Poor digestive function is the primary cause of sickness and disease that occurs in the body.
As Hippocrates taught, "All disease begins in the gut", so for robust health and wellness, this is an area worth paying attention to.
Your digestive system consists of the largest and most vital system of tubes in your body. And when these tubes get clogged, plaque forms, leading to toxicity and eventual discomfort and disease.
Dietary plaque that is allowed to accumulate over time, creates havoc in your digestive system.
That's why it's so important to consciously choose foods that support digestive health to minimise plaque build up.
Read on to learn the basics about how the digestive system works and the best foods that support it.
Digestive System Basics
The digestive system is one of 7 body systems in your body, and is arguably the most important for lasting health.
In simple terms, the digestive system is a large "tube" known as the Alimentary Canal, which runs from the mouth to the throat (oesophagus), down to the stomach and then the small and large intestines.
After chewing and salvation, food enters the "holding tank" (stomach) where it remains for several hours.
During this time, the stomach produces an acidic enzyme that breaks down the food further into a small mass called, "Chyme", which then passes through the stomach into the small intestine at a steady rate, where it undergoes a process of fermentation.
By the time the food leaves the first section of the small intestine it isolates a substance known as "Chyle". Chyle is a type of juice or milk that is absorbed into the bloodstream, lymph and cells of the body. The remainder is transported to the liver, where it stores nutrients and determines what the rest of the body requires.
The substances not absorbed by the small intestine, pass to the large intestines, where they are processed for waste elimination via the bowels.
The entire digestive cycle operates on electric expansion and contraction signals called the "Peristaltic Action".
Plant whole foods contain nutritional properties and fibres that have an electrical frequency that the intestines can identify with and utilise to do their job.
The problem for most of the population today, is that of the food consumed is electrically 'dead' and out of harmony with the frequencies of the digestive system, which is why so many chronic health conditions are on the rise that can be traced back to poor digestive health.
Seven Food Groups That Support Healthy Digestion
Foods that support digestive health generally are either high in natural plant fibres, high in water content and/or provide good bacteria for the gut. These benefits are important for not only healthy digestion, but also weight management and strong immunity.
1. Fresh Fruit & Vegetables - locally sourced fresh fruit and vegetables contain a variety of appealing colour and a wide range of phytonutrients that your cells can recognise and that support digestive health and all round body function.
Eat seasonally - higher water content fruits and vegetables in the summer months e.g. melons, peaches, mangoes, tomatoes and cucumbers and denser varieties in the cooler months e.g. berries, apples, broccoli, pumpkin and potatoes.
Be sure to also eat seasonal leafy greens year round, including, a variety of lettuces, rocket, collard, silver beet, spinach etc.
2. Legumes & Beans - powerful sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, known for their benefits in helping to prevent colon related diseases. Rich in both soluble and insoluble fibres, the soluble fibre form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol) and transports it out of the body.
Insoluble fibre not only helps increase stool bulk and prevents constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diverticulosis.
Easily sourced varieties of legumes and beans include Lentils, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Borlotti Beans and Chickpeas;
3. Fermented Foods - support the production of healthy bacteria in the gut due to their naturally occurring Probiotic content. Good bacteria in the gut is key to ensure robust immunity, healthy digestive function and all round general health and wellbeing.
The best sources of fermented foods that you should include regularly in your diet include, sauerkraut, kimchi, organic yogurt, kefir, olives and pickles.
4. Whole grains - Whole grains are a far cry from the heavily refined versions of grain-based products that end up on our supermarket shelves, such as white flour, white bread, cakes, cookies, energy bars and breakfast cereals. These products may have a long shelf life and come in attractive packaging, but they cause insulin spikes and inflammation in the gut.
Organic, naturally harvested whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibres, protein and even omega-3's, and should form part of a healthy diet for all round heart and brain health and nervous system support.
In fact, grains of many different kinds, have been revered for thousands of years and still remain a food staple of most cultures on earth, who don't subscribe to dietary fads.
Whole grains not only deliver crucial fibres to the digestive tract for cleansing, but also a nutrient known as "prebiotic" - a substance that helps to feed, grow and sustain the healthy bacteria in your intestines.
So the PRE biotics nourish the PRO biotics, which are the beneficial micro-organisms that fermented foods help to cultivate.
Include a variety of the following whole grains in your diet to support healthy digestive function:
- Wholegrain bread (Organic)
- Wild Rice
- Cous Cous
5. Good Fats
A healthy digestive system depends on a good supply of healthy fats to function optimally.
Also, our bodies need fats in order to absorb certain fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K and beta-carotene.
Despite the propaganda from food companies that promote "low fat" foods, good fat is essential for long term health and vitality. However, not all fat is created equal.
For healthy digestion, it is important to avoid trans fats. Trans fat is the worst type of fat you can eat, because it is highly inflammatory, raises "bad" cholesterol and also lowers "good" cholesterol.
Most trans fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature.
This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, so foods made with it have a longer shelf life. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers, because it doesn't have to be changed as often.
Avoid these foods and oils that contain trans fats:
- Cakes and Cookies
- Frozen Foods
- Pizza Bases
- Deep Fried Takeaway Foods
Also, avoid hydrogenated vegetable cooking oils, such as canola, safflower, soybean and corn oils, which are in many cases derived from genetically modified crops.
For healthy digestive function, instead consume an abundance of these oils:
- Raw Coconut Oil (great for frying and baking due to it's high heat point, also can be added to raw desserts and smoothies)
- Avocado Oil (use for medium heat cooking or raw)
- Macadamia Oil (use for medium heat cooking or raw)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use mostly raw, perfect for salad dressings)
6. Digestive Drinks
- Kombucha - prepared by fermenting yeasts and bacteria with sweetened tea, kombucha is a refreshing, lightly carbonated drink that is rich in probiotics
- Ginger Tea - great for after a meal to prevent heartburn and indigestion. The ginger root stimulates saliva flow, bile and gastric juice production which kick starts the breakdown of food. Steep a few slices of raw ginger root into warm water, or add 2-3 drops of Ginger Essential Oil
- Lemon - Renowned for it's cleansing powers in helping to reduce bloating, constipation and for its anti-inflammatory effects. Add 2-3 drops of Lemon Essential Oil to a mug of warm water and sip
- Peppermint - Recognised for thousands of years for its digestive health benefits, it Peppermint helps to ease the digestive tract and stimulate healthy digestion. Source organic Peppermint Tea or add 2-3 drops of pure Peppermint Essential Oil to a mug of warm water and sip. Additionally, dōTERRA has a proprietary digestive essential oil blend that combines specific oils, called DigestZen
- Coffee - Well known as a digestive aid, coffee is a morning drink that activates the peristaltic action of the intestines to help kick start the elimination of waste during your digestive cycle. After hydrating with plenty of water in the morning, enjoy an organic black coffee (with optional milk alternatives such as coconut milk, almond milk or oat milk)
- Water - Water is a source of life and drinking enough water is vital for a healthy functioning digestive system. Drink at least 2 litres of pure water every day or if you're particularly active or perspire often, it is important to aim for 1 litre per 22 kilograms of body weight for replenishment and to support the flushing of waste from your digestive tract.
7. Clay and Psyllium - every so often, to help cleanse and reset your digestive system, it is a good idea to do a natural clay and seed fibre colon cleanse. We recommend our Cleanse Me product, where the main active ingredients are Australian Food Grade Bentonite Clay, Ground Flax Seed and Ground Psyllium Husk. This process will help strip unwanted stored metabolic waste from the digestive tract to help you feel lighter, brighter and ready to absorb nutrients more efficiently from food.
The Main Take Away
Digestive Health is one of the most important areas to pay attention to in order to avoid sickness and disease and to experience robust health and vitality.
Unfortunately, most foods on our supermarket shelves today are not ideally suited to a healthy digestive system. So, it's important to be conscious of the foods you source and include in your diet.
Step number one is to avoid inflammatory, processed and refined foods.
Next, drink plenty of water and get moderate exercise.
And finally, eat an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, good fats, and you'll go a long way to avoiding digestive problems and reversing symptoms of poor digestion.
Tolman Self Care.