After partaking of the food and drinks in a celebratory feast, we usually feel bloated. But, if it's been days since the party and you still haven't digested what you ate, leaving you without energy and sufficient sleep, that could be a sign of a gut problem. Find out in this guide which natural therapies can help improve your digestive system.
What Causes Stomach Problems?
The stomach does not merely process the food we eat and go back to doing nothing. Several research studies have shown a correlation between the health of the digestive system and disease. How our gut works affects our immune system, energy levels, mental health, weight, skin, mobility and emotional wellbeing.
Many aspects of life affect the function of our stomach's healthy bacteria, which are primarily responsible for aiding our bodies in the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat and ensuring a healthy digestion. Too much stress, getting insufficient sleep, a diet packed with artificial sweeteners, overconsumption of processed and fatty foods, and taking certain antibiotics can alter the composition of the friendly bacteria in our stomachs and lead to digestive discomfort.
What are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Digestive Tract?
We were all born with beneficial bacteria in our guts, regardless of our gender, race or genetics, to safeguard our digestive system and maintain our high levels of immunity. However, our chances of developing digestive diseases increase when more bad bacteria inhabit our digestive tract. Here below are telltale signs of a digestive system that is in bad shape:
A healthy gut should not have trouble processing nutrients from the food you eat and eliminating waste. If you experience an upset stomach after eating, whether or not it is accompanied by bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhoea, that's a clear indication of a gut problem.
Acid reflux causes pain in the chest area, which is called heartburn, when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. The process of digestion does not include this as the esophagus would normally close once food goes down into the stomach. If acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBS is a digestive disease that affects the large intestine. It causes abdominal pain, bloating, gas and irregular bowel movement.
Eczema and other skin conditions may arise due to imbalances in the gut microbiota. A poor diet or food allergy may damage the intestinal lining and cause certain proteins to leak out, which triggers inflammation that affects your skin, joints and other parts of your body.
Many types of medical conditions stem from an autoimmune disorder, which develops when an inflammation in the digestive tract prompts the immune system to attack the body.
Unexplainable weight gain or weight loss is another indication of a problematic gut. An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine may cause a rapid decrease in weight, while the body's inability to absorb nutrients results in excessive weight gain. An unhealthy weight, as we all know, is the culprit of numerous health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and cancer among others.
We eat to increase our energy levels and be able to think clearly. However, if it makes you feel constantly tired and impairs your cognitive abilities, chances are you have an unhealthy gut.
What Types of Natural Therapies Can Improve Digestive Health?
The health of your gastrointestinal tract depends on your diet and lifestyle. This may be an overused cliché, but it's no doubt a proven formula for keeping digestive conditions at bay, as well as other health issues for that matter. These five natural therapies will get your digestive system back into track.
Diet and Nutrition
Eating fibre-rich foods will nourish the healthy bacteria in your stomach and allow it to function at its best. There are two types of dietary fibre that help ensure a healthy gut, namely soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. The first provides sustenance to the good bacteria in your stomach, allowing it to reduce fat absorption and regulate blood sugar levels to prevent cardiovascular diseases. The second type of fibre supports the excretory system to prevent constipation and other intestinal problems that may lead to bowel cancer.
Consuming plant-based foods that are high in fibre can also help with weight management as it keeps you full longer, so you eat less and reduce your calorie intake in the process. Fruits and vegetables that have high fibre content include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Peas and beans
- Whole grains like oats, wholewheat bread, cereals and barley
- Green, leafy vegetables
Besides fibre, you also want to include foods with amino acids in your diet as these natural chemical compounds support the body's numerous tasks, including the breaking down of food, repairing of damaged tissue and development of cells, to name a few. Foods that are high in essential amino acids include eggs, chicken, grains, chia seeds, fish and other seafood, milk and cheese.
Vitamins and Dietary Supplements
Taking vitamins in addition to maintaining a healthy diet is the key to a healthy digestion. See to it that you get the right dose of vitamins C and D and B-complex from whole foods and dietary supplements to support the functions of your digestive tract. Vitamin C aids the body in iron absorption and can be found in citrus fruits and fortified foods. Vitamin D prevents IBS and bowel cancer in people who are at risk. Egg yolks, organ meat and fortified foods are excellent sources of this vitamin. B vitamins help the body convert food to energy and can be obtained from white poultry meat, fish, leafy greens and beans.
Dietary supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body, which may potentially lead to digestive disorders. So, apart from olive oil, coconut oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, flaxseeds and walnuts, which are natural sources of these healthy fats, you may also get them in the form of omega-3 capsules.
Likewise, eating fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, miso and tempeh, and taking probiotics supplements as well, can improve your digestive health. There are many sources of probiotics, like yoghurt, but you want to choose those that contain bacterial strains that have been proven to be effective for digestive health.
Increasing Water Intake
Drinking plenty of water not only quenches your thirst but also has a positive effect on the intestinal lining of your digestive tract. Studies show that drinking warm water, especially first thing in the morning, helps the body dissolve food that is not easily digestible.
Meditation and Yoga
Stress is one of the major contributors to digestive problems. Spending 30 minutes to an hour each day meditating or doing a mind-body exercise like yoga, will improve the blood flow in your body and release toxins that are clogging your gut.
Whether you apply them topically or inhale them, essential oils, especially peppermint, can help alleviate digestive problems. Peppermint contains a chemical compound called menthol that helps ease stomach pain, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues. It also helps relieve symptoms of acid reflux as it relaxes the muscles of the intestines.
Your stomach follows the natural process of absorbing nutrients into your body and boosting your immune system. However, just like mechanical devices, it may malfunction sometimes due to poor diet, an uncontrolled level of stress or a medical condition. The best way to deal with a gut problem is to find out what's causing it. For all you know, you might be suffering from a food intolerance.
Openly discuss your condition with your doctor as well as how you can incorporate these natural therapies into your treatment plan. You can then get in touch with a qualified natural health practitioner in your local area through the Natural Therapy Pages.