How to restore a healthy digestive system
In functional medicine it is believed that every system in the body is connected, and at the centre of it all is the digestive system. When your gut is unhealthy it can cause more than bloating, diarrhoea and gas – around 60-80% of our immune system is located in our gut. This means that imbalances in the gut can be linked to a range of problems, including autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, anxiety, eczema and other chronic health problems.
Recognising that your gut is unhealthy and taking steps to heal it may improve symptoms. The following signs could reveal an imbalance in the gut:
- digestive issues (such as bloating, pain and gas)
- food allergies/sensitivities
- mood swings
- skin problems (such as rosacea and eczema)
- frequent infections.
If you think you may have an unhealthy digestive system, there are ways you can rebalance it. Try the following:
(Note: You are advised to check with your doctor before changing your diet or taking new supplements.)
Remove the bad
The goal of this step is to eliminate anything that can irritate the gut. This includes inflammatory foods like dairy, soy, sugar, gluten or eggs. You may find is useful to try an elimination diet to help you identify which food is causing you problems. If you have any infections, be sure to visit your doctor and ask about medication and/or supplements to help.
Replace the good
To restore balance, you will now need to add back in the ingredients for a healthy gut. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are necessary for proper digestion. Speak to a dietitian for more advice on this.
Now you need to restore beneficial bacteria. You can do this by taking a probiotic and prebiotic supplement as well as eating foods high in soluble fibre. High fibre foods include nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables and beans and pulses.
The final step is to repair any damage that has been done. Key nutrients that can assist this include vitamin A, C and E, zinc and omega-3 fish oils. Herbs such as aloe vera and slippery elm can also help.