The digestive system requires a delicate balance of a diverse concoction of acids, bases, enzymes and microbes to function properly. So how do we support this “inner eco-system”?
It is crucial that fibre is a regular part of our diets. Most Canadians have insufficient fibre intakes. It is recommended that women consume 21-28 grams of fibre per day, and men should aim for 30-38 grams per day, depending on age. Fibre keeps you regular, lowers cholesterol and controls blood sugar levels. It is also essential for massaging the interior of our digestive tract and feeding good gut bacteria. Some fibre-rich foods include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds. If you are having trouble meeting these requirements through your diet, like most Canadians, there are a number of fibre supplements available at your local health food store. However, the potential downside of all introducing a large amount of this fibre to your diet suddenly can lead to discomfort and gas.
There is some preliminary research that suggests consuming supplemental digestive enzymes can help to reduce flatulence in high-fibre diets. They can also help to reduce bloating when consuming a high-fat meal. Generally, supplemental digestive enzymes are mostly recommended for people to correct enzyme production deficiencies. Speak with your health care practitioner to see if supplemental enzymes would help your digestion.
The key players in our digestive health include the trillions of bacteria that set up shop in our large intestine known as probiotics. Feeding primarily on undigested fibres, starches and carbohydrates in our food, these gut bugs play an essential role in our overall health, including liberating or creating some essential nutrients, building natural barriers to keep toxins from being absorbed, and stimulating a strong immune system. New research is even shedding light on the impact these good gut bugs play in our mental health.
Adding a probiotic supplement to your regime can support a healthy balance of good bacteria. Research has shown that supplemental probiotics can help to reduce the risk of developing some allergies, resolving infectious diarrhea, and may even help to reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Fermented foods, including yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or tempeh, are another great source of probiotics. The fermentation process can break down barriers to some of the nutrients in food. This helps us to access and absorb more of the healthful nutrients in our food, including phytonutrients, some amino acids, B-vitamins and some minerals like zinc and magnesium. Fermented foods are a growing trend in 2015, making them a readily available way of supporting digestive health.
Empower your digestive health with healthy, fibre-rich whole foods and fermented foods, and consider adding a supplemental digestive enzyme or probiotic to your health regime. Speak with your health care practitioner to find the right balance for your needs.
Digestive health is essential to our overall health. Being attentive to our digestive tract allows us to absorb the essential nutrients our bodies need to thrive. Simple steps can be taken to reduce your likelihood of common digestive issues like heartburn and bloating, and natural health products specific to digestive health can support your often overlooked inner ecosystem.
Here are CHFA’s top five tips for enhancing your digestive health:
- Consume plenty of fibre rich whole foods.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Add a probiotic supplement to your regime for microbial health.
- Exercise to stimulate healthy intestinal muscle contractions.
- Drink plenty of fluids – we make about 10 litres of digestive juices each day! Drinking fluids keeps our digestive tract lubricated and healthy.