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How To Improve Digestive Health

herbs for digestive health

Look around and you will see that the developing world is moving away from the rural areas and into the cities. In fact, by the time 2050 rolls by, 70% of the human population will be living in cities.

What does this have to do with how to improve digestive health?

Well, with the move away from rural life, fresh air, healthy organic food, and outdoor activities, the norm for the urban lifestyle is an unhealthy Western style of eating.

Processed Diet = Chronic Diseases

how to improve digestive health

Today, more than half of America’s people eat “ultra-processed foods,” relying on the Western diet.

What’s the Western diet?

It consists of plenty of GMO processed foods, added fat, meat, added sugar and refined grains.

And it's the Western diet that causes Western diseases. Imbalances like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In his writings, Michael Pollan writes all about the places where culture and nature intersect… On our plates, in our gardens, on our farms, and in our minds.

It was he who said we should “eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” – unfortunately his advice is not too often followed. But the tide is turning and people are waking up to the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Unfortunately, you get very little nutritional value eating processed foods. It's just a lot of empty calories. Obesity is soaring, and in 2014, there were more than 600 million obese adults. And the World Health Organization claims there's another 2 billion overweight.

Obesity Makes You Susceptible to Disease

When you are obese, your body falls prey to inflammation. This puts you at risk for horrible diseases like cancer and stroke, arthritis, heart disease and the like.

Have you noticed how many people today need joint replacement surgery? It is because of the extra pressure and wear and tear on the joints and it’s happening to younger people too.

Also linked to obesity is diabetes, which affected over 374 million people back in 2014, and on the rise.

What about cancer? Men who consume a Western diet are at high risk of dying from prostate cancer – which is linked to colon cancer – which is linked to inflammation and bad gut bacteria.

High processed, refined foods throw the whole immune system out of sync. The culprits are foods like palmitic acid and fructose. You can find these ingredients in sweets, which then start an immune reaction in your body.

It is only when you change your diet and digestive health that you will be able to restore your immune system.

What Causes Digestive Health Problems?

how to improve digestive health

1.  Eating Few Vegetables and Fruit

You might remember your mother telling you to eat your fruit and vegetables. She was correct. Fruit and vegetables contain so many nutrients that your body needs. This includes carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, enzymes, and minerals.

Even though people know fruit and vegetables are nourishing, they still don’t eat them enough. This is because food companies make more money on the foods that contain sugar, wheat, dairy, and meat. And then to add insult to injury, they market them as beneficial to your health. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Processed foods are high in sugar, salt, and fat. They make us fat, slow, lazy, lethargic and susceptible to diseases.

The most popular vegetable is probably the potato because it's made into French Fries. Tomatoes, lettuce, and onion come close behind.

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2. Not Eating Foods that Contain Enzymes

Raw foods and fermented type foods contain enzymes. Enzymes are very vital for the body, particularly digestion. If you eat mostly cooked food, You're most likely not getting any enzymes in your diet. This is because cooking kills enzymes, even more so in the processed and fast food businesses.

how to improve digestive health

3. Drinking Beverages High in Sugar

 
Today, highly-processed sugar bombs are what are replacing the more nutrient-dense type foods. This is leaving people both undernourished and overfed.
 

The worst offenders are probably sugary fruit drinks and sodas. And much of these offenders are sold with the word “healthy” on it.

Naturally, we all love food and it’s a pleasure to enjoy. It is not that you should cut out sugar entirely; although you should if you have any health problems. But apart from that, moderation in everything is the key.

4. Eating Processed Foods

 
Most people know that when it comes to the Western diet, it’s all about FAST. People look for quick, easy and convenient ways of eating their food.
 
This makes processed foods a ‘blessing in disguise’ to millions of modern families. Unfortunately many do not realize that with the convenience of processed foods, comes a long list of modern diseases.
 
If you love popping your food into the microwave, or the ease of canned foods; it might be time to start looking at your digestive health.

5. Eating Industrialized Animal Products like Cheese, Meat, and Milk

how to improve digestive health

Even though animal products are part of our traditional diet, there are issues with animal products that form part of the Western diet

Some experts say cheese, milk, and yogurt can be healthy in moderation. But sadly, these foods come from animals fed and raised industrially. (I would argue these foods are not healthy, but that's another article.) If you have interest in going Dairy Free – Here's the Ultimate Guide on Going Dairy-Free & Healthy Dairy Alternatives.

 
The unfortunate animals are raised away from spacious grassy pastures, their natural abode, and diet. And you can be sure that plenty of pesticides and antibiotics were sprayed on the plants they eat.
 

This means that products that you believe are healthy, are actually not.

They come from sick animals that ingest antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones. Plus they're fed food unnatural to them; grains!

 
Nature designed cows to naturally forage. Grain diets for cattle lead to the cattle experiencing serious health issues as well. It’s no wonder your digestive system has gone awry!
 
Processed animal products in the form of hot dogs, salami, bologna, burgers, cheeses, sausages are loaded with sugar and salt, food additives, colorings, and preservatives.
 
If you want to avoid health problems, you need to start to reduce your intake of processed animal products. If your cheese, eggs, yogurt, and meat come from organically pasture-fed animals, then eating them in moderation is okay.

how to improve digestive health

6. Eating Wheat Products

The grains eaten a couple of thousand years ago have no resemblance to the grains we eat today. In Biblical times, three types of wheat existed – Emmer, Triticum aestivum, and Einkorn along with other grains.

Today, there are over 25,000 species; mostly created in labs to make them disease resistant and to produce high yields. All these hybridized strains cause major allergies. Besides, that they've been sprayed with chemicals and pesticides.

The grains of Biblical times were nowhere genetically near to the grains eaten today. Back then, they were also prepared completely differently. Today, millions of people suffer from gluten intolerance from wheat products.

Since the 1960s, minerals in wheat have decreased hugely with the introduction of the semi-dwarf cultivars. Semi-dwarf wheat is the wheat grown today. The most dominant variety, developed in Mexico between the 1940s-1950s by Dr. Norman Borlaug, a plant pathologist. He wanted ways of increasing wheat yields and to make the country more self-sufficient in the production of food.

Today, yes, the high yields are there, but they have lost all their nutrition. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates, you are triggering insulin mechanisms and surges of glucose-insulin in your body. This leads to obesity, usually on the belly and thighs.

Our bodies are not supposed to eat baked goods that come from processed, refined flour and hybridized wheat.

If you overweight because you eat a lot of wheat products, you need to reduce your consumption. It is time to start cooking fresh again, using quality foods and ingredients.

Good Digestion is the Foundation of Good Health

how to improve digestive health

When you understand the digestive process and learn helpful tips to keep it healthy, you will be able to diagnose and treat your own digestive issues. Having a healthy digestive system is imperative to good health; in fact, it’s the foundation of good health.

  • The digestive system consists of hormones, nerves, blood, and bacteria. They all work together to do an intricate job of digesting all the liquids and foods you consumed on a daily basis. The digestive system also interacts with all the other systems of the body.
  • There are digestive juices with enzymes that speed up chemical reactions in your body. These enzymes breaking down the food you eat into nutrients.
  • Cells in the lining of your stomach and small intestine release and produce hormones. These stimulate your digestive juices and regulate the appetite.
  • The digestive system is controlled by nerves. These nerves connect digestive organs to the spinal cord and the brain. They release chemicals that contract or relax your muscles. There are also nerves in the GI tract that get triggered when food is present. This enables the digestive system to function properly.

How To Improve Digestive Health

how to improve digestive health

You cannot afford to let your digestive system become ill.

Here is how to improve digestive health:

  • Chew your food well before swallowing – Chewing is imperative for proper digestion. This is because the more you break the food down in your mouth, the less work the digestion system has to deal with. Your brain also needs time to get the message that your stomach is full – rather allow your stomach to prepare for the food that it is going to receive.
  • Always sit to eat, and eat in a settled environment without the television on.
  • Don't overeat – When you eat more than you need, your digestive system cannot digest properly. This will lead to gas, bloating and discomfort. Leave one-third to one-quarter of your stomach empty to allow space to easily digest the food.
  • Fiber, fiber, and more fiber keep the food moving easily through your intestines. Soluble fibers such as whole grains and veggies absorb water and prevent stools from being too watery. Insoluble fibers help by adding bulk to your stools. Fiber also helps to break down any fatty foods you have eaten.
  • Drink plenty of water – because water helps to dissolve the soluble fiber, allowing food to easily pass through the intestines. When you have too little water, you have harder stools which make it more difficult to pass through your colon.
  • Avoid cold drinks at meals –  Drinking iced water with food is like putting cold water on burning logs. It extinguishes the digestive fire which can cause indigestion.
  • Eat your main meal at mid-day – Our bodies follow the rhythms of nature. Just like the sun is highest and hottest between 10 am and 2 pm, so too is your digestive fire. Aim to eat 75% of your food before the sun sets each day.
  • Get moving – Exercise also moves food easily through the digestive system and increases the flow of blood to all your organs. Exercises tone the wall of the colon to reduce anxiety and stress which plays havoc with your digestive system. How many people have IBS – irritable bowel syndrome? What about ulcers? – All stress related. Getting enough sleep is important too.
  • Eating warm foods is being friendly to your spleen. The spleen does not like the cold. The digestive enzymes also break down foods properly that are warm. It is the cold foods and drinks that can cause the spleen not to work properly. Soups and warm teas and cooked vegetables are great. Always, avoid iced beverages with your meals because they slow your digestion and can create toxic waste.
  • Give up smoking because smoking can not only impair your digestive system but your health altogether. Smoking weakens your lungs. Nicotine relaxes the muscles at the lower esophagus which keeps acid in the stomach. When the muscles are relaxed, you experience acid reflux and heartburn. This puts you at rist for gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Cut down on alcohol – Sometimes when you drink a lot, your digestion gets out of sorts because acid secretion and the absorption of nutrients in your body is affected. Heartburn, diarrhea, and liver problems are common when consumption of alcohol is unreasonable.
  • Start to lose weight because even a few pounds over your ideal weight can affect your digestion. It can affect the valve situated between your stomach and esophagus which won’t close properly. When you lose weight, you ease the pressure so that your digestive system can continue to work properly.
  • Taking probiotics and fiber are a couple of things that the Western diet lacks. The body has good bacteria and bad bacteria and maintaining the right balance is essential to your health. Probiotics are good bacteria; easing IBS and preventing infections and allergies.
  • Digestive herbs have a very important and unique purpose in digestion and detoxification of your body. Here are 7 Top Herbs for digestive health
  • Eat mindfully – Sometimes we eat too much too, especially if we are not paying attention. This can lead to gas, bloating and indigestion. Eating slower and taking notice of what you are putting into your system can reduce symptoms of IBS and even ulcerative colitis. To eat mindfully, eat slower. Focus on what you’re eating, away from television and phones. Notice how your food tastes and how it smells – simply enjoy your food, taking notice of everything about it.

Food Types that Your Digestive System Loves

how to improve digestive health

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Raw honey
  • Ghee
  • Kefir
  • Plants like chlorella, spirulina, blue-green algae, seaweed
  • Kim Chi which is a fermented type cabbage, a very popular Korean dish
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans
  • mung beans
  • Organic coconut yogurt with no added sugar

Want To Help Your Digestion and Strengthen It?

  • Eat raw and cooked foods
  • Choose to eat smaller meals more often
  • Limit your meat and dairy products
  • Try and avoid eating grains, protein, and starch veggies all on the same plate of food
  • Cut back on pasta and bread
  • Eat plenty of fermented foods
  • Drink probiotic beverages which contain active and live cultures
  • Glutamine is excellent amino acids that really support good gut health, helping a leaky gut
  • Zinc is a very useful mineral, in fact, critical for ensuring your gut stays healthy. A deficiency can lead to gastrointestinal disorders. Zinc treats diarrhea, leaky gut, colitis, leaky gut and other digestive problems
  • Use digestive herbs like ginger, fennel, coriander, cumin, and cardamom

Promote Good Bacteria

how to improve digestive health

Good bacteria will fight off the infection but it is your responsibility to look after your digestive health. Scientists continue to study both the good and the bad effects of bacteria in the digestive system. Doctors have started using good bacteria to treat life-threatening infections like Clostridium difficile (C diff) infection. It is the long-term use of antibiotics that can even lead to C. diff; severe colon inflammation.

The gut is like your second brain, very sophisticated, and affecting us all in a big way. When inflamed, you will know all about indigestion, bloating and pain which over time can become serious.

There are fantastic mucilaginous herbs and foods such as Slippery elm, Marshmallow root, Chia seeds, Fenugreek seeds and Licorice root which support the healthy mucous lining of your digestive system.

A wonderful formulation I use and recommend is Dr. John Douillard's Slippery Elm Prebiotic Formula. It can heal a world of digestion symptoms and restore a healthy microbiome.

Also, raw foods have the necessary enzymes to support your digestion system like pawpaw and pineapple. If you eat more than 70% of your foods raw, you truly will notice a feeling of digestive ease and lightness. If your digestion is not working thoroughly, then toxic waste will certainly build up and health symptoms will follow.

Now that you know how to improve digestive health, consider your digestion system as that of a bank account – you need to invest in it to reap the rewards.

Free Mini E-course – Question Your Digestion

I cannot think of a better investment of your time and attention than to watch this FREE mini eCourse by Dr. John Douillard.

Nearly 80% of the population have some sort of digestive disorder. Symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain are all common complaints. The sad part is that most people are embarrassed to tell their doctor, so their symptoms go untreated for years. Sometimes until it's too late.

But Ayurveda has lots to say about digestion and the importance of it. First off, health and disease both start in the digestive system. Early detection and not ignoring digestive symptoms is KEY to a complete recovery and long-term health.

Most folks try to figure out and remove “problem” foods. And, this may help temporarily, but it will NOT treat the underlying problem in your digestive system. More often than not, this results in more and more foods having to be eliminated. And this is not a way to live.

But there is A LOT you can do to identify and address the problem and achieve the digestive strength you deserve.

So right now, before this free training goes away, sign up for Dr. John's 4-part training Question Your Digestion. It will blow your mind! This free ECourse is only available until September 22, 2018.

You will learn how to reset both the strength and efficiency of your digestion using remedies from Ayurveda alongside modern scientific studies. You'll learn about poor lymphatic circulation, liver function bile flow, stomach acid strength, stress and how a diet of highly processed foods can impact your digestive health.

With the mass population being bombarded by more than 4 billions pounds of toxins dumped into our environment every year, a healthy digestive and detox system is more important than ever before.

Dr. Douillard only opens this series for a limited time each year. This free eCourse will only be available for a short period of time. Registration closes September 22, 2018.

Watch Question Your Digestion – Repair the Damage and Eat Fad Free

This is NOT the 4-part series – Rather this is a video of Dr. John explaining what's inside the FREE 4-part series

Sign up for the Free Series here: Question Your Digestion 

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them for us below.

how to improve your digestive health

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About the author

Jackie Parker

4 Comments

  • Hi Jackie ,first let me say,great article.Everybody needs to hear this stuff.I like the blog for the following reasons:
    1.Great,simple layout and easy to read.
    2. loved the section on wheat.Great info here.I try to stay away from wheat as much as possible.
    3.So good to have an in depth explanantion of the digestive system and its parts and functions.
    4. Great images used showing the digestive system.
    It simply just makes sense that it all starts here with gut health because that is where the “input” to our body starts.Great work and good article Jackie :))

  • Anything that has to do with the digestive system, always catches my attention. For a long time, I thought it was an embarrassing topic.But within time, I have come to notice that this is so common. Thanks to posts like these, I have been able to speak about it publicly.

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