What is Digestive Health?
The digestive system is a group of organs that work together to convert the food you eat into the energy and nutrients that your body needs. The food we eat is broken down by our digestive system into the following nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins. These nutrients are then absorbed into the bloodstream, which carries them around the body to be used in cells. Nutrients provide the cells with the energy they need for growth and repair. Everything in your body, from your hormones to your heart, needs the nutrients from the digestive process to work correctly.
Optimal digestive health can have a number of benefits including:
- Better immune system
- Improved function of major organs
- Improved recovery times
- Better mood and attitude
- Enhanced energy and productivity
How Improving Digestive Health Can Affect Body Composition
When your digestive system is working effectively it:
- Allows better absorption of nutrients from food; when you consume an optimum level of nutrients you feel fulfilled and less hungry which will stop you from over eating and consuming unwanted calories through unhealthy snacks.
- Creates less stress on your body preventing the chance of excess cortisol which stores fat on your body, in particular your mid-section.
- Saves valuable energy for your body to use; you will have more available energy for your body to use during training, recovery and every day activities.
- Prevents bloating after meals; your body will be breaking down the food more efficiently and using it more effectively to eliminate toxins in the body which will prevent any bloating after eating.
How Can You Improve Your Digestive Health?
Improving your digestive health is based around your daily activity levels and what you consume on a day to day basis so it is very important that the foods, fluids and supplements that you consume are well thought out around an exercise program.
The following are ways that you can better improve your digestive health:
- Stay Hydrated – there is nothing better for your digestive system and your overall health then water! When your body is dehydrated your digestive system significantly slows down because a harder stool is more difficult to pass. The ideal amount of water to be consumed varies dependent upon the size of the person, but aim for a minimum 2L daily, 3L if you have exercised that day.
- Keep Active – exercise and physical activity speeds up digestion, stimulates muscles in the intestinal tract and increases blood flow to your organs helping your organs work more effectively. It also helps to relax the mind and body and eliminate stress which can interfere with the way food is digested and absorbed into the body.
- Eliminate Processed Foods From Your Meal Plan – processed foods are hard to digest and cause extra stress on your body. They also contain extra toxins and hormones that your body finds hard to extract, taking it longer to break down and using up valuable energy in your body.
- Eat More Fibre – fibre is responsible for moving everything smoothly through your intestines allowing regular bowel movements. It slows down digestion enough to allow absorption of glucose into the bloodstream at a steady rate, keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Without fibre your risk the symptoms of gas, gridlock or discomfort so it is important that load your meal plan up with foods like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.), fruits, nuts and seeds and if needed some fibre supplements.
- Take Your Time When Eating – I know your probably hungry just reading this but it is very important that you slow down the consumption of your foods and chew before gulping it down. The last thing you want to do when your starving after a big session is eat your food slowly but keep this in mind; the quicker you eat the less chance your stomach has of telling your brain that its full and this is when overconsumption of calories occurs.
- Give Probiotics a Chance – your gut is made up of billions of ‘good bacteria’ which is used to help digest and distribute nutrients found in your food. When we consume processed and contaminated foods your gut is loaded with ‘bad bacteria’ which wants to start running the show, causing inflammation. You can balance this out by consuming probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso soup and kombucha tea or by taking a probiotic supplement.
Taking all of this into account, you can understand how the implementation of a proper training and nutrition plan is so important for optimal digestive health, giving you the ideal environment to burn fat and reach your body composition goals.