A healthy body is only as good as its digestive system. That's because, despite what many people think, your digestive system is super far-reaching. It doesn't just control gas and grossness. A good stomach and set of intestines could indirectly help to prevent all sorts of things - even things like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and acne - if they're looked after properly, and it's surprisingly easy to do. At Aprés Food Co., we look after our GI tract with the five Rs... and... Here they are!
Get rid of (or at least cut down on) things that negatively affect the environment of your stomach and intestines. That includes stuff like foods you're allergic, intolerant or sensitive to, things which may irritate them, or stop them from working properly (like excess refined sugar/alcohol/excess caffeine/stress). And look out for signs that may be causing dysbiosis (which is an imbalance in intestinal flora, so not enough of the good guys and way too many of the bad ones), these can be things like constipation or diarrhoea; dysbiosis may also caused by parasites, potential problematic bacteria, yeasts and taking antibiotics or certain medications - like acid-blocking ones.
An "elimination - reintroduction diet” could help you find out what foods are triggering GI symptoms, and there are some forms of medication or herbs out there which help to eradicate particular bugs.
Sometimes, if you're eating certain foods, or following a course of medication, or getting a little longer in the tooth, or sometimes for no apparent reason whatsoever, you may miss out on things like, hydrochloric acid (AKA: stomach acid), digestive enzymes and bile acids; these all enable us to digest and absorb things properly and effectively.
Without adequate stomach acid, we leave ourselves open to things like decreased immune resistance and a variety of other health problems, including an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Also, stomach acid is necessary to be able to absorb vitamin B12 from food; B12 plays an important role in the functioning of our central nervous system, therefore, deficiency can contribute to pain, numbness and weakness, imbalance, confusion or depression. Also, vitamin C levels may be low in people with poor stomach acid. Research also suggests that reduced stomach acid tends to reduce capability/efficiency of protein breakdown, it can also impair nutrient absorption as several minerals require an acidic environment to separate the mineral from the food or mineral salt, these include iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and copper. Stomach acid is also our first line of defence. Poor acid content in the stomach may even cause indigestion. Did you know that the symptoms of hypoacidity (low stomach acid) often mimic those of hyperacidity (high stomach acid).
Try eating enzyme rich foods (just-sprouted seeds, pineapple and papaya are all awesome) and bitter foods that help to stimulate bile flow (lemon, beetroot and fennel); these all assist in digestion. There are specific vitamins (B6 & B1) and minerals (zinc), that are needed to actually be able to make stomach acid and digestive enzymes in the first place, so increasing foods rich in these nutrients is a good place to start. You may even find it helpful to take specific supplements which may help to do the same as our stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
Help the beneficial bacteria do their thing by having probiotic foods or supplements that contain the “good” GI bacteria. You're looking for things like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, these encourage the proliferation of our own beneficial bacteria as dysbiosis increases our internal toxins and affects our immune system and may even increase food intolerances. Once our beneficial bacteria is balanced, increase the high soluble fibre foods that our bugs like to eat, called prebiotic's.
So...Probiotics are “friendly bacteria" that form in the gut that offer a tonne of useful functions to your body (things like digestion, immunity and metabolism). You can get supplements to help cultivate a good stash of "friendly bacteria", but you can also find them in foods like bio-live yogurt, kefir, fermented foods and miso.
Then there's prebiotics, which are basically food for your friendly bacteria (they've gotta eat too). You'll find them in a fibre called inulin (think artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, chicory). Grains such as barley, flax and oats are also good sources of prebiotics. Get your probiotics, and feed them with prebiotics, and you'll be onto a winner.
Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by eating foods rich in key nutrients, such as zinc (nuts, seeds, eggs, chicken); vitamin A to help keep mucous membranes healthy (carrots, melon, peppers, mango, eggs, sweet potatoes, broccoli, watercress, spinach), vitamin C (all fruits and vegetables), vitamin D (sunshine and to a lesser extent oily fish and some fortified foods), vitamin E (avocado, nuts, seeds), Stewed apples, soothing aloe vera juice, the amino acid L-glutamine (fish, poultry, eggs) for the surface cells of our gut lining and essential fats (EPA/DHA) for membrane fluidity and anti-inflammatory. Also, chicken bone broth is amazing for the health of our gut, as it contains high amounts of collagen. Having a healthy gut lining will make for more efficient absorption and help with immune tolerance.
It's important to pay attention to lifestyle choices too. Sleep, exercise, and stress can all affect the GI tract. Balancing those activities is important to a healthy, happy digestive system. Try deep breathing, massage and meditation; reducing stress is so important as it can cause dysfunction from something known as the gut/brain axis. Also cortisol (released due to the stress response) redirects energy away from digestive organs therefore reducing stomach acid production and possibly increasing indigestion and constipation.
Give the five Rs a go for a week or so, and tell us what you think!
Thanks for reading,
Aprés Food Co.