweeping’ the colon.
- Ginger is another natural wonder food and has for centuries been used to relieve & heal gastrointestinal upsets. Aside from reducing symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, and nausea, ginger also helps cleanse and purify the body from the inside out and has natural anti-inflammatory & immune boosting properties. Use a knob of fresh ginger in juices or blended into smoothies, soups & dressings.
- Drink a cup of warm/hot water with the juice from a lemon or lime first thing in the morning. Not only is it help kick start the digestion, it also cleanses and alkalizes the body, aids liver function and promote elimination of toxins through the bowel. A great and effective morning ritual to adapt for anyone. Give it a try – then keep it up for the rest of your life.
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