A healthy digestive system is the key to health.
Healthy digestion means you’re absorbing nutrients properly, and eliminating foods every 12-18 hours.
Certain foods contribute to healthy digestion such as:
–raw veggies: high in fibre & digestive enzymes,
-enzyme-rich fruits such as pineapple & papaya (although most fresh fruit is high in fibre),
-fibre-rich chia & flax seeds,
-hummus made from high-fibre chick peas (all legumes are high in fibre),
-anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric & ginger, and gluten-free grains such as quinoa & brown rice,
-fermented foods that are high in healthy gut bacteria such as kefir, sauerkraut & miso
-and foods that are rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3) such as hemp seeds, avocado, walnuts, wild salmon & extra virgin olive oil (eat raw in dressings, dips & pesto)
Certain “foods” on the other hand wreak havoc on our digestive system such as:
-caffeine in coffee, tea & soda,
-high sugar foods like muffins, pastries & cookies,
-MSG or monosodium glutamate in chips & snack mixes,
-artificial foods dyes in bright-coloured candy, orange cheese & sauces (they are sneaky – check your food labels!),
-foods high in refined carbs like white pasta, white bread and bagels,
-and gluten (doesn’t have the same effect on everyone)
Can have physical & mental affects
They are low in fibre & healthy gut bacteria, and are inflammatory; irritating the intestinal lining, which allows undigested food & toxins to seep into our blood stream.
Not only does this cause poor digestion & prevents nutrients from being absorbed properly; it can result in allergic reactions.
And this doesn’t necessary mean physical allergic reactions like hives, gas or bloating. Inflammatory foods can also cause mental & emotional reactions such as anxiety, moodiness, brain fog, depression and fatigue. Remember Sarah’s symptoms before she discovered her gluten allergy?
The gut-brain connection
One of the reasons for this is the connection between our gut or digestive system and our brains; poor digestion can have a significant effect on your mood.
I watched a great episode of The Marilyn Denis Show the other day, where she had a naturopath & nutritionist talk about this connection:
“The balance of gut bacteria can influence behavior and even cause depression. According to scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, your gut bacteria communicate with your brain, and have a profound impact on making you feel happy or sad.
When you are stressed, your body releases lots of stress hormones. When stressed mice were fed a broth containing some Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria (a bacteria found in yogurt) they became significantly less anxious and had lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. The researchers determined that the bacteria were somehow communicating via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a very important neural two-way highway that connects your brain with all of the organs of your body. The bacteria are able to influence the GABA receptors in the brain that allow you to relax.”
In a nutshell
The foods listed above that wreak havoc on your digestion can profoundly affect how you feel, and vice versa: how you feel can profoundly affect your digestion.
For example, think about a time that you were really stressed about something; you probably couldn’t go to the bathroom or the opposite situation occurred. Also, think about how you feel when you’re regular (pretty darn good) versus how you feel when your “schedule” is off-track – not great; you’re probably in a bad mood.
It’s important to incorporate the foods that contribute to healthy digestion. This will ensure high levels of healthy gut bacteria, which will keep us physically & mentally healthy.
Here’s a sample 1-day meal plan that incorporates foods high in fibre & healthy gut bacteria, and that are anti-inflammatory.
Sample 1-day Meal Plan for healthy digestion:
Breakfast: kefir or plain yogurt (with live bacteria cultures), berries, & Whole Wheat Granola (try making granola with buckwheat if you have a gluten allergy).
Lunch: Quinoa & Black Bean Salad
Mid-afternoon snack: raw veggies with Homemade Hummus