Improve your digestion

  • 6 Jan 2009
  • Reading time 7 mins
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What you eat is important, but how well you digest your food is also crucial, so how can you improve this?

Here are five easy steps you can take now to maintain healthy digestion:

1. Chew your food thoroughly – this is the first vital stage of digestion. Aim to have reduced your mouthful to liquid mush before you swallow.

2. Eat less wheat – this can be a digestive irritant. Instead aim for rye bread, corn thins, oat cakes, oat cereals, wheat-free pasta and brown rice.

3. Reduce your intake of sugar and refined foods – these encourage bad bacteria to proliferate in your gut.

4. Enjoy plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and some live natural yoghurt – these help to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

5. Consider supplementing digestive enzymes and probiotics (a supplement of good gut bacteria) for a month if you suffer from indigestion, stomach upsets, constipation or other digestive complaints.

Over a lifetime, no less than 100 tons of food passes along your digestive tract. This ten-meter-long tube is your ‘inside skin’ and, if you ironed it flat, has the surface area of a small football pitch. Amazingly, most of the billions of cells that make up this barrier between your body and the outside environment are renewed every four days. We spend our physical lives digesting organic matter, extracting nutrients, processing these and eliminating the rest. How good we are at this determines our energy level, longevity and state of body and mind. Digestive problems, however, are the norm for most people. A survey we undertook at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition with 22,000 people found that 71% had sub-optimal digestion. We found that one in four often experienced indigestion, while one in two often experienced flatulence or bloating. Four in five didn’t have a bowel movement every day. These are classic signs that all is not quite as it should be in the area of digestion. The immediate knock on effects are often low energy, poor skin, headaches, foggy thinking and food allergies, leading to all sorts of other symptoms – from depression to weight gain, aches and pains to arthritis. If poor digestion goes unchecked for too long it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, stomach bugs, candidiasis, ulcers, Crohn’s, colitis, diverticulitis and even chronic fatigue. The ......

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