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The health of the gut is central to every aspect of health. It is through our digestive system that we absorb all of the goodness from our food, a process that is essential for life. Our gut is (obviously) also one of our key elimination channels as well, and it’s important that we keep our bowels moving regularly.
Yet today, many people suffer with an array of gut-based illnesses or dysfunction, which can have broad-reaching impacts on many other areas of our health – here are some gut friendly tips to incorporate into your daily life and help you avoid constipation.
USE LEMON JUICE/APPLE CIDER VINEGAR TO STIMULATE DIGESTION
Due to numerous components in lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, they help to stimulate stomach acid production. The digestive qualities of lemon juice/apple cider vinegar can also help to relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn and bloating. Begin your day with the juice from half a lemon in warm water or up to one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (start with half a teaspoon) diluted in water for digestive support. It can be wise to avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes afterwards to minimise any potential disruption to tooth enamel.
One of the most detrimental changes to our diet over the last century has been the continual sweetening of our foods, the result being that many people are now particularly sensitive or averse to bitter foods. Bitter foods stimulate the liver to produce bile, which is an important part of optimal digestion. Bile emulsifies fats and renders nutrients — especially fat-soluble ones such as vitamins A, D, E and K. A great way to eat more bitter foods is to include leafy greens, turmeric – and even a couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate.
Healthy (as opposed to excessive or inadequate) movement such as walking, increases blood flow to our organs and increases lymphatic flow. Bringing more blood to the gastrointestinal tract results in stronger intestinal contractions and increase in digestive enzymes. The stronger the contractions and the more those digestive juices flow, the more quickly and easily food waste will move through the colon and be excreted out of the body. A 10 to 20 minute walk can be incredibly helpful to promote a bowel movement and is a great option if you suffer from constipation. Strengthening your core muscles through exercises such as yoga and Pilates is also great for healthy gut function.
Dietary fibre appears to have varied affects. For some, it is incredibly helpful for the gut. Soluble fibre essentially acts like a sponge, absorbing fluid and making the bowel contents softer. It also binds to toxic waste products, allowing them to be eliminated efficiently. Insoluble fibre acts as like a “bulking agent” which, like soluble fibre, helps to keep our bowel regular (although bowel regularity is often more complex than just dietary fibre consumption, movement and water, and for some people, certain types of fibre can aggravate constipation; take notice of your own response).
Fibre may be of particular benefit for our gut bacteria; both insoluble and soluble fibres have been shown to positively alter our gut bacteria in as little as two weeks. Obtain your dietary fibre from whole food plant sources.
Consuming adequate water also helps to promote healthy elimination, and it reduces the likelihood of constipation, as one of the primary functions of the large intestine is to absorb water from digested food. When water consumption is low, stools tend to become dry, hard and more difficult to pass, and the longer this waste remains inside the body, the more waste will be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Drink adequate amounts of pure water each day. Keep a large glass at your desk to ensure you stay hydrated over the day. Let your body guide you on how much water it needs by noticing your response to the water you drink. As you drink, observe if your thirst becomes awakened and your body actually seems to draw in the water. This is your body letting you know that it needs more water.
Be sure to use your bowels every day. If you don’t, make daily bowel motions a health focus for you as the gut is central to every aspect of our wellbeing.