Gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a fancy word for your digestive system. It is the path all the way from your mouth and to the… well… other end. The organs that make this system up are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The liver, pancreas and gallbladder also play a role as well. Digestion may not be the most appetizing topic, but it is a majorly important one. It is in the GI tract that your food is broken down into useable nutrient building blocks. Maximize your digestion and you will maximize your health. Below we can see what happens when GI health is out of whack.
Okay…that looks like a lot of things that could go wrong up there. So how can we keep our digestive tract running in tip top shape?
Reduce Stress: Chronic stress can have big consequences on your whole body, but how can it relate to your GI tract? The short answer is through the brain-gut connection which is neuroscience at work. Stress triggers your sympathetic nervous system (aka fight-or-flight ). As your body shunts blood and resources to muscles that help you fight, it takes resources away from those digestive organs. Methods like yoga, deep breathing and meditation practice can help.
Exercise: Getting moving can help your food get moving too. When you are up and moving gravity gets to work and food will travel quicker through your GI tract. Going for a post meal walk could be the key.
BoostFiber: According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, adults need about 30 grams of fiber in their day. Fiber can add bulk to your stool making it easier for things to pass (if you could read anus in the first paragraph, I know you can read stool with a straight face.)
Hydrate: We touched on hydration last month with our pre/post workout article but water is back again! Adequate hydration helps every function in your body run smoother and digestion is not the exception. Adequate hydration (coming from water, herbal tea, non-caffeinated/ unsweetened sparkling water and water rich produce) prevents constipation by helping to break down food and properly lubricate your large/small intestines.
Try Fermented Foods: Fermentation is a chemical process in which carbohydrates convert to alcohol or organic acids through microorganisms (yeasts or bacteria) under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. The beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics, that are a result of this process can boost the healthy bacteria in your gut.
These are not the only ways to improve your digestion, but this should be enough to get you started. Now go and digest this information (ha ha, get it?) and when you’re feeling hungry, come see us at CHOP5 Salad Kitchen for a hydrating and fiber filled chopped salad. We will even reduce your stress by taking care of an easy and nutritious meal for you. That hits 3 of the above recommendations. ; ) It is up to you to fulfill the rest.