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, digestion is a vital function of your body 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 begins to accumulate, leading to toxicity and eventually, discomfort and disease.
Dietary plaque that is allowed to accumulate over time, creates havoc in your digestive system that causes a host of common ailments. For this reason, it is important to consciously choose foods that support digestive health to minimise plaque build up inside your body.
Here we reveal some basic wisdom about the digestive system and share seven food tips to help support your healthy digestive health.
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.
7 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 they provide good bacteria for the gut.
These benefits are important not only for healthy digestion, but also weight management and strong immunity which helps protect you from illness and viruses.
1. Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
Fresh, seasonal and locally sourced fruit and vegetables contain a wide range of phytonutrients that your cells easily recognise and which support digestive health and all round body function.
It's a good idea to eat seasonally, which means consuming the foods that naturally come forth at certain times of year. For example, the higher water content fruits are naturally in abundance in the summer months such as melons, peaches and mangoes.
And then in the cooler months, the lower water content foods such as broccoli, pumpkin, squash and berries are at their best and most nutrient rich. Try to shop at your local farmer's markets for fresh produce and you'll quickly see which foods are ripe, in season and in natural abundance at any time of year for you to include in your weekly diet.
2. Legumes & Beans
In addition to a range of powerful vitamins, minerals and high quality protein, legumes and beans contain dietary fibre which is a vital nutrient for helping to prevent digestive related diseases.
Rich in both soluble and insoluble fibres, the soluble fibres form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile, which contains bad 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 (IBS) and Diverticulosis.
Easily sourced varieties of legumes and beans include, Lentils, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Borlotti Beans and Chickpeas. You can source these pre-cooked in cans in your local supermarket or buy them dried and soak and cook them yourself at home.
Legumes and Beans are great added to soups and stews in winter and colourful salads with a range of other fresh ingredients in winter.
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are crucial for long term digestive health because they deliver natural probiotics which allow "good" bacteria to grow inside the gut which build your body's defences.
Good bacteria is key to ensure robust immunity, healthy digestive function and all round general health and wellbeing. Also, the good bacteria that fermented foods provide are very effective in warding off bad bacteria that can otherwise lower your immune and body function.
Some of the best sources of fermented foods that generally available year round include:
- Organic yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese
- Olives and pickles.
Once you have a basic awareness around fermented foods, it's actually quit easy to include a variety of them in your diet every single week.
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, pasta, cakes, cookies, breakfast cereals and energy bars.
These products may have a long shelf life and come in attractive packaging, but they cause insulin spikes, inflammation in the gut and have very little quality fibre content.
On the other hand, organically harvested whole grains that are not refined, are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibres, protein and even omega-3 fatty acids. And these should form part of well rounded diet for heart, brain and digestive health.
Also, keep in mind that whole grains are rich in "PRE-biotics" - the nutrient that helps to feed, grow and sustain the healthy bacteria in your intestines.
In other words, PRE biotics nourish the PRO biotics, which are the beneficial micro-organisms that fermented foods help to cultivate inside your gut and this is key to healthy digestion.
Here is a small list of readily available whole grains to look out for and include in your diet to support healthy digestive function:
- Whole Grain Bread made traditionally with organic flour
- Rolled Oats
- Wild Rice
- Buckwheat and;
5. Good Fats
A healthy digestive system depends on a good supply of healthy fats to function optimally.
Also, your body needs quality fats to absorb certain fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K and beta-carotene which feed the cells and help protect the immune system.
Despite the propaganda from food companies that promote "low fat" foods, good fat is actually essential for long term health and vitality. But it's important to know the difference between 'good' and 'bad' fat because not all fats are 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 hydrogenated vegetable cooking oils, such as canola, safflower, soybean and corn oils, which are in many cases derived from genetically modified crops.
And instead, opt for oils that support healthy digestive function, like these:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use mostly raw, perfect for salad dressings)
- Avocado Oil (use for medium heat cooking or raw)
- Macadamia Oil (use for medium heat cooking or raw)
- Raw Coconut Oil (great for frying and baking due to it's high heat point, also can be added to raw desserts and smoothies)
6. Digestive Drinks
Certain beverages, elixirs and drinks are very good for supporting healthy digestion. Some of these include:
- 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. Bentonite Clay and Psyllium
To ensure a healthy digestive system over the long term, it is wise to do some type of a cleanse every 2-3 months or at least with every change of season.
Nature provides a few amazing ingredients that can assist this process, two of which are Bentonite Clay and Psyllium.
When used together, these ingredients help to extract unwanted accumulated waste stuck in the digestive tract so that it can be removed from the body and make you feel lighter and brighter.
If you're wanting to try this type of cleanse, get your hands on our Cleanse Me product in our store. It is a two-part product prepared from Australian Food Grade Bentonite Clay, Ground Flax Seed and Ground Psyllium Husk with a hint of dried ginger and dried apple.
It can be used as part of a more generic multi-day cleanse on raw juices or fresh food which will help to reset your digestive system and help your body 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 do not support a healthy digestive system. So, it is vital that you are conscious of the foods you source and include in your diet on a regular basis.
The secret to healthy digestion is to incorporate a number of the foods shared with you here and to be very aware of processed and refined foods which cause inflammation in the digestive tract and body.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of good, clean water each day and to get a consistent amount of moderate exercise and a little sunshine also. When you do these things, you will go a long way to having a healthy digestive system and you will avoid many common everyday ailments and even chronic health problems.
Tolman Self Care.