Digestion and your health
Digestion and your health.
What is your digestion telling you about your health?
By Belinda Llewellyn, Gain Natural Medicine
How do you know if your digestion is healthy or not?
Looking at how you feel on a day-to-day basis is one key. Do you feel sluggish and drained of energy or energised and healthy?
Another way is to analyse your stools (poo). I know it may seem like a strange thing to do, but as a naturopath it’s very normal as stools tell us a lot about what’s going on within the gut and can be the answer as to why you’re suffering from chronic health and/or skin conditions.
You can learn to recognise the signs of a healthy digestion versus an unhealthy one by knowing what to look for within your stools.
WHAT IS DIGESTION?
The digestive system is a very long tube that starts with the mouth and finishes with the rectum. It acts like a factory where food is processed and prepared for the body to utilise or remove waste products that don’t serve the body.
THE THREE STAGES OF DIGESTION ARE:
1. Breaking down food into nutrients – mainly occurs in the mouth and stomach.
2. Absorption of nutrients – mainly occurs within the small and large intestine.
3. Elimination of toxic waste – occurs via the rectum (end of large intestine).
It’s often tricky for people to know if there is a problem with their digestion as their digestive patterns could have been going on since childhood, and possibly reflect the patterns of one or both of their parents. So, often people may think their digestion is normal when it’s not.
SOME SIGNS OF POOR DIGESTION
> Feeling sluggish and tired all the time.
> Problematic skin conditions – acne, eczema or psoriasis.
> Food intolerances – especially fructose intolerance.
> Poor immunity – slow wound healing and/or chronic infections.
> Feeling like you’re not absorbing nutrients – feeling depleted.
> Burping, indigestion, bloating, abdominal cramping, nauseousness, gas.
> No appetite or binge eating.
TAKE A LOOK IN THE LOO
Get into the habit of checking out your stools before you flush.
It doesn’t take much, just look in the loo before and after you flush and note the following signs and symptoms of healthy or unhealthy stools.
1. Evacuating bowels at least once daily.
2. Emptying bowels completely.
3. Stools are sausage-like or clumps that are formed, soft and smooth.
4. Colour medium to dark brown.
5. Easy to pass.
1. Inconsistent frequency and appearance of stools.
2. Not passing stools daily.
3. Urgency and diarrhoea.
4. Needing to strain.
5. Signs of blood, mucous or undigested food.
WHAT AFFECTS DIGESTION?
It starts with how we’re eating, as well as what we’re eating.
We really are what we eat and our health depends on a healthy digestive system breaking down food properly and providing the nutrients we need to feed our body.
But we also need to consider how we’re feeling when we’re eating, as emotions have a profound effect on our ability to digest food effectively.
FOODS AND EMOTIONS TO MINIMISE
These foods, drinks and emotions can aggravate the gut and therefore have a negative impact on your digestion:
> Refined sugar.
> Saturated fats.
> Anger, anxiety, stress.
> Overexcitement or hyperactivity.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY DIGESTION
Mindful eating is the key to a happy and healthy digestive system.
1. Stimulate digestion with a bitter tonic five minutes before a meal.
2. Sit down to eat.
3. Chew thoroughly – savour every mouthful and place your knife and fork down between bites.
4. Never drink water with meals as it dilutes stomach acid.
5. Make every meal a celebration.
FOOD AND LIFESTYLE TIPS TO EMBRACE
The following foods and drinks support healthy digestion.
> Purified water: at least two litres per day.
> Soluble and insoluble fibre: fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
> Essential fatty acids: organic nut and vegetable oils.
> Fermented foods: yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut.
> Vegetable and lean animal protein.
> Balance exercise and relaxation daily.
> Pranayama – deep breathing techniques.
If you have any concerns about your digestive health I would advise checking with your local naturopath, as there’s so much we can do to support you to establish a healthy digestion, which is so vital for our overall health and vitality.
Belinda Llewellyn and her Naturopathic Clinic in Bayswater, Gaia Natural Medicine, are a part of the Nourish Melbourne Community, offering Nourish Melbourne Members 20% off their initial consult and 10% off all further visits. Click here to find out more about our partnership with Gaia Natural Medicine and here for more info about becoming a Nourish Melbourne Member.