What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Digestive System?
Let’s start by defining digestion. Digestion refers to the way the body processes food from intake to elimination. A person with a healthy digestive system will process food and eliminate waste material from the body efficiently.
Your digestive system also detects glucose and transmits that information in order to regulate the metabolism of glucose.
Digestion vs. Metabolism
People mistakenly correlate one’s digestion speed with a fast or slow metabolism, but in truth, the two are separate bodily functions. As mentioned above, digestion refers to the way the body processes food from intake to elimination, while metabolism refers to the way the cells utilize the energy we absorb after digesting food.
US News states digestion is generally measured in terms of “whole gut” transit time. There are several factors that influence transit time: diet composition, exercise, functional disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and metabolic disorders like thyroid dysfunction or diabetes.
The article also stated the rate of one’s metabolism is measured in terms of calories (energy) expended over a specified period of time—usually a day—to conduct all of the body’s necessary functions while at rest. Your metabolic rate is similarly governed by a host of factors. Age, sex, height, weight, body composition (amount of fat mass vs. muscle mass), presence of fever, and levels of various hormone levels—including thyroid and stress hormones—are all factors in determining the resting metabolic rate.
How Does Your Digestive Health Affect Your Metabolic Health?
The gastrointestinal tract is a specialized sensory system responsible for the detection of ingested glucose and the subsequent relay of information to peripheral tissues or the brain to regulate glucose metabolism (click here for the article).
A poorly functioning digestive system can then disrupt your metabolism and overall metabolic health. This can result in the inability to lose weight and stabilize hormones such as glucose and insulin.
How to Improve Your Digestive Health
The foods you consume and your lifestyle both have a direct impact on your digestive health. If you are not sure where to begin you can start by implementing the following:
1. Eating a high-fiber diet:
A high fiber diet helps to keep food moving through your digestive tract, it can also help to maintain a healthy weight.
Please note, if you have digestive issues such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, bowel obstruction, and other gastrointestinal or inflammatory conditions, a low fiber diet may be required.
2. Incorporate probiotics and prebiotics into your diet:
Probiotics keep the body healthy by combating the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress. Prebiotics act as food for probiotics, helping them support healthy bacteria in the gut, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking water has many health benefits, especially when it comes to digestive health. Fiber pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to pass through more easily.
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise not only helps to maintain a healthy weight, it also helps to move food through the digestive tract. Exercise is also known to improve brain functioning and boost mood. Aim for 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
Avoid “overtraining,” which can cause mental disturbances.
5. Reduce stress
Stress and anxiety can cause the digestive system to go into overdrive. Find activities that help to reduce stress and practice them on a regular basis. Use daily stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness to retrain your brain to respond differently to stress. Try deep breathing to deactivate your “fight or flight” response
6. Eliminate smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol
These habits can lead to a poor functioning digestive system as well as stomach ulcers and heartburn.
In summary, eating a whole-food diet, incorporating exercise, reducing stress and eliminating bad habits can eliminate your systems of a poor digestive system and improve your overall digestive system health significantly. Your digestive system is not only affected by the foods you consume but also other lifestyle choices as well.
Always be sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before making any drastic changes to your diet and exercise routine.