When we talk about the digestive system we’re referring to the group of organs which work together to digest your food in order to extract energy and nutrients to support your overall wellbeing. World Digestive Health Day is an important day to raise awareness of the role of digestive health and the impact of digestion on overall wellbeing. There are a number of different factors which can impact your digestive health. These range from the food you consume, to how you consume it, how your sleep, your exercise and even your stress.
Ensuring a healthy gut microbiome is key to supporting good digestive health as the gut microbiome is associated with immune function, mental wellbeing, weight management, dietary choices and sleep. We can house up to 1000 types of bacteria in the gut and 100-150 types at any given time. With this in mind it’s key that we’re focusing on supporting the growth of the commensal bacteria (aka the good bacteria) in the gut over pathogenic bacteria (aka the bad bacteria).
Below are some top tips for supporting your digestive health:
Incorporating adequate amounts of fibre into the diet is fundamental to supporting good digestive health. It’s recommended to consume 30g of fibre per day, although in the UK the average intakes are currently sitting at around 18g per day. Fibre helps to feed the good bacteria in the gut to allow it to grow, thrive and survive.
We’ve discussed the importance of mindful eating many times, however it’s key to understand why it’s so important. Eating mindfully (e.g. giving your food your undivided attention) engages the brain in the digestive process. This allows the brain to signal to the digestive tract that it should prepare for food. As a result, the stomach secretes the digestive enzymes and the appetite hormone kick in meaning the food is broken down more efficiently, allowing the nutrients to be better absorbed in the gut and promoting satiety as a result. Eating mindfully requires you to remove all distractions, eat whilst you’re seated and fully focus on the food in front of you.
Evidence suggest that impaired sleep can increase the pathogenic bacteria (aka the bad bacteria) in the gut. As a result, it make it harder to absorb key nutrients and can stimulate undesirable gut symptoms. Ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night!
Much like sleep, high levels of stress can negatively impact the bacteria in the gut and the digestive tract. Mindfulness has shown to be hugely beneficial in supporting gut health, therefore reducing stress and focusing on mindfulness for a period each day can help to promote your digestive health.
Consuming live cultures may seem really strange but we know that eating sources of live bacteria is key for supporting your digestive system. Yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut are all great examples of live bacteria which can help to support your digestive tract.
Eat Your Veggies!
Consuming your 5-a-day is hugely important for providing your digestive tract with ample amounts of phytochemicals (chemicals found naturally in plants). Phytochemicals are particularly important for supporting the intestinal lining and therefore supporting the gut’s ability to absorb micronutrients from your food.
There you have some top tips for supporting your digestive tract, remember if you are concerned about your gut health please do seek personalised advice!