Digestive Image from http://hawkesbiology.wikispaces.com/Digestive+System

Published on January 3rd, 2013 | by Andrea Bertoli

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healthy poo means a healthy you!

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You probably do it everyday, but how often do you really think about your poop? It’s pretty important, and today we’re going to talk all about why it’s important to have a healthy digestive system and regular, efficient elimination.

Digestive System basics: image from hawkesbiology.wikispaces.com/Digestive+System

Healthy elimination is important for many reasons. Though it seems pretty basic- we eat, we digest, we poop- it’s really a bit more complicated than that! A healthy, swiftly moving digestive system is important for disease prevention, general immunity, and even your mood! First, it prevents diseases by removing waste products from our system. These waste products include unused components of foods, but also viruses, bacteria, and hormones that are cycling through our body. According to this Nutrition Facts video, this is especially important for breast cancer, as excess estrogen is bound to fiber throughout the body and then flushed out. If there is not enough fiber in your diet, this excess estrogen stays in the body, which can lead to breast cancer.

A healthy digestive system is great for our overall immunity, too. A healthy digestive system is full of beneficial microorganisms that help us fight off viruses and bacteria. Gut flora can become unbalanced because of stress, hormones, or medications and can lead to other problems as well. Many studies show that a healthy gut flora keeps vaginal flora in check too, and helps prevent yeast infections.

Additionally, a healthy gut plays an important role in our happiness. At the most basic, a upset tummy simply make us uncomfortable and unhappy. But, as recognized in alternative therapies and in Eastern medicine, there multiple systems in the body are all connected. This is (finally!) becoming increasingly clear to Western medicine. But how does your gut help your hormones and happiness? According to this article on Huffington Post, “Your gastrointestinal system is the most abundant source of regulatory neurotransmitters and neuro-peptides outside the brain. An example of this is the fact that serotonin, one of the brain’s chemicals that influences mood, actually has its highest concentrations in the gut. Scientists and researchers are currently studying the numerous links between our nervous system, hormones and immune system.” So if your gut is unhealthy, levels of serotonin and other regulatory hormones are likely to be disrupted as well. Maintaining a properly functioning digestive system really is the key to improved health.

The following are some ways to tips to keep your digestion functioning in top form:

  1. Drink lots of water. These keeps every cell in your body hydrated and keeps everything moving along properly throughout all our body systems.
  2. But don’t drink while you eat. Drinking liquids while eating can dilute the gastric juices that help break down your food. Try to drink liquids half hour before or after meals to keep your stomach juices at their optimal levels.
  3. Eat greens and grains everyday. Greens and other cruciferous vegetables work like little brooms to sweep crap out of our bodies, and the fiber from whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa adds bulk to our waste. Eat all your meals sitting down to relax your body and prepare it for optimal digestion.
  4. If needed, supplement with healthy fibers. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and psyllium husks are great supplements if you need a boost in fiber. Skip the drugstore and head to a health food store to buy these goodies in bulk. Whichever you choose, be sure to add lots of extra water, otherwise you might get backed up!
  5. Add probiotics. If you need to improve your digestive flora, probiotics are the way to go, as they increase the amount of healthy bacteria in our guts. Probiotics occur naturally in kombucha, kefir, and non-dairy yogurts, so you can skip the supplements and drink your beneficial little bugs!
  6. Have fun! Stress can mess up our digestive system- including decreasing appetite, creating excess acid, and encouraging inflammation throughout our digestive system. Try to exercise regularly, giggle daily, and remember to play! This helps our bodies relax and maintain its delicate balance.

Another important component of a healthy digestion is what Dr. Gregor of Nutrition Facts calls  ‘transit time-’ the speed at which food passes through our system. Optimally, the food you eat this morning leaves your body by the next morning, if not sooner. But if your system is a bit sluggish- because of stress, poor dietary habits, or medications, you can be having daily bowel movements and still be constipated. Think about this: if you eat a meal on Monday and don’t eliminate that food until Friday, that same meal is sitting around in your gut rotting. It sounds horrible, but it’s true. This is especially likely if you eat a high amount of animal protein and little plant-based protein. Fiber is ONLY found in plant foods- this is one of a million reasons why it’s so important to eat a good quantity of fruits and vegetables. Along with being gross, this old waste matter is pretty problematic when left to hand around in our gut. Not only can it lead to digestive distress (gas, bloating, indigestion) it can also lead to weight gain, damage to the intestinal walls (because of hardening of the stool), and if the problem is really bad, colon and rectal cancers. To determine your ‘transit time’ Dr. Gregor recommends eating a bunch of beets, and then waiting to see when your poop turns red- this is your transit time. Of course, too quick a transit time and your might have a different problem, so go see your doctor about that too.

Most people in this country don’t get nearly the recommend daily amounts of fiber. This is due partially to the amount of processed foods we eat (which has the fiber stripped out of the grains and fruits) and the lack of fresh foods in our diet. As a basic rule, the more whole plant foods you eat, the higher your fiber intake is going to be. Here are some of the most vibrant high-fiber foods and some recipes you can incorporate to get things moving along.

 

And don’t forget, none of us here at VWJ are doctors, so before taking any supplements or changing your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor! Please and thanks. A very early version of this article appeared on Healthy Bitch Daily.

 


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About the Author

Vegetarian chef, educator, blogger, and yogi based on the gathering isle of Oahu. Follow her foodie adventures at Vibrant Wellness Journal, Vibrant Wellness Education, Green Living Ideas and Green UPGRADER. Find more from Andrea on Facebook, , Instagram and Twitter.



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