Laying a Foundation for a Healthy Life with Healthy Digestion
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. (Proverbs 17:1)
Our health affects our entire life. It is our well-being. Building a foundation of health and well-being is an open door to happiness. Our digestive system is that foundation. We are affected on a physical, mental and emotional level by what we consume and how it is absorbed (or not absorbed) in our bodies. Our digestive system is our internal cleaner. There are many things that affect our gastrointestinal health, as it is very delicate and sensitive. Actually it is difficult to find anything that does not affect the intestines. It seems they really do get the low load of EVERYTHING. Without proper function, you will not be as vibrant and healthy as you could be when your g.i. system is running at its best. To be at the top of your game you must take care to get along well with the foods you eat and all else that you take in. Food is your life force. It is the best medicine you can get, as nature serves us all. Your gastrointestinal health is very important and should never be underestimated. It requires great care, just as anything else of great importance in your life. The result of a healthy digestion system is abundant energy, feeling of lightness in the body, sharp mental functioning, clear eyesight and balanced emotions to name just a few.
Highlights of Importance
1. Chew your food really well. The mechanical action of chewing breaks food down into small pieces that are more easily attacked by digestive juices. The chemical actions of salivary enzymes, which are produced by the salivary glands in the mouth, begin to digest carbohydrates.
2. Eat in a peaceful and relaxing environment. Sit still and relax a few minutes after eating. Resting a few minutes after eating gets this very complicated process off to a good start.
3. Eat raw fruit between meals and not with meals. For those with weak digestion eating raw fruit with meals causes intestinal gas and bloating. Cooked fruit might be easier to digest as a dessert.
4. Eat freshly cooked meals. Try to avoid processed foods and leftovers as much as possible. Freshly cooked foods are the most nourishing and are free of molds or staleness.
5. Avoid overeating. Do not stuff yourself. Small meals digest easier and do not leave you feeling stuffed, heavy and tired. Ancient Ayurvedic medicine recommends consuming the amount of food that will fit into two cupped hands at any meal. Allow yourself time to move away from the table and stop eating while you are still a bit hungry. Moderate portions are digested more comfortably. Large meals put increased demands on digestion, since your body is only able to produce a certain volume of digestive juices.
6. Eat at regular times. Your digestive organs operate best when you follow a regular schedule. Even if you do not eat every meal or eat many meals try to have a similar rhythm to your eating.
7. Drink plenty of water each day but do not drink much fluid at mealtime. Drinking too much at mealtime dilutes the gastric juices and acids that are necessary to digest you food. Yes, you must stay hydrated but drink between meals or limit the amount you drink to one to two cups. There are some very important organ systems dependent on water for maintaining your life. If you do not take in enough water your body takes water from the bowel causing hard stools that are difficult to pass. Caffeine can also cause dehydration because it acts as diuretic and forces water out of the body. Also beware of chlorine and fluoride among the few bad things for you in tap water. Drink reverse osmosis or distilled pure water. Add lemon slice for taste and vitamin c.
8. Defecate at the same time each day. Even if you feel as though you do not need to defecate, set aside time each day at the same time to try to move your bowels. The best time is usually half an hour to an hour after breakfast.
9. Get moving and exercise. Physical activity that increases your breathing and heart rate and stimulates the activity of your intestinal muscles, helping push more food waste through your intestines more quickly. Exercise is an antidote for almost everything that ails us. It improves digestion and metabolism and every other part of our physical, mental and emotional health.
10. Finding time in your day to relax, especially while you eat will improve not only your digestion but your health as well. Your emotions are very powerful, both the negative and the positive. Get in control of your emotions. Emotional upsets and strong emotions can ruin your appetite, a gut feeling, a visceral reaction, give you an upset stomach, give you butterflies in the stomach or a nervous stomach. Your stomach is a muscle and if you are up tight or stressed out it can become very difficult for your food to digest. This is because when you are emotionally stressed or upset the stomach muscle contracts and this makes it very difficult for you to digest much of anything. The fight or flight response you experience when you’re stressed or feel threatened causes your body responds by shutting down those functions that aren’t necessary to run or fight, including digestion. Many people are in a constant state of fight or flight due to the unrelenting stress in our daily lives. This places a great deal of burden on digestion. Constant emotional upheaval doesn’t give your body time to recover its equilibrium, and your digestion is unable to do its job effectively. When you are angry, stressed or fearful, those emotions cause biochemical changes in your body. Different hormones and chemicals are released into your bloodstream. Those negative emotions stimulate the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is directly connected to the stomach. Any emotion that affects that part of your brain, also affects your digestion. When you generate a toxic emotional response by activating your amygdala through fear, anger or anxiety, those chemicals remain in your bloodstream for 72 hours – 3 days – unless you neutralize them. Under the grip if fear, the body makes drastic changes which can have a direct effect on digestion, resulting in poor digestion and impaired health. Chronic worry and stress is a cause of much dis-ease including irritable bowel syndrome and colitis.
It is best not to eat when emotionally upset. Happy emotions do influence physiological processes in the body, just as do negative emotions. When we are cheerful, carefree and happy, we are not as likely to become sick. One of the results of a happy disposition is improved digestion. Take steps to regain poise and let go of harmful emotions, especially before eating. Positive emotions can enhance digestion, improve health, and sometimes even heal you of dis-ease. Not only does it neutralize the effects of negative emotions on your digestion, it promotes a healthy heart as well. Without decompressing, your emotions and digestion will not have an opportunity to recover. Relaxation and letting go of worry are very important to allowing your digestion process to be at its best. When you purposely change your thoughts from anger, fear or anxiety to love and goodness, the change in their brain chemistry dissipates emotional toxins. When we feel positive about our surroundings, and ourselves we relish our food more and it is more easily assimilated. Surrounding ourselves with good companionship, pleasant conversation and a wholesome environment makes eating a pleasure, and digestion progresses. Taking walks after dinner and laughing after a meal allows the food to pass more readily through the digestive tract. When we are relaxed, our stomach and other organs are less tense; they feel less constrained and can perform their tasks more easily.
11. Limit intake of sugar, salt, bleached and processed foods. Small quantities will not hurt you but too much of any of these and your entire system is greatly affects.
12. Eat a high-fiber diet. If you cannot get enough fiber in foods try adding fiber tablets or mixes to your diet. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. There are many choices to choose from. (If you have Fructose Malabsorption you do not want fiber labeled Inulin or Fructo-oligo saccharides (FOS). Both of these are added to foods and supplements for the purpose of putting more fiber into the diet.)
13. Limit intake of bad fats and fatty foods such as potato chips, cakes and cookies. There are different kinds of fats. Some of them are very good for you and necessary for a healthy body, mind and digestive system. Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and salmon are some examples of foods with good fats.
14. Hot water is an excellent way to detoxify the body and build digestive strength. Drink a glass of hot water in the morning with lemon or sip it throughout the day. This will help to cleanse the digestive tract and entire body of blockages and impurities. Hot water drinking improves digestion and assimilation of food and helps prevent the body from becoming toxic and clogged.
15. Try to eat organic as much as possible. Many people are sensitive, allergic and intolerant of the chemicals used in our foods.
16. Use olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats. It is great for your heart and has a very positive effect on digestion, preventing and curing constipation.
17. Avoid the over consumption of alcohol which can lead to digestive disorders. Alcohol can also aggravate symptoms such as diarrhea or nausea. It can also inflame your stomach lining and relax your lower esophageal sphincter.
18. Many drugs both over the counter and prescription affect digestion, sometimes in big ways. Do your research before taking any drugs. For example, high blood pressure drugs can cause diarrhea or constipation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve) can cause nausea, stomach pain, stomach bleeding, ulcers or diarrhea if you take them regularly or exceed the recommended dosage. Narcotics can cause nausea and constipation. and some antibiotics can cause nausea or diarrhea.
19. Kick the nicotine habit. The nicotine in tobacco can increase stomach acid production and decrease production of sodium bicarbonate, a substance that neutralizes stomach acid. Air swallowed during smoking can produce belching or bloating from gas. Nicotine is also thought to increase the risk of Crohn’s disease.
20. There are many food allergies and in-tolerances. Dairy is the most common food intolerance. Gluten and wheat are also popular villains these days. It is important to find a meal plan that works for you. You want to nourish your body, not poison it.
21. Celiac disease is a genetically based autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the small intestinal mucosa. Individuals with celiac disease have an immunologic reaction to specific sequences of amino acids found in the grains wheat, rye, and barley. When a person with celiac disease consumes these amino acid sequences they trigger an immune system response that causes damage to the small intestinal mucosa. Inflammation and villous atrophy may lead to malabsorption of nutrients. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, bloated ness with abdominal distension to name just a few. The diarrhea that is characteristic of celiac disease is (chronic) pale, voluminous and malodorous. As the bowel becomes more damaged, a degree of lactose intolerance may develop. Frequently, the symptoms are ascribed to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), only later to be recognized as celiac disease. Screening for celiac disease is recommended for those with IBS symptoms. Severe celiac disease leads to the characteristic symptoms of pale, loose and greasy stool (steatorrhoea), and weight loss or failure to gain weight (in young children). People with milder celiac disease may have symptoms that are much more subtle and occur in other organs rather than the bowel itself. It is however possible to have celiac disease without any symptoms whatsoever at all. Many adults with subtle disease only have fatigue or anemia. Growing portions of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increased screening. Celiac Disease is diagnosed with a small bowel biopsy. Blood tests are useful for screening for celiac disease and include: Tissue Transglutaminase (igA), Antigliadin Antibodies (IgA & IgG), Endomysial Antibodies (IgA) and a Total IgA. You should be tested for celiac disease if you suspect that you could or might have the disease or if you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Long-term consumption of gluten can be very damaging if you do have celiac disease so knowing is crucial. Longstanding and untreated, celiac disease could lead to complications such as an ulcer formation of the small bowel and narrowing as a result of scarring with obstruction of the bowel. Celiac disease untreated also increases the risk of small bowel cancer and lymphoma of the bowel. Treated with proper diet will help keep these risks to a minimum. It is very important to get properly tested for celiac disease before going off gluten otherwise you can’t get a proper positive or negative diagnosis easily. You can however get a gene test done if you are already on a gluten free diet.
22. Stay away from products that contain olestra. It is an ingredient mainly in chips. This is a synthetic fat substitute that the human body doesn’t absorb, but causes two problems. It may cause gastrointestinal problems, specifically abdominal cramping and loose stools in some people. It may inhibit the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients.
23. Keep yourself clean of aspartame. Aspartame, known to the public as NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful among the few names has been reported to causes all sorts of digestive disturbance including stomach cramps and diarrhea. Aspartame is bottom line not good for you. Let’s start simple. It contains no nutritional value. Unlike sugar, which your body needs, aspartame is foreign, alien and causes a multiple list of side effects. It has been reported to cause headaches, epileptic seizures known as petit mal seizures, and many other unwanted side effects.
24. Tap water contains many harmful chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride among many of the pollutants that are digestive and health irritants. The importance of the purest water possible cannot be stressed enough.
25. Food poisoning can vary from mild to serious. The milder forms of food poisoning can be caused by left-overs in the refrigerator. Bacteria collects on left overs that cannot be seen by the human eye. Follow the three day rule and throw any leftovers out on the third day.
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