Digestive health has been an interesting issue for me to research this past year as it has been the underlying cause of a number of physical and mental symptoms I have had to deal with.
A sluggish or unhealthy digestive system can present in so many ways. Physically, bloating and nausea after meals is a common occurrence and one we are all aware of. Mild depression, stress, anxiety, fatigue and a ‘foggy brain’ are lesser known symptoms of poor digestive health but are ones that many of us deal with unwittingly, sometimes for decades. So be mindful, you may not need a psychologist or anti-depressants but a greater awareness of your how you’re treating your body and in particular the digestive tract.
“Our reactions to stress and digestion are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. When humans experience stress, the body diverts energy, blood, enzymes and oxygen from the digestive organs to other areas of the body. In addition to mental and emotional stresses like fear, anger and worry, physical stresses including infections, trauma from injuries, surgery and environmental toxins can have a major effect on our digestive efficiency”.
Our digestive system absorbs and transports nutrients from the foods we consume and distributes it to various organs via the bloodstream, it then eliminates the leftover food not needed from the body in the form of faeces. Quite a simple process in an extremely complex network that is our bodies ~ that is, if all is in fine working order …
How do we know if our digestive system is sluggish …
- Abdominal bloating, swelling and pain
- Mild depression and anxiety
- Skin problems
- Muscle cramp
- Sleep disturbances
- Diarrhoea / Constipation
- Feeling of heaviness after eating
Causes may include:
- Antibiotics – kill a high percentage of the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that we need for digestion.
- Over-the Counter Drugs – birth control pills, laxatives, antacids, antihistamines, ibuprofen, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
- Poor Diet – fast foods, processed foods, not enough fibre, high sugar content and food allergies
- Environmental Toxins – solvents, food additives, air and water pollution and mercury.
If left untreated resulting digestive problems include:
- food allergies
- gluten sensitivity
- gastroesophageal reflux
- bacterial and fungal overgrowth of the small intestine
- irritable bowel syndrome
- muscle cramps
- joint problems
- colon cancer
Ways we can restore a healthy digestive tract:
3. Manage stress levels. This is a major cause of unfriendly gut bacteria and digestive issues due to the increase in cortisol. Exercise and meditation have helped me to make positive lifestyle changes by re-affirming what is important in my life. Check with your naturopath for advice on which herbs and supplements can aid in stress relief.
4. Use a quality probiotic to replace the good bacteria. There are so many products out there with varying strains, be sure your probiotic contains both L. Acidophilus and B. Bifidum.
5. Drink 2L per day of distilled water, juice of 1 lemon, 3Tbs apple cider vinegar, 1/2tsp cayenne pepper to help eliminate toxins and promote regular bowel movements.
- The Benefits Of Probiotics For Patients With Stress-Associated Gastrointestinal Disorders (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Leaky Gut: Can This Overlooked Sickness Be Wrecking Your Health? by Dr. Ron Grisanti (optimysticliving.wordpress.com)
- Leafy Greens Could Play Important Role In Maintaining A Healthy Gut, Study Finds (huffingtonpost.com)
- Natural Ways to Avoid and Recover From Antibiotics (wakingtimes.com)