There are many contributing factors that effect digestion and it’s a process of elimination to discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Factors such as diet, food intolerances, stress, adrenal burnout, hormones, lifestyle, emotional disposition, anxiety, chemicals, parasites, bacteria, medications, relationships and sleep will affect the state of your health and how your body works. Combining a personalised diet and a balanced lifestyle with restorative therapies will support your recovery and help get you back on track. Here are 12 key points from my new book Perfect Digestive Health.
1) Eat fresh and natural foods for maximum nutrition. Make sure the majority of your meals comprise of vegetables, salads and fresh whole fruits. Remember to make meals yourself, or get it prepared by someone who loves you, that way, you’ll know exactly what’s going into your body.
2) Take probiotics and/or eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. Examples include kefir, kombucha tea, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented vegetables.
3) Drink plenty of water each day. Aim to drink a minimum of 2–3 litres per day (8–12 glasses). Water nourishes the digestive tract, supports the absorption of nutrients and removes waste and toxins.
4) Avoid processed foods that contain additives and chemicals, which can irritate a sensitive digestive system. These include foods high in preservatives, flavour enhancers (such as MSG), refined sugar, wheat, gluten and soy, artificial sweeteners, bulking agents, thickeners and gums. Examples include white bread, soft drinks (sodas), white flour, white pasta, processed cereals, processed meats, store-bought stocks, soups and salad dressings
5) Slow down and relax when you eat and chew your food well to reduce bloating and incomplete digestion. Eating slowly gives your stomach time to prepare to digest the nutrients you are giving it, and allows your body and brain to tell you when you’ve had enough to eat.
6) Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in soluble and insoluble fibre into your diet. Fibre acts as a prebiotic and promotes healthy gut function. It also helps promote peristalsis in the gut and aids in the elimination of waste. Check out Healthy Chef Organic Superfood and make sure to enjoy an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables that will nourish your body.
7) Practice hare hachi bu, just like the Japanese people from Okinawa. This translates to ‘eat until you are only 80 percent full’, which is a great habit to get into for digestive health. Overeating can increase the pressure in the abdomen causing bloating, reflux, heartburn and delayed digestion. Also, try to avoid eating in front of the TV or computer. Studies show that when people are distracted while eating, they consume significantly more than when they are at a dinner table focusing on their food.
8) Avoid going to bed on a full stomach or lying down after eating. Give your body time to digest properly (i.e. try not to eat at least 3 hours before going to bed). I often make a light soup or a shake rich in protein in preference to a heavy meal in the evenings. I make dinner the smallest meal of my day and lunch the main meal of my day.
9) Stimulate your digestive system by introducing bitter foods into your diet that incite the digestive juices and cleanse the liver. Every day I enjoy the juice of one fresh lemon in two glasses of filtered water. This helps to stimulate the production of bile, which acts like a natural laxative and increases stomach acid allowing you to break down your food more effectively. Other citrus fruits, herbs and spices such as limes, grapefruit, dandelion, peppermint and ginger are also fantastic. Enjoy them every day for a happy digestive system.
10) Avoid inflammatory foods such as wheat, gluten, milk, refined sugar, alcohol and coffee, which can aggravate your digestive system and the healing process. If you love your morning caffeine hit, then swap coffee for a revitalising Matcha green tea that is loaded with antioxidants and kinder to your digestive system. Start to introduce natural anti-inflammatory foods into your diet that include turmeric and add it to your juices (see Natural Immune Support) or add a teaspoon of turmeric when braising vegetables.
11) Get your body moving! Physical activity speeds up digestion, increases blood flow to all of your organs, and stimulates the muscles in the GI tract. It can even tone the walls of your colon. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
12) Go green.. Green juices and smoothies are alkalising and packed full of essential nutrients for optimum health. Make a green juice or smoothie a daily habit. Cold-pressed green juices (such as wheatgrass) are rich in chlorophyll, which helps to alkalise the body and works as a natural anti-inflammatory. Chlorophyll also helps to nourish the digestive system, supports detoxification and the elimination of waste.