Digestion is a complex process that involves the nervous system, the endocrine system and the circulatory system. Healthy digestion is essential for proper nutrient absorption and metabolism and if digestion isn’t optimal it can manifest as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion, reflux, heartburn, flatulence, abdominal pain and/or bloating. Possible causes of intestinal and digestive problems include: liver problems, gallbladder problems, NSAIDs, poor diet, food allergies/intolerances, insufficient water intake, autoimmune disease, lack of digestive enzymes, stress or anxiety. One of the most important ways to improve intestinal and gut function is to improve your diet, starting with these superfoods:
These are citrus fruits which are high in vitamin C and act as digestive tonics to help relieve heartburn and nausea. Vitamin C helps to produce glutathione; one of the most potent antioxidants in the body which aids in the removal of toxins from the body. Start the day with a large glass of water and fresh lemon or lime juice to alkalinise the body, stimulate your digestive system and kickstart your metabolism for the day.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a yellow spice that has been a hot topic as of late, due to research that has shown it can treat liver disease, respiratory problems, joint pain, cancer and gastrointestinal issues. Turmeric can improve acid production to improve digestion and is very beneficial for individuals who experience flatulence.
3. Bone broth
Bone broth is what your grandma used to refer to as stock. Bone broth is a cheap and effective way to reduce inflammation throughout the body, improve digestion and combat infection. Bone broth contains gelatine, which attracts the liquids necessary to help heal and seal the gut and aid digestion. Bone broth slowly and gently extracts the valuable nutrients and easy-to-absorb minerals from the bone, such as calcium, magnesium, collagen, phosphorus and glucosamine, making it a dietary powerhouse.
This powerful root vegetable has been used for thousands of years to help protect, heal and soothe the gut lining, as well as relieve indigestion. It has also been referred to as a digestive herb to help alleviate burping and flatulence. It is excellent in juices, tea, stir-fries, dressings and marinades. There are excellent juicing recipes in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.
Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to relieve indigestion and soothe the stomach. It also happens to be one of the highest sources of antioxidants. Mint increases the secretion of bile flow which increases the speed and efficiency of digestion.
6. Leafy greens
Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and Bok choy are excellent sources of insoluble fibre, to feed our good gut bugs and add “bulk” to our stools for easier and quicker elimination. Leafy greens also increase the production and flow of bile to aid digestion and the removal of waste from the body. If you have digestive issues it is recommended to avoid the consumption of raw leafy greens as their tough fibre can be hard to break down. Instead, blend them or lightly steam them to ease digestion and absorption.
7. Fermented foods
Include foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha and apple cider vinegar which contain probiotics to promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Probiotics aid digestion by digesting certain types of fibre, starches and sugars, improving the integrity of the gut lining and keeping bad bacteria under control. Sipping one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted with water at meals is an excellent way to aid those with weak digestion. Choose an organic apple cider vinegar that has a cloudy appearance as this indicates high probiotic content.
8. Oily fish
Wild salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines are examples of oily fish which are high in omega-3 fats. Omega 3s are a natural anti-inflammatory and can heal your gut from digestive disorders such as bloating, cramping and abdominal pain.
9. Coconut oil
Is loaded with healthy fats to aid digestion, improve immunity, and boost energy and metabolism. Coconut oil also contains a fatty acid called lauric acid, a natural antimicrobial which helps to destroy bacteria and yeast in the GI tract. As fat is the slowest nutrient to digest, it keeps you full and satiated for longer.
Bananas are very high in fibre. They contain 70% insoluble fibre which aids peristalsis and regulates bowel movements, and 30% soluble fibre which regulates blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of fats and carbohydrates. Bananas are very restorative for individuals who suffer from diarrhoea as they replenish electrolytes and potassium that may become depleted. To increase fibre intake, try taking Fibretone – the superfood for healthy bowels.
As well as these foods, it’s definitely worth mentioning glutamine, a natural amino acid that is vital for intestinal health, and is effective in healing and sealing the gut lining. For more vital digestive principles and gut-friendly recipes check out Dr Cabot’s book ‘Healthy Bowel, Healthy Body’.