Top tips to improve your digestive health
The need for a healthy digestive system can be difficult to digest. After all, digestion isn’t likely to cross your mind unless you have an upset stomach or you’re feeling a little bloated. However, digestive health is about so much more than avoiding tummy troubles. The health of your digestive system not only affects how well you feel, but also how well your body and mind function. Your digestive system is also known as your gut, and the health of your gut affects everything from your body and brain to your mind and your mood. From details about your digestive system to foods you should consume to keep your gut in good health, we’ll cover it all.
Breaking down the human digestive system
What is known as your gut includes the parts of your body involved with the consumption and elimination of food from top to bottom. The foundation is the digestive tract—which is also called the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract, for short—and a network of major organs, including the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder, among others. They work together to turn food into fuel, take nutrients where they’re needed, and eliminate waste. Your digestive tract is a long tube that begins in your mouth and extends through your pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and both your large and small intestines. Food moves through this tract with the help of your teeth, tongue, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. Once all the food has been broken down and all the nutrients have been absorbed, the rest is eliminated.
Chew on how your gut functions
While digestion may seem like a simple process, it involves a series of complex steps that includes breaking down food into small enough pieces so that proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and minerals can be extracted and absorbed for energy, growth, and cell repair. It all begins with food. Your teeth mash up the food as the salivary glands in your mouth moisten the smaller morsels to help them easily move down your throat to your esophagus and stomach. Once there, the food is broken down even more by acids and enzymes. Then, the nutrients from the food travel down to the small intestines, where they are broken down even further by the pancreas and gallbladder before being absorbed by your bloodstream. Any undigested food is removed through your anus in a bowel movement.
Foods to feed a healthy gut
Gut health is all about balance—and the health of your body and mind truly hang in the balance! See, your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some good and others bad, that make up your gut microbiome. There’s usually a balance of good and bad bacteria in this microbiome, which enhances your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Yet, the number of good and bad bacteria in your gut is always changing because it responds to the various foods you eat each day. Simply selecting wholesome foods that contribute to the growth of good bacteria (while staying away from overprocessed and sugary foods that promote bad bacteria growth) can nourish your gut’s need for a healthy balance. So, tip the balance in your favor with these tips to improve your gut health:
- Eat a diet of whole foods – Real, whole foods maintain the nutrients that your gut needs to stay balanced and your body needs to stay healthy. Along with being minimally processed, they’re free of additives and full of vitamins and minerals. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Probiotic-filled foods – For a healthy gut, go to the pros…probiotics, that is. Probiotics are the good bacteria found in fermented foods, such as Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, and tempeh. They support the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
- Prebiotic-packed foods – Prebiotics are a kind of dietary fiber that feeds the probiotics to support good bacteria growth in your gut. Foods with prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, oats, and mushrooms.
- Whole grains – Give into your carb cravings because whole grains are another outstanding source of dietary fiber. They keep everything moving smoothly through your digestive tract and help you avoid digestive discomfort. Your best bets are oats, barley, brown rice, legumes, quinoa, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Supplement your gut health – If consuming all these gut-friendly foods is tough to stomach, speak to your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor about taking supplements for gut health.
Understanding how your gut affects your overall health and well-being will make maintaining good digestive health much easier to swallow.
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