by Ellie Campbell
Are you the kind of person who can’t stomach those little yoghurt drinks that are advertised as having good bacteria? Or do you ever wonder if drinking soda has any impact at all on your digestive system? Well without putting too much fear in you (sugar-sweetened soft drinks are associated with deaths from digestive diseases as recently noted on JAMA network) the mystique surrounding the digestive system and what role it plays in overall wellbeing can’t be underestimated.
Having a healthy and thriving digestive system – from top to bottom – is essential in helping your body not internally be put under pressure to work continually. There are ways you can smarten yourself up to having not only a healthy gut like those adverts show but giving different parts of your digestive system little adjustments to help place it in a better position to work with ease.
In this post, I’m going to highlight how you can make changes to your daily routine, almost subconsciously, that take practically no effort and will work for you in the long term. And it all starts with knowing that diets don’t work wonders.
Tip 1: Knowing the diet conundrum
A 2018 BMJ study into dietary patterns and chronic disease wanted to see if diets had a knock-on effect for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The simplest hypothesis is that if you eat better things, then X, Y or Z is the benefit.
One of the unique traits they found from the outset was the conundrum that diets placed on their study, and it helps to frame it as such: “Can you directly correlate a certain diet with lower risk?”
The problem they had was that “the food patterns of vegetarian and vegan diets are highly heterogeneous”, meaning that those who don’t eat meat have a much more diverse diet. This means that evaluating someone’s digestive system becomes much harder when certain elements are eliminated by one thing (meat), but the diet is then completely different from person to person.
While specific diets like keto, paleo and such are very trendy right now, without knowing if your digestive system will benefit from massive changes, it is better to carry out an elimination based diet wherein you omit certain items over a long period to see what the internal benefits are. The Mediterranean diet may cause problems if you suddenly want to eat pasta every day but supplementing in gut-healthy foods (think more olives and less olive oil) across the board helps from top to toe.
Tip 2: Knowing that your digestive system is BIG
Ask someone to point out where their digestive system starts.
Did they point at their stomach? Then they’re wrong.
Did they point at their appendix? Then they’re wrong too.
The digestive system starts up in your mouth with ingestion being the primary step in the cycle. Back in 1945 doctors realised during World War II that there was a correlation between not getting enough vitamin C and the first signs of poor health present on the gums (you can read part of that publication here). If you ever wonder why dentists say to take care of your teeth, think of it not as just keeping them looking white, but also taking care of the first chain in the digestive system.
For anyone reading this wondering if their gums are in good health, ask yourself if you’re carrying out any of these tips to achieve gum health perfection:
- Really brush for two minutes. Use the stopwatch on your phone and time it. You might be surprised how off the mark you’ve been.
- Floss – if bad food in the stomach isn’t good for you, imagine what it’s like when stuck in your gums.
- Avoid concentrated juices. Your teeth and your gut have a hard time breaking them down.
- Chew more. Just like brushing, we’re prone to under chewing when we eat. Let your teeth do all hard work, so your stomach isn’t working overtime after every meal.
Tip 3: Knowing that there are people who will happily look at your digestive system
For some people, aches and pains in the stomach happen once in a blue moon when food “doesn’t agree” with you. For others, it can be a daily bug bearer that needs specialist attention.
Visiting a specialist gastroenterology clinic is one way to get help when having digestive issues that need an endoscopy (that’s where you get examined with a camera).
It may not be as comfortable as getting a visit to the dentist, but for those who have poor digestive health, it’s necessary. And, after following the last tip, you know that the digestive system is so big that problems could exist anywhere in the food digestion cycle.
Tip 4: Knowing that there is help out there
The last thing you want to do when you think you have poor digestive health is to Google the problem and go to that infamous web doctor whose name we will not mention.
Instead, you can get free information and support from charities like Guts UK which help people get to know what’s going on the inside and getting you clued into what potential problems you may have. Being loaded with information is much better than being loaded with indigestion, so seek it out from the right sources.
Tip 5: Know to drink more water
It feels great when you stay hydrated on the outside, but inside your body is thanking you too, especially your intestines, appendix and colon. They need mucus to work and guess what the mucins need the most to grow? Water! 98% to be exact (source). Your digestive system loves when you drink throughout the day, so make sure you raise a glass whenever you can.
A sneaky tip to remember how to do it: a glass of water before a meal!
Want to know how fasting impacts your gut health?
I’m Ellie, and I’m currently located in Glasgow, Scotland. I love to read and write, but also enjoy exploring the Highlands and all wonders that Scotland has to offer. I’m a bit of a foodie, and you can often find me trying new and local coffee shops and cafes in the West End and Finnieston. I enjoy exploring all kinds of topics, which you’ll see reflected in my writing!