Ways to Improve your Digestive Health

Ways to Improve your Digestive Health

 

Research has shown that the ideal pH in the colon should be between 6.7 and 6.9. A pH of 7 is neutral—anything lower than 7 is acidic and anything above 7 is alkaline. The colon needs to be slightly acidic, which inhibits the growth of undesirable bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli.

The best way to restore beneficial bacteria in the gut is to create acidity, which promotes the growth of various Lactobacillus bacteria—the ones with well-known beneficial effects.

When adding traditional fermented foods to your meals, the key is to eat a small portion of them every day. Once or twice a day with meals is best.

Probiotics

Probiotics (pro meaning positive, biotic meaning life) are positive life forms of living bacteria that enhance both gut and immune function. Remember, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut so a lot of these principles go hand-in-hand. Probiotics (good bacteria) work to maintain a healthy and harmonized gut flora that helps in the digestive process along with the assimilation of nutrients. They also keep bad bacteria that can thrive and grow in the gut (in an unhealthy environment) in check. You can take a probiotic supplement or get probiotics in foods such as kombucha, miso (made from fermented rye, beans, rice, or barley), kimchi (Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables and a spicy blend of chili peppers, garlic, scallions, and other spices. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, and due to its fermentation process is also rich in beneficial gut-boosting lactobacilli bacteria) or other fermented vegetables (sauerkraut). Drinks such as kombucha (tea fermented with live bacteria and yeast) and kefir also contain beneficial probiotics.

Traditional fermented foods are rich in beneficial lactic acid-producing bacteria. These bacteria are what naturally make milk products go sour and cause vegetables to ferment. In the digestive tract, these bacteria help ferment carbohydrates that we, as human beings, cannot digest. The by-products from this process help keep the gut acidic, which prevents harmful organisms from being able to grow while good gut bacteria more firmly establish themselves.

Cloves

Cloves or clove essential oil is beneficial at destroying parasitic worm’s eggs. Believe it or not when parasitic worms live in your gut they lay eggs and begin to reproduce. If you do not keep your gut and immunity in check and healthy these eggs will grow in that unhealthy (to you) environment and grow in numbers. Add a small handful of cloves to a glass water bottle and let that sit for 24 hours. The clove soaks into the water and makes a nice minty drink that is rich in antioxidants as well as prevents parasites from multiplying. Clove essential oil can simply be added to your water or drink on the go or added to a smoothie or juice.

Wormwood

Wormwood is Known for its germicidal (germ killing) properties and it helps even more if you have a weak and under-active digestive system. It also works to increase the acidity of the stomach and the production of bile in the liver which helps the gut digest better. Wormwood can kill the larval (young egg) stages of the parasites, working effectively similar to cloves. Both can and should be used for their unique benefits and effects.

Black Walnut Hull

This herb is one of the most potent agents to remove harmful organisms in the intestinal tract. This herb has a high tannin content which is responsible for suppressing intestinal parasites as well as improving digestive health and capability.

Digestive Enzymes

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre digestive enzymes help to restore your intestinal tract and make it inhospitable to parasites. Papain (a digestive enzyme in papaya fruit) is beneficial for killing parasites when taken 30 minutes before or after meals. You can benefit from this enzyme by simply consuming papaya seeds or papaya seed powder. Digestive enzymes are crucial for breaking down and carrying away waste in the body. These enzymes are found in the highest quantities in fruits and vegetables.

Coenzymes

Digestive enzymes are needed for proper digestive function, removal of waste and to make the gut an inhospitable environment for parasites. Coenzymes are also important to support the digestive enzyme function. Coenzymes are co-factor nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that support and help digestive enzyme function optimally. CQ10 is one coenzyme that is important for cellular health and energy. Other coenzymes benefit as well. An important cofactor that supports digestive enzyme function is adequate magnesium levels.

Fibre

Fibre is needed to clean the gut. You need good whole food sources of both soluble and insoluble sources of fibre in your diet. Fruits, vegetables and flaxseeds and chia seeds are some of the best sources of both insoluble and soluble fibre.  If you eat a healthy, organic, whole food rich diet as your base you should get adequate amounts of fibre and not need a fibre supplement.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera contains nutrients that help to heal and soothe the lining of the digestive tract, when ingested as a drink. A review published in the “British Journal of General Practice” notes that aloe Vera decreases irritation and enhances healing and repair of ulcers in the stomach and intestines. Aloe Vera juice also helps to decrease inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and other inflammatory disorders of the gut. Additionally, Aloe Vera can increase healthy bacteria in the intestines that aid digestion.

Bone Broth

Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients of which many people are lacking, in a form your body can easily absorb and use. Not only is it very easily digested; it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are building blocks for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. It is incredibly healing to your gut.

This includes gelatine. The gelatine found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.

Red cabbage

Red cabbage is rich in the amino acid L-glutamine, which is known to help heal the soft tissue lining your intestines. It’s especially helpful for people with leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. You can eat red cabbage steamed, juiced, or, perhaps best of all, fermented, which will add an abundance of gut-healthy enzymes and beneficial bacteria into the mix as well.

Flax Seed Tea

Flax seed tea is simple to make by pouring 340 grams of boiling water over one tablespoon of flax seeds, then letting it steep overnight (drain the seeds out prior to drinking). This simple beverage provides healing support to the colon due to its content of omega-3 fats, soluble fibre and lignin’s, which are anti-inflammatory and have a lubricating effect.  If you have leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel, give this tea a try.

Chlorella

Chlorella, single-celled fresh water algae, is often referred to as a near-perfect food, with a wide range of health benefits. For starters, it promotes healthy pH levels in your gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive. It’s also a potent detox agent for mercury and other heavy metals, which is useful since one of the symptoms of mercury build-up is digestive distress and reduced ability to properly assimilate and utilize fats. Chlorella is even rich in fibre, helping to tone the lining of your intestines and keep you “regular.”

Moringa

Moringa, sometimes described as the “miracle tree,” has small, rounded leaves that are packed with an incredible amount of nutrition: protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium. No wonder it’s been used medicinally (and as a food source) for at least 4,000 years.

Psyllium

The recommended daily amount of fibre is between 20 and 30 grams, but I believe about 32 grams per day is ideal. Unfortunately, most people get only half that or less. Your best source of dietary fibre comes from vegetables, and most people simply aren’t eating enough veggies. One way to easily increase your fibre intake is to add psyllium to your diet.

Taking it three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of dietary fibre (soluble and insoluble) to your diet. In addition to supporting healthy digestion, soluble fibres such as psyllium are prebiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria in turn assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.

Please keep in mind that psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, which means many sources are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. For this reason, be sure to ONLY use organic psyllium husk, and make sure it’s 100% pure.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals for soothing gastrointestinal distress. One of chia seeds’ greatest qualities is how easy they are to use. They have a mild flavour that makes them adaptable to a variety of recipes, and they’re gluten-free, which is perfect for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or who are simply trying to avoid gluten. Chia seeds can be added to virtually any dish, from raw yogurt to applesauce to smoothies.

Keep in mind that chia seeds take on a gelatinous texture after they mix with a liquid, so if you prefer a crunch, sprinkle them on just before eating.

Zinc for healing

Zinc is essential for gut health and healing. Take a zinc tablet, at night, with food, or add zinc-rich foods to your diet. Oysters contain the highest source of zinc (12mg per 100g) but you’ll also find zinc in nuts, seeds and red meat.

Soft cheese

A handful of soft cheeses are filled with probiotics that are good for your tummy, particularly those that are made from raw, unpasteurized cow or goat’s milk. These include cheddar, feta, Gouda, provolone, Edam, brick, Emmental, Gruyere, and caciocavallo. These soft cheeses, with their low acidity and large reserves of fat, keep the little microbes preserved in your digestive tract.

Natto

A popular dish in Japan consisting of fermented soybeans.  Natto contains the extremely powerful probiotic bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to bolster your immune system, support cardiovascular health and enhance digestion of vitamin K2.

Kvass

Kvass is a common fermented beverage in Eastern Europe since ancient times.  It was traditionally made by fermenting rye or barley, which gives it its mild flavour. In more recent years it has been created using beets, fruit, along with other root vegetables like carrots.

Kvass uses lactobacilli probiotics, which have blood- and liver-cleansing properties.

 

Do Avoid
Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, natto (fermented soy), and fermented vegetables. Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high quality probiotic supplement.5,6
Take a probiotic supplement. Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.
Boost your soluble and insoluble fibre intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, including sprouted seeds. Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.
Get your hands dirty in the garden. Exposure to bacteria and viruses can serve as “natural vaccines” that strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil.

According to a recent report, lack of exposure to the outdoors can in and of itself cause your microbiome to become “deficient.”

Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria.

Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.

Unless 100 percent organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.

Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages it has also changed the microbiome of your home.

Research shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.

Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat and foods contaminated with Roundup
Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and that eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system. Antibacterial soap, as they too kill off both good and bad bacteria, and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.

The above table is taken from mercola.com.

Other tips for gut health

  • Eat whole unprocessed foods with plenty of fibre: vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • If you think you have food sensitivities try an elimination diet. Cut out gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
  • Take extra omega 3 fat supplements which help soothe inflammation in the gut.
  • Use gut-healing nutrients such as glutamine and zinc.
  • Eat fresh and natural foods for maximum nutrition. Make sure the majority of your meals comprise of vegetables, salads and fresh whole fruits.
  • Drink plenty of water each day. Aim to drink a minimum of 2–3 litres per day (8–12 glasses). Water nourishes the digestive tract, supports the absorption of nutrients and removes waste and toxins.
  • Avoid processed foods that contain additives and chemicals, which can irritate a sensitive digestive system. These include foods high in preservatives, flavour enhancers (such as MSG), refined sugar, wheat, gluten and soy, artificial sweeteners, bulking agents, thickeners and gums. Examples include white bread, soft drinks (sodas), white flour, white pasta, processed cereals, processed meats, store-bought stocks, soups and salad dressings
  • Slow down and relax when you eat and chew your food well to reduce bloating and incomplete digestion. Eating slowly gives your stomach time to prepare to digest the nutrients you are giving it, and allows your body and brain to tell you when you’ve had enough to eat.
  • Practice hare hachi bu, just like the Japanese people from Okinawa. This translates to ‘eat until you are only 80 percent full’, which is a great habit to get into for digestive health. Overeating can increase the pressure in the abdomen causing bloating, reflux, heartburn and delayed digestion. Also, try to avoid eating in front of the TV or computer. Studies show that when people are distracted while eating, they consume significantly more than when they are at a dinner table focusing on their food.
  • Avoid going to bed on a full stomach or lying down after eating. Give your body time to digest properly
  • Stimulate your digestive system by introducing bitter foods into your diet that incite the digestive juices and cleanse the liver. Start the day with the juice of one fresh lemon in two glasses of filtered water. This helps to stimulate the production of bile, which acts like a natural laxative and increases stomach acid allowing you to break down your food more effectively. Other citrus fruits, herbs and spices such as limes, grapefruit, dandelion, peppermint and ginger are also fantastic.
  • Get your body moving! Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to all of your organs, and stimulates the muscles in the GI tract. It can even tone the walls of your colon. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity every day.
  • Go green. Green juices and smoothies are alkalising and packed full of essential nutrients for optimum health. Make a green juice or smoothie a daily habit. Cold-pressed green juices (such as wheatgrass) are rich in chlorophyll, which helps to alkalise the body and works as a natural anti-inflammatory. Chlorophyll also helps to nourish the digestive system, supports detoxification and the elimination of waste.
  • Dried plums – help maintain digestive health and regulate the digestive system; provide important vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium and fibre
  • Chamomile tea – settles the stomach and reduces cramps
  • Raspberry leaf tea – helps with diarrhoea
  • Crystallized ginger or ginger capsules – helps control nausea
  • Ground flax seeds – can help with regularity

Getting the Balance Correct

At this point in time, we don’t know what the perfect ratio of specific species of bacteria and other organisms should be within the body. We probably never will know and, to be honest, the percentages will likely vary depending on one’s age, pH, diet, digestive enzymes, climate setting, the season, body composition, etc.

 

What to avoid for optimal gut health

  • Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement). Be wary of some meats that contain antibiotics.
  • Grains that have been genetically modified have been found to destroy gut flora.
  • Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed bacteria)
  • Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water.
  • Antibacterial soap.
  • Sugar
  • GMO Foods
  • Emotional Stress
  • Chemicals and medications