In this month's blog our wonderful nutritional consultant Alice Yeates goes back to basics to talk about digestion and why it is so incredibly important to have good gut health.
"You may have heard of the gut microbiome; basically, it’s the bacteria in your gut that either helps or hinders the way your digestion system works. Ideally, you want to have plenty of the beneficial good bacteria and not so many of the ones that cause problems.
Why does good gut health matter?
Because the balance of the bacteria in your gut affects so many things:
Your mood and mental health
Your immune system
What does gut bacteria do?
The bacteria in the gut processes the food you eat and turns it into enzymes and vitamins, which help you stay healthy. When we are short of specific bacteria, the gut will find it hard to break down certain types of fibre; this is when you see undigested food in your stools.
So what can you do to help your gut and keep that bacteria in balance? Well, the most simple thing to focus on is sugar and water.
SUGAR and the impact on your gut health
I think we all know sugar is not good for us, but the impact on the gut is often overlooked. Foods high in sugar negatively impact our gut bacteria and cause more inflammation in the body. To reduce our sugar intake, we need to plan. Sugary foods are often easy impulsive snacks.
My advice is to make sure that you always have something to hand that does not contain sugar. Instead of eating a sweet treat, have a handful of nuts, a slice of ham or a piece of cheese! If you opt for fruit, add a few nuts or other protein foods, which will help slow down the natural sugars.
WATER and the digestive system
With any ailment, your first and best action is to drink a glass of water, which goes for digestive health too!
Did you know that many common issues with digestion could be relieved by drinking water? Heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, colitis, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), to name the most common.
Let’s follow the digestion path first. Digestion of our food starts in the mouth and then continues in the stomach. The food in the stomach has to be acidic enough to leave the stomach and go into the small intestine.
The next stage is less well known. The pancreas prepares the small intestine to be alkaline; otherwise, the acid will damage the intestinal walls!
At this stage, if we’re dehydrated, the pancreas will not produce the liquid bicarbonate solution needed, making the sphincter at the base of the stomach malfunction. Then we end up with an acid mix in our stomach that causes heartburn and acid reflux.
Lower down in the large intestine, water from food is reabsorbed into the body. Here again, if the stool lacks water, this leaves the faeces unable to move easily down the colon. Then when we put more food in on top, there’s a backup, which often causes pain in the lower gut. So you see, water is vital to keep digestion healthy and move as it should.
If you struggle with your water intake each day, here’s what I suggest:
Line up 8 glasses of water at the beginning of each day and work your way through them as the day progresses. If you are out and about, take marked up water bottles with you to do the same on the go. You will be surprised by how effective this is.
If you are concerned about your gut health or have an illness that you can’t shift, switch the sugar and up the water and see how you get on or drop me an email and I’ll give you some other simple advice.