A healthy and balanced diet is the foundation of wellness and good health. But how can you ensure your body is in the best possible condition for handling and absorbing all the healthy food you’re eating? A properly functioning digestive system is similar to a perfectly balanced recipe with several important ingredients interacting to help the body absorb all the nutrients. This article describes how good gut health contributes to a functioning digestive system.
The two most important ingredients needed for the digestive system to work are digestive enzymes and good bacteria, which break the food you eat down into molecules. Most of the molecules are transported onwards from the gut to the blood flow, which then ensures that it reaches the whole body and provides it with nutrition. Digestive enzymes and good bacteria make it easier for nutrients to get from the gut to the blood and thus contribute to as much nutrition and as many vitamins as possible being spread out further around the body.
A properly functioning digestive system starts with you chewing your food. When you chew, you produce enzymes in the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas and liver so that your digestive system is active all the way through the body. When your body doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes it affects digestion and makes it difficult for the body to digest certain foods. The production of digestive enzymes reduces with age and it can also be negatively affected by contamination and processed food.
The right combination of enzymes is important for the digestive system to work properly. But to have a healthy gut flora with the right microbes is just as important. Microbes are microorganisms that are made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaeons. When the microbes are balanced and in the right amounts in relation to each other, they offer lots of health benefits.
Good gut bacteria make up some of these important microbes. These beneficial bacteria are crucial to good health and a strong and healthy immune system. They’re also important for keeping blood sugar levels in balance and can even affect our mood.
Gut bacteria are the body’s own little superheroes when it comes to digestion. Good bacteria help to stave off damaging microorganisms that can be found in food as well as playing a large and vital role in the overall digestive process. Good bacteria produce their own enzymes, for example lactase, which is needed to break down dairy products. And gut bacteria also make it easier to absorb nutrients, so that the body can provide itself with as much nutrition as possible from the food you eat.
Raw, unprocessed, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts are great sources of enzymes. Cooking destroys the enzymes in the food, so it’s beneficial to eat raw foods wherever and whenever possible.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi provide the body with enzymes and good bacteria. It’s also really easy for the body to absorb nutrients from fermented foods as they’ve already started breaking down due to the good bacteria in the fermentation process.
Eating foods that go well together is good for digestion, but similarly there are other foods that should not be combined. For example, fruit should not be eaten as a dessert. Fruits cannot be broken down until further along in the digestive system, and if they get stuck along the way with other foods, they hamper the digestive process.
If you make sure to eat at the latest 2 to 3 hours before going to bed, you give your body the chance to clean and repair your digestive system while you sleep. You can also try a short fast sometimes, where you eat an early dinner followed by a late breakfast the next day – this gives the digestive system a much-needed break.
Even people who eat healthy food and a varied diet can find it difficult to take in enough good bacteria and enzymes. A lot of factors in our modern lifestyles, such as stress, medicines, or processed food can affect the good bacteria in your gut and reduce the production of important enzymes. So besides eating healthy food consisting of a lot of raw and fermented foods, it can be a good idea to give your body an extra supplement of synbiotics (good bacteria and fibre) and enzymes.