7 Things You Need to Know About Digestive Health | Lizi’s
We often take our digestive health for granted – until something is a little off. Our microbiome is an internal ecosystem that keeps running like a well-oiled machine. With the right support, it also contributes to other functions within the body and can play an important role in keeping you well.
In order to maintain good digestive health, you might want to learn more about the microbiome and the elements that can impact it, or it can impact. Read on to discover more about digestive health.
Great skin is linked to your digestive system
The secret to clear, radiant and glowing skin can be found within your digestive tract. While many of us spend time and money on topical cleansers, serums and creams, the skin-savvy among us know that great skin starts within.
Our digestive system is the place where nutrients are absorbed from food, as well as dispelling toxins. When the body struggles to eliminate the toxins effectively, it will look to other organs to help it – when it comes to skin this results in breakouts, eczema and dull looking skin.
We put together this handy guide to help you eat better and support your digestive system – Eating Your Way To Better Health.
Processed foods causes the body to ATTACK
When we eat processed foods, it causes an inflammatory response in the lining of the gut where food is absorbed. The artificial ingredients in these foods aren’t recognised as ‘digestible’ by the body, and instead reacts to them as if they are invading the body.
The inflammatory response is then triggered in the rest of the body, fighting the food in the same way it would an infection, causing stress to the body. The best way to avoid this reaction is to eat wholesome foods; fruit, vegetable, nuts and unprocessed meat.
OR if you fancy trying a plant-based diet to rapidly increase the amount of high-fibre foods you eat, have a read of the posts we created for Veganuary:
Stress can get in the way of good digestion
A high-stress lifestyle is detrimental to your digestive system. Stress triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, and blood is diverted away from digestive processes to the brain, heart and lungs. This means that the digestive system can’t function at its optimum level – muscle contractions slow, gut bacteria changes composition and gastric secretions start fluctuating, and suddenly the whole system is out of sync.
The stress hormone cortisol is also responsible for stress-related food cravings, often referred to as ‘reward-based eating’.
If you are used to running on stress, it can be a difficult habit to break. Start by scheduling time into your day to do something relaxing or beneficial such as reading, meditation or even exercise. Yoga is known for being particularly helpful for relieving stress, to get you started we put together a post that lists a number of yoga poses, including those that alleviate stress and some that help digestion.
Fermented foods are the holy grail
As we mention quite often, your gut is teeming with billions of good bacteria – critical for good digestive health. Although your microbiome is relatively low maintenance, it does benefit from some TLC, in the form of a top-up of beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
Enter fermented foods. Admittedly, the word ‘fermented’ isn’t the most appealing, but foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and tempeh and beverages like kombucha aid the body in breaking down food, maintaining the right pH level in the intestine, improving general gut health and assisting in the synthesizing of vitamins.
When introducing fermented foods to your diet, start with small quantities as large amounts can upset the digestive system and come as a bit of a shock!
Sipping digestive spirits before eating can help
Many of us experience bloating, acid reflux and other digestive issues are eating, but digestive bitters can help alleviate these symptoms.
These traditional European ‘digestif’ bitters are not widely known in the UK, but are commonly used in Germany, Scandinavian and Latvia. They’re consumed first thing in the morning to kick-start the digestive system or before meals to aid digestion.
Often comprised of distilled aromatic herbs, there are several legacy brands still available today to purchase, such as Underberg from Germany, or you can create your own, such as this recipe from Backyard Herbal Apothecary –
- 475 ml of 100-proof vodka
- 100g chopped fresh dandelion greens
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
- Rind and pith of 1 orange
Combine all ingredients in a blender and transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid to infuse for at least six weeks. After the infusion period, strain well through two layers of muslin or flour-sack cloth – the presence of pectin might mean the liquid is thicker than expected and will take longer to strain. Transfer to a clean glass jar with dropper top for dispensing (1-3 dropperfuls before each meal). The liquid will keep for one year.
Water aids digestion
Water is essential for good digestive health. Being well hydrated means that we remain regular and are easily able to pass stools. Although our first reaction to constipation is to giggle – it really is no laughing matter and can leave sufferers feeling uncomfortable and unwell.
Regularly drinking water will keep the digestive tract and organs in tip top condition, helping waste to pass through the system.
Many people drink warm water first thing in the morning, infused with lemon, ginger or honey to stimulate the digestive system.
There is a relationship between good sleep and good digestion
Hands up if after a terrible night’s sleep, all you want to do is reach for those high-sugar, high-fat, carb-heavy foods. A poor night’s sleep causes levels of ghrelin – the hunger hormone – to soar, while leptin – an appetite regulator – drops, meaning we tend to crave processed foods that are damaging to our digestive system.
Further to this, lack of sleep compromises our immune system, which can lead to digestive conditions such as IBS and IBD while levels of neurochemicals serotonin, melatonin and cortisol that each play a role in the bodies circadian rhythm become unbalanced, triggering disruption to the nervous system in the digestive system.
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to our physical and mental wellbeing. Likewise, research suggests that a healthy microbiome contributes to quality sleep, so the two really do go hand in hand.