Your gut is a workhorse that you simply can’t do without. The average human’s digestive tract is about 30 feet long and plays a major role in your overall health. This muscular marvel allows you to take in food, and then breaks it down into its molecular components, which your body can absorb.
When it works perfectly, life is great, but about 70 million Americans experience some kind of digestive impairment. Common impairments include ulcers, Acid Reflux, herniations, blockages in the digestive tract or bile ducts, stone formations, polyps and cancers. Some people also experience chronic digestive problems like Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease and Lactose Intolerance.
Your gut is filled with bacteria that live and thrive in your digestive tract. While the thought of bacteria in your body may be distressing, your gut depends on them! Your health depends upon having the right microbes in your gut, but many people suffer with an unbalanced microbiota.
Your gut flora reflects your diet. When you eat a diet filled with nutritional foods, you typically have a healthy balance of digestive flora. When you eat poorly, or consume a limited range of foods, your gut flora may become unbalanced and unhealthy. In this environment, your body may not be able to take full advantage of the healthier foods in your diet.
It’s important to recognize that your digestive system comprises about 70% of your immune system. When you take good care of your gut, you’re also boosting your body’s ability to fight disease. Conversely, poor eating habits can lead to a decrease in your body’s natural ability to fight illness and disease.
Managing your gut health
How can you manage your gut health and help it recover from a chronically poor diet? Reforming your digestive tract is not something you can achieve overnight, but you can begin to improve its function today. Learning to work with your gut and forming healthy eating habits can build the foundation for a happier, healthier you. Here are a few steps to get you started on the road to better digestive health.
Create an eating routine
Your digestive system works best during the day, so set an eating routine that respects this fact. Eat larger meals earlier in the day and reduce the size of your dinner. Establish a cut-off time at least an hour or two before you go to sleep; don’t eat anything after that.
It takes a while for your stomach to signal the brain that it’s full. If you eat rapidly, you can overfill your stomach before it’s had a chance to tell you to stop eating! Make a conscientious effort to eat more slowly and drink more liquids during your meal. Take smaller bites and take time to chew your food thoroughly. This will give your stomach time to send up the white flag. It will also reduce the number of calories you take in during a meal. If you’re having trouble slowing down, try eating a meal with a companion and holding a conversation at the same time. If you usually sit at a table for one, read a magazine or newspaper while you’re eating. This kind of brain work can help you shift your focus from your fork! Slow eating is especially important during dinner – the last major meal of the day. By eating a smaller dinner, you’ll swallow less air and take a big step toward improving your digestive health.
Eat better foods
Processed foods aren’t good for your gut. Generally, the more processing a food requires before packaging, the less healthy it is for you. Gradually eliminate highly processed foods from your diet. Instead, substitute more fruits and vegetables (even as snack items) and drink more water. Learn about who grows, harvests and processes your food and how they do it. Eliminate poor quality foods and foods that receive heavy pesticide exposure while growing. This approach may mean that you spend more time preparing your own foods and spend more money on fresh foods. The results, however, will be entirely worth the investment. It’s tempting to make a major dietary switch immediately, but you’ve designed your gut to digest your old diet! Making changes gradually to your diet can help avoid discomfort and bloating while your microbiota tries to catch up.
Pay attention to what you eat
Your gut may not be able to manage all foods equally well. Some foods may cause irritation, inflammation, gas or bloating that you may never have noticed. Read labels carefully and look for reactions from your gut. When you find a food that offends your gut, eliminate it from your diet. You may also find that your taste preferences change when you start changing your diet. This will go a long way toward eliminating poor-quality foods you were certain you couldn’t live without!
Supplement as needed
Ideally, you should get all of your nutrients from the foods you eat, but realistically, that may not happen. Soils may become exhausted from over-farming, and that can diminish a food’s nutrient density. Harvesting practices, over-processing and delays can also reduce the nutritional value of food. Careful supplementation can provide your body with the nutrients it needs but isn’t getting from your diet.
A good strategy to improving your digestive health is, “Remove, replace, repair.” That is, remove the bad actors from your diet and your gut, and replace them with good actors. Under these conditions, your body will naturally begin to repair your gut and enable it to function more ideally.
If you’d like more information about repairing your gastrointestinal health, or you would like to consult with us to develop a gut health plan, please call us today at (509) 737-9355. We’ll be happy to assess your current health and determine whether you’re a good candidate for our gastrointestinal repair program.