You have heard of people having a “gut feeling”, right? Have you ever experienced “butterflies” in the stomach from a stressful situation? There is more to this connection between your brain and gut, than first thought. Recent research, like a 2017 Clinical Practice study which was reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has shown that the brain affects your health and your gut affects your brain health and function, and, simply, that’s How Digestive System Functions.
The impact of stress on the stomach goes far beyond indigestion, however.
In recent years, doctors have uncovered a remarkably complex connection between the brain and the digestive system. A Harvard Medical School study confirmed the “Gut-Brain Connection”, explaining that emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety, and depression have a negative effect on the gut and proper digestion.
And, the reverse is also true, physical gut issues caused by stress, can effect brain function , as well. The entire system is extremely sensitive to our moods. In fact, experts, as reflected in a HealthDay article “Stress and the Digestive System”, now see stress as a major player in effecting the digestive system functions resulting in a wide range of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and heartburn and many more.
Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of the Digestive System:
The human digestion system consists of the gastrointestinal tract plus the accessory organs of digestion which are the tongue, salivary glands, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Digestion involves the breakdown of food into smaller and smaller components, until they can be absorbed and assimilated into the body.
There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain, determined NIH research. Interestingly, your gut contains between 200 and 600 million neurons, which are connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system, according to a 2013 National Review Nueroscience study reviewed by the NIH. Neurogenesis, is the process of creating new neurons, and scientists believed this creation occurs in the area of the brain called the hippocampus.
However, recent research is calling neurogenesis into question. 37 donor samples showed adult produce few if any hippocampal neurons, a disappointing setback to researchers, found a 2017 Nature study.
Scientists were hoping that neurogenesis would help in treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are linked to destroyed neurons and neurotransmitters. Your gut and brain are also connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters, per NIH StatPearls. Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions and other functions.
There are billions of neurotransmitter molecules working constantly to keep your brain functioning and managing everything from your breathing to your heartbeat to your ability to concentrate. For example, the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and others, contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps control your body clock, according to 2014 Iranian Journal of Public Health (NIH).
According to the above NIH study, the opposite is also true, low levels of serotonin are linked to mood disorders like anxiety. Consider that 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, a hormonal control hormone, is found in the digestive system, not the brain. According to a 2017 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study reviewed by the NIH, lack of glutamate in certain regions of the brain, another neurotransmitter, is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Mood disorders such as manic depression, anxiety, and impaired sleep, has been associated with norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter, according to a 2016 Neuropsychiatric Disease Treatment study reviewed by the NIH.
It Goes Both Ways
We can talk about “gut feelings,”. but few of us really appreciate the amazingly strong “brain-gut Axis” connections between the brain and the digestive system. The stomach and intestines actually have more nerve cells than the entire spinal cord, leading some experts to call the gut a “mini-brain.” According to a 2015 Annals of Gastroenterology study (NIH) this axis connects central and the nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions.
A highway of nerves runs directly from the real brain to the microbiome and digestive system, and messages flow in two directions for the functioning of the brain and digestion, per a 2013 Nutrition Review study (NIH).
Studies, like this 2016 Genome Medicine study reviewed by the NIH are revealing how variations and changes in the composition of the gut microbiota influence normal physiology and contribute to diseases ranging from inflammation to obesity. In times of stress, our bodies are designed to focus on the things that can help us survive and stay alive. When our ancestors had to fight off animals for survival and to kill for food, they didn’t want to waste any energy on less important things like proper digestion.
When the brain feels severely stressed, it unleashes a cascade of hormones that can put the whole digestive system in an uproar. Exposure to stress results in alterations of the brain-gut interactions ultimately leading to the development of a broad array of gastrointestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal diseases, according to a 2011 Journal of Physiological Pharmacology study reviewed by the NIH. A 2018 Frontier Psychology study (NIH) confirmed the vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain.
The vagus nerve sends signals in both directions, and in animal studies, stress inhibits the signals sent through the vagus nerve and also causes gastrointestinal problems, according to a 2001 Biological Psychiatry study (NIH) . One 2014 PLOS|ONE study reviewed by the NIH study showed that the reduced function of the vegus nerve caused by stress, is associated with both Crohn’s disease and IBS.
Another area that effects the brain-gut axis communication, is gut microbes or microbiota (microbiome). The trillions of microbes that live in your gut also make other chemicals that affect how your brain works, and also the effect in the gut according to a 2014 Molecular Endrocrinology study reviewed by the NIH.
According to a 2016 Frontier Microbiology study reviewed by the NIH healthy microbes produce a lot of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) made by digesting fiber, and one of the SCFAs reduces appetite, which reduces food intake and, reduces the activity in the brain related to reward from high-energy food and inflammation, per a 2016 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (NIH).
The gut-brain axis is also connected through the immune system by controlling inflammation by what is absorbed by the body and what is excreted,found a 2016 National Review Immunology study reviewed by the NIH. When the immune system goes haywire, it leads to inflammation, which is associated with disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s, per a 2006 British Journal of Pharmacy study (NIH).
This leads to “leaky gut” syndrome, where certain toxins caused by invading bacteria is allowed to cross over into the blood. The crossing-over causes harmful inflammation, leading to a number of brain disorders such as severe depression, dementia, and schizophrenia, found a 2015 Frontier Cell Neuroscience study reviewed by the NIH. The hormones have different and sometimes contradictory jobs. The gut-brain connection is discussed the Harvard Health Medical School report where they stressed the importance keeping both the gut and the brain healthy,
Pay attention to the gut-brain connection, it may contribute to your anxiety and digestive problems.
For example, the hormone CRH, or corticotropin-releasing hormone, is one of the body’s main alarm bells against physical and emotional stress, per an NIH research.
In stressful situations, the brain pumps out CRH to tell the adrenal gland to start making cortisol, a stress chemical hormone that can give you the strength and energy to run or fight your way out of trouble.
According to a 2008 Endrocrinol Metabolism Clinical North America study (NIH) CRH also turns off appetite, which explains why some people can’t eat anything when they’re stressed. At the same time, the steroids triggered by CRH can make a person hungry, which is why some people fight stress with ice cream, chocolate, or potato chips.
Clearly, different people have different responses to stress, and there’s no way to say for sure how specific situations will affect digestion. But there are some general rules of thumb. Over the short term, stress can cause stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. In the long term, prolonged stress can aggravate chronic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association Of America; and acid reflux, as discussed a NIH Acids Reflux In Adults research. (heartburn).
GI Disorders (IBS)
Stress is especially troubling for people who have digestive problems without any clear physical cause according to a 2008 Malaysian Journal of Medical Science reviewed by the NIH. The relationship between stress and illness is complex. The susceptibility to stress varies from person to person and among the factors that influenced the susceptibility to stress are genetic vulnerability, coping style, type of personality and social support.
Not all stress has negative effect. Studies have shown that short-term stress boosted the immune system, but chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness. Stress also leads to the release of histamine, which can trigger severe broncho-constriction in asthmatics, per a 2007 Brain Behavior Immunology study reviewed by the NIH. Stress also increases the risk for diabetes mellitus, especially in overweight individuals, since psychological stress alters insulin needs, according to NIH research “Live Event Stress and Illness”.
Stress also alters the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to peptic ulcers, stress ulcers or ulcerative colitis found the same above NIH research. In any of these cases, every part of the system looks healthy and normal, but they still don’t work as they are designed to. These disorders are extremely sensitive to stress. They’re also extremely common.
According to a report from the University of North Carolina School Of Medicine, roughly 25 million Americans have a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. The classic example of a functional GI disorder is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a very common and perplexing malady often characterized by painful cramps, bloating, and constipation alternating with diarrhea, per NIH research.
Most recently, resilience has even been conceptualised as a multidimensional, dynamic and variable process documented Kalisch in 2015 Journal of Nursing Care Quality study; Mancini 2009 Journal of Personality; 2009 Norris Journal of Nursing Management; Rutten 2015 Journal of Nursing Care Quality; Sapienza 2011 Current Opinion in Psychology; Southwick 2012 Science study.
This resilient process is characterised by either a trajectory of undisturbed mental health during or after adversities or temporary dysfunctions followed by successful recovery (Kalisch 2015). In general, resilience is viewed as the outcome of an interaction between the individual and his or her environment (Cicchetti 2012; Rutten 2013), which may be influenced through 2014; Kalisch 2015; Southwick 2005; Wu 2013). As such, resilience is modifiable and can be improved by interventions
The NIH estimates that as many as one in five Americans has some signs of IBS. Nobody knows how IBS begins, however, according to a NIH study, psychological stress has a huge impact on IBS, and can worsen symptoms. IBS can flare up over traumatic experiences, especially those that make a person feel tense, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. The National Institutes Of Health study referenced above copersonal (e.g. optimism) as well as environmental (e.g. social support) resources (Haglund 2007; Iacoviello included the following:
The modulation of the brain-gut axis is being seen as an attractive target for the development of novel treatments for a wide variety of disorder. However, the cornerstone of its therapy is a solid patient physician relationship. There are no recommendations for prevention for IBS.
40 to 60 percent of those with IBS have a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression, according to a 2012 Journal Neurogastroenterol Motility study reviewed by the NIH. For one thing, stress can make the colon contract, leading to stomach pain. It’s not completely clear why people with IBS sometimes become constipated. One possibility is that stress can occasionally make the contractions uncoordinated and unproductive.
Stress can also make the mind more aware of sensations in the colon, and since people with IBS may feel more discomfort due to extra-sensitive pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, even normal contractions can feel really unpleasant. Indigestion, or GERD, is the second most common functioning disorder, after IBS.
GERD is a result of a weak lower esophageal sphincter (acid reflux), and that weakness allows the contents of your stomach to flow back up into your esophagus. Certain foods and drinks can trigger GERDS, and some of the more common food triggers are fried or fatty foods, inflammatory foods, processed meats, citrus, chocolate, coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcoholic drinks, according to NIH research.
Learning How Digestive System Functions with other triggers like smoking, being pregnant, being overweight or obese, and taking medications like pain killers, antidepressants, and antihistamines are critically important too.
For example, a 2014 Frontline Gastroenterol study reviewed by the NIH found that many widely-used medications may induce GI symptoms and appear capable of causing symptoms in a relatively high proportion of patients. All the symptoms of indigestion tend to worsen in times of stress. There’s that word STRESS, again! Usually, however, the symptoms of indigestion fade once a person has an opportunity to relax.
Running a close second to indigestion, an actually a symptom of and a result of Gird, is heartburn, or acid reflux. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), GERD and acid-reflux affects about 20 percent of people in the United States. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious complications.
There are many causes of heart burn or acid reflux, but researchers have proposed that stress can elevate the stomach’s production of acid or make the esophagus extra-sensitive to pain.
A study published in Internal Medicine (ResearchGate), interviewed 12,653 people with GERD and found that nearly half reported stress as the biggest factor that worsened symptoms, even when on medication. According to this NIH “Effects of Anxiety and Depression in Patients With Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease” study, anxiety and depression might make some of the symptoms of GERD worse.
Some researchers, like this on published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (NIH), believe that people with acid reflux who were anxious and stressed reported having more painful symptoms related to acid reflux, but no one showed an increase in gastric acid. It’s not likely just in the head, stress changes in the brain that turn up pain receptors, making one physically more sensitive to slight increases in acid levels.
It’s now known that most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection, but studies have also shown what actually occurs is that stress may actually promote the infection’s ability to flourish and take hold in the stomach, by disturbing the stomach’s delicate balance of acid and protective enzymes, making it more vulnerable to developing ulcers. A Mayo Clinic review confirmed that H Pylori infection in the stomach is mostly the cause for development of peptic ulcers.
A common cause of peptic ulcers, H. pylori infection may be present in more than half the people in the world.
Your gut-brain relationship is also connected through the immune system.
Gut microbes play an important role in your immune system and inflammation by controlling what is passed into the body and what is excreted. If your immune system is switched on for too long, it can lead to inflammation, and to autoimmune diseases, which is associated with a number of brain disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease, found a 2004 EMBO Reports reviewed by the NIH.
Ancestry-Type Eating Promotes Better Digestion
If you want to truly enjoy a healthy lifestyle you should consider returning to eating your ancestral diet, the one our ancestors ate when most of the features of our guts were evolving. You might return to reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, especially fungus-covered tropical leaves according to a Scientific America research study . Your digestive health is directly impacted by the kinds of foods you eat and your behaviors and the lifestyle you live.
By taking steps to improve your digestive health, you’ll help your digestive system to function more efficiently, by improving your overall health and sense of well-being and preventing issues like “leaky gut” syndrome from developing, according to NIH research “Intestinal Hyperpermeability: A Gateway to Multi-Organ Failure?”. There are some simple, every-day, things you can do to promote better digestion of the foods you eat as follows:
Consume A High-Fiber Diet. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between you and some of the bacteria that live in your digestive system, in which you provide food, shelter and a safe habitat for the bacteria. In return, they take care of some things that the human body cannot do on its own.
Of the many different kinds of bacteria, some are crucial for various aspects of your health, including weight, blood sugar control, immune function and even brain function. Quoting one Lancet study reviewed by the NIH:
Major functions of the gut microflora include metabolic activities that result in salvage of energy and absorbable nutrients, important trophic effects on intestinal epithelia and on immune structure and function, and protection of the colonized host against invasion by alien microbes.
Several short-term randomized controlled trials in a 2010 Diabetes Care study (NIH) showed the benefit of prebiotics and probiotics (gut microflora) on insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, postprandial incretins, and glucose and to be effective.
You may wonder what this has to do with eating fiber? Just like any other organism, bacteria need to eat to get energy to survive and function. The problem is that most carbs, proteins and fats are absorbed into the bloodstream before they make it to the large intestine, leaving little for the gut flora to survive on.
This is where fiber comes in. Human cells don’t have the enzymes to digest fiber, so it reaches the large intestine relatively unchanged. However, intestinal bacteria do have the enzymes to digest many of these fibers, acting as a “good” bacteria in the intestine, functioning as prebiotics, according to a 2012 Gut Microbes study reviewed by the NIH.
In this way, they promote the growth of “good” gut bacteria, which can have various positive effects on health found a 2006 Ailment Pharmacology Therapy report reviewed by NIH. These short-chain fatty acids can feed the cells in the colon, leading to reduced gut inflammation and improvements in digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis determined a study on oral butyrate for mildly to moderately active Crohn’s disease, according to NIH research.
Consuming a diet that’s high in fiber and rich in whole grains and complex carbohydrates, fresh organic, non-GMO vegetables, legumes, and fruits can improve your digestive healing according to a Harvard Medical School study. Dietary fiber is an important component because when fiber is fermented by the gut flora, it creates a short-chain amino acid called butyrate in the lining of the tract, and improves the microbiome, as well, according to this NIH research.
A high-fiber diet help to keep food moving through your digestive tract, making you less likely to get constipated, and, adding a high-fiber diet, can also help you prevent or treat various digestive conditions and other diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), per a 2010 Nutrients study reviewed by the NIH.
In addition, it can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. A NIH study concluded, increasing your intake of dietary fiber by two servings of whole-grain products each day might lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 percent, found a 2011 Gastroenterology study reviewed by the NIH.
Consume Soluble and Insoluble Fiber. It’s important to consume both types of fiber, since they help your digestive system in different ways. It’s estimated, according to an NIH study “Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber”, that Americans get less than half of the recommended fiber each day. It not only helps you feel fuller and reduces constipation, but may also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, found another 2012 Metabolism study reviewed by the NIH.
Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, can’t be digested by the body and therefore helps add bulk to stools. Soluble fiber draws in water and can help prevent stools that are too watery. Good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains; get soluble fiber from oat bran, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and black beans, per an NIH “Rough Up Your Diet” study. Black beans contain pectin which delays stomach being emptying and makes you feel fuller longer, giving your body more time to absorb nutrients, according to a 2012 Journal of Food Science Technology (NIH) study.
Eat Less High Saturated Fats. According to the American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5 percent to 6 percent of total calories from saturated fat. In general, fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making you more prone to constipation. Research published in the Journal of Obesity (Nature) study on mice found that eating a high-fat diet led to inflammation of the hypothalamus.
It’s important to get some fat in your diet, preferably healthy monounsaturated fats like omega 3 fatty acids found in abundance in wild-caught fish and seafood, and lean grass-fed meats and poultry. Studies have shown omega 3s can increase good mircroflora (good bacteria) in the gut and reduce risks of brain disorders. A Harvard Medical study found that it’s best to
avoid the trans fats, limit the saturated fats, and replace with essential monounsaturated fats.
So pairing fatty foods with high-fiber foods can make them easier on your digestive system. Both high-fat and fried food can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid re-flux and heartburn. Your body can only handle so much at one time.
Avoid High-Sugar Foods and Drinks. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake. Scientists believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, especially diet sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed by the NIH
Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods, and encourages over-eating, particularly, unhealthy high-energy foods, found a 2018 Proceedings National Academy Science (PNAS) reviewed by the NIH. The consumption of a western-style diet or high fructose intake differentially affects gut permeability (leaky-gut) and the microbiome, according to the NIH “Intestinal Barrier Function and the Gut Microbiome….”.
Eat Less Fast Foods. The average American family now spends half of their food budget on inflammatory fast foods, or restaurant foods, and precooked take-out foods, creating all kinds of health and digestive issues, found 2017 Journal American Society Nephrology Science (JASN). Most fast foods are loaded with carbohydrates, with little or no fiber. The carbs are released as glucose in your bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar level.
These repeated spikes in blood sugar causes your body’s insulin response to falter, increasing your risk to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. A recent Harvard T. H. Chan School Of Public Health study recommended limiting sugared beverages, refined grains, potatoes, fatty red and processed meats, and other highly processed foods, such as fast food.
Unhealthy Fatty Meats. Protein is an essential part of a healthful diet, and necessary for the digestive system functions, but fatty cuts of meat, or typical food industry grain-fed beef, high in omega 6s, can lead to uncomfortable and unhealthy digestion. The Harvard T. H. Chan study referenced above under Fast Foods said this:
Replacing fatty red and processed meat with leaner meats and poultry, wild-caught fish, organic raw nuts, beans, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The healthier option is to eat lean organic grass-fed or free-range meats high in omega 3’s, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease according to an NIH study “Lean Meat and Heart Health”.
Choose Organic Nutrient-Dense Foods.
Grass-Fed Finished Meats Or Free-Range Finished Poultry. When you eat meat, select certified lean, organic, non-GMO (non-genetically-modified), grass-fed finished lean cuts of beef, or bison, or free-range finished lean cuts, such as pork, lamb loin, and skinless poultry, or turkey, or duck, grass-fed brown eggs and dairy (A).
Wild-Caught Fish Or Seafood. When you eat fish, select cold-water, or wild-caught fish and shellfish, such as salmon, halibut, shrimp, lobster, or tuna (A). Fatty ocean fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids which are crucial for optimal body and brain function and strongly linked to a reduced risk of many diseases, per a Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics study.
One NIH “Fish Consumption and Risk of Major Chronic Disease in Men” study in more than 40,000 men in the United States, those who regularly ate one or more servings of fish per week had a 15 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Organic Fruits, Vegetables, Raw Nuts, and Edible Flower Seeds. When you buy fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, purchase fresh organic non-GMO fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds (A). Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet can reduce your risk for long-term diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Fruits and veggies are naturally low in sodium and fat, high in fiber and micronutrients such as antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, according to a 2012 Advances In Nutrition study reviewed by the NIH. Compared to veggies, some fruits have more fiber content, whereas leafy veggies have more water content, 84 to 95 percent water, to fruits, 61 to 89 percent. That’s why you should consume a wide variety of both fruits and veggies to reap all the health benefits of each.
Other Healthy Options. You have trillions of good bacteria (microbiome) in your gut that help you digest foods and you can supplement with naturally fermented foods (A) which contains some types of these healthy bacteria. It will be noted on the label as live and active bacterial cultures. Natural yogurt has bacteria, which replenishes the normal flora within the gastrointestinal tract so it remains healthy.
Fermenting or culturing makes food more digestible by actually ‘predigesting’ food for you. Fermenting also increases our absorption of the other nutrients in the food. Kimchi is a Korean fermented-favorite usually made with cabbage, radish, or onion, along with lots of spices. The main ingredient is usually cabbage, which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon, and is an excellent probiotic, per the NIH “Health Benefits of Kimchi (Korean Fermented Vegetables) as a Probiotic Food” study. And cabbage is a type of fiber that’s not easily digested, so it helps eliminate waste, keeping bowel movements regular.
Sourdough bread. Pickles, natural sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh and Japanese tamari or soy sauce are all easy-to-digest fermented foods.
Fiber keeps things moving through your digestive system and out, and there’s where whole- grains and complex carbs come in (A). Otherwise, your colon is stuck with unhealthy toxins that can build up and your body then begins reabsorbing toxins, hormones and other substances.
Whole grains also prevent blood-sugar spikes because od slowed digestion. Experimenting with various whole-grains is a good idea, whether you’re gluten-intolerant, or not. Quinoa is an excellent option.
This gluten-free grain is a complete protein, meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids, which your body can’t produce and has to be obtained from food sources. It’s also fiber-rich and bursting with minerals.
Fresh Organic Herbs and Spices. Herbs and spices (A) have been incredibly important throughout history for their medicinal properties, well before culinary use. Modern science has now shown that many of them do indeed carry remarkable health benefits. Clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, and cinnamon are excellent sources of antioxidants with their high content of phenolic compounds. Quoting one NIH “Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices”study:
As several metabolic diseases and age-related degenerative disorders are closely associated with oxidative processes in the body, the use of herbs and spices as a source of antioxidants to combat oxidation warrants our further attention.
Add Natural Probiotics Foods. Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria naturally present in your digestive tract. Probiotics help keep the body healthy by combating the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress. In addition, probiotics can enhance nutrient absorption, may help break down lactose, strengthen your immune system, and possibly even help treat IBS.
Recommended good sources of probiotics, are particularly Korean kimchi, low-fat yogurt or kefir, or lentils, eaten on a regular basis. A word of caution on relying on over-the-counter probiotic supplements, however. Dr. Linda A. Lee, a Johns Hopkins Gastroenterologist, recommends,
Probiotics may help some people who have diarrhea when they take antibiotics, or women with bloating from irritable bowl syndrome. Unless your doctor says probiotics may help with a specific issue, a healthy diet is the best way to achieve optimal digestive health.
, Lee says.
Choose Natural Prebiotic Foods Too. Bacteria multiply very quickly but require food once they reach the intestines.
Prebiotics, or prebiotic dietary fibers act as carbon sources for primary and secondary fermentation pathways in the colon, and support digestive health in many ways, found a 2018 Current Developments In Nutrition. Prebiotics help good bacteria thrive while driving down the number of disease-producing bacteria trying to invade the digestive tract.
Fortunately, prebiotics are found in many foods, as naturally occurring prebiotics in onions, garlic, leeks, legumes, bananas, asparagus, sun chokes, and more. Use the same care in your prebiotic choice by using naturally occurring prebiotics foods and not prebiotics supplements.
Schedule Meals. Consuming your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape, according to a 2014 Proceedings National Academy of Science (PNAS) reviewed by the NIH study. Make it a point to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day. For snacks, foods like fruits, nuts, veggies, low-fat dairy products, and whole-grains, are filling and packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein, and they guard against sugar highs and lows, are the ones you should choose.
Hydrate Daily. Drinking plenty of filtered water, minimum of eight eight-ounce glasses of water, is good for your digestive health, per a 2011 Nutrition Review (NIH). That means no carbonated or sweet or diet drinks. Fiber pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to be excreted more easily. Other healthy options in drinks infused fruit-water drinks and fruit and veggie smoothies such as blueberry Maca smoothie.
Limit Use Of Tobacco. Cigarettes can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system, and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach. When the lower esophageal sphincter weakens, allowing stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus, or re-flux into the esophagus, causing heartburn and possibly damaging the lining of the esophagus. The National Institutes Of Health and a 2018 Frontier Immunology study warns against smoking and tobacco use:
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for gastrointestinal disorders, such as peptic ulcer, Crohn’s disease (CD), and several cancers.
Use Coffee Moderately. Caffeine increases the production of stress hormones, according to a 2008 Psychosomatic Medicine study reviewed by the NIH. Stress hormones, cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, cause your heart to beat faster and give you a boost of energy. Blood supply to the intestines is decreased.
Caffeine is acidic and increases the amount of gastric secretions. As a result, irritation of the intestinal lining can occur which can lead to upset stomach. Excessive amounts of caffeine can cause ulcers and gastritis. Caffeine can worsen symptoms if you have gastrointestinal problems such as IBS and Crohn’s disease.
As a result, digestion can be slowed or disrupted. However, at the same time, coffee is made from the cocoa bean, which contains quality antioxidants and plant polyphenols, which are good for human health and digestion, and contains quality antioxidants and plant polyphenolsespecially with regard to cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer prevention, found a 2012 Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity (NIH) study.
According to a NIH “Impact Of Coffee On Health” study, adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee, there is little evidence of health risks such as cardiovascular disease and some evidence of health benefits. Another “Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Risk Of Death” study by the NIH, found growing evidence that coffee drinking may have health benefits, even decreasing the risk of death. Moderation is key.
Drink Alcohol Moderately. Alcohol relaxes the body, but, unfortunately, it also relaxes the esophageal sphincter. That’s How Digestive System Functions. When the esophageal sphincter becomes weak, this can lead to acid re-flux or heartburn, inflame the stomach lining, impairing certain enzymes and preventing nutrients from being absorbed. The NIH position on a review of a 2010 Journal of Zhejiang University Science B study, is although there is evidence that alcohol has an effect on digestion and acid reflux, the results are diverse and contradictory and more studies are called for.
Moderation guidelines suggest no more than two drinks of alcohol a day for men and one for women. The Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health in their article “Alcohol: Balancing the Risks and Benefits“, does a great job of weighing the pros and cons of drinking, stating that,
Moderate drinking can be healthy—but not for everyone. You must weigh the risks and benefits.
Get Moderate Exercise. Regular moderate exercise, at least thirty minutes a day, five days a week, has a positive effect on the microbiome and helps keep foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation, found a 2017 Oxidative Medical Cell Longevity reviewed by the NIH. Understanding How Digestive System Functions is understanding that exercise is a major and positive contributor to its proper function.
Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is good for your healthy digestion. Make it a routine to get some form of physical activity each and every day. Still not convinced? To learn more about the benefits of routine moderate exercise, for digestion and your overall health and well being, read this article “Benefits In Being In Nature“.
Be Mindful. Use whatever method that works for you to unwind and relax, be it meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or a walk in the woods. Too much stress or anxiety can cause your digestive system to go into overdrive. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis. The NIH confirmed the positive connection between mindfulness activities and good digestion, concluding mindfulness based interventions may provide benefit in functional gastrointestinal disorders, according to a 2014 Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine study (NIH).
Supplement With An All-Natural Adaptogen Supplement
The many wide-ranging health and nutritious benefits of the all-natural organic Peruvian Maca (A) are incredible, but, specifically, there are several which are directly related to optimum digestion.
For people with adrenal stress from work, disease, exercise or PTSD, Maca can reduce the effects of cortisol on the adrenal glands and other organs so impacted by a “Type A”, high pressure lifestyle or job, according to a 2016 International Journal of Biomedical Science reviewed by the NIH study. Athletes, executives and anyone with an active life will appreciate how P maca helps address the destructive actions of mental, emotional and physical stress on the body.
P Maca can help lower high blood pressure and how the body burns and utilizes food. One study published in the Journal of Mediators of Inflammation found that P Maca exhibits anti-inflammatory properties (reduces cytokines), and would aid in restoring proper digestive function by reducing inflammation.
P Maca also boosts the work your pancreas does in keeping your blood sugar levels even (see above study). The pancreas is a vital part of the digestive process. If the duct from the pancreas become blocked for some reason the digestive fluids of the pancreas may digest the pancreas itself, or lead to pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer.
The thyroid gland controls the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients. P Maca contains an alkaloid extract which activates the body’s natural calcitonine hormones, which regulate the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, according to a 2006 International Journal of Biomedical Science (NIH) study. The hormone is secreted by the thyroid and the parathyroid.
It acts in the intestines, bones, and kidneys to increase the release of calcium in blood plasma. It also aids in wound healing through blood clotting. A few different trials, like this NIH trial study, have shown that P Maca can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression that can influence poor digestion.
Read the following reviews for more in depth information on this amazing natural-healing Adaptogen:
Now that you have learned How Digestive System Functions in your body, and the steps you can take for maintaining your overall health and well being, are you going to implement these supportive measures today? Hope you found this information helpful. Please leave your questions or comments below.
(A) Follow these links for more information, more documented studies, and purchase any of these incredible nutrient-dense foods.