Simple ways to improve your digestion

Aim for more fibre in your diet – peristalsis is stimulated in the bowel by the activation of stretch receptors in the walls of the intestine. This then encourages the action of peristalsis and the movement of food and waste material through the gastrointestinal tract. The dietary fibre swells as water is drawn into the bowel, so stimulating the receptors and resulting in peristaltic contractions thus helping to soften and regulate bowel movements. Adding different sources of soluble (oats, flax, nuts, seeds, lentils) and insoluble (brown rice, skins of fruit, root vegetables) fibre will assist the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract. If you have a sensitive tummy, build up your intake of fibre slowly, introducing small portions over several days and gradually increasing over a couple of weeks. 

Increase your fluid intake – dehydration equals a dry gastrointestinal environment which dries out the stool and can result in bunged up bowels. Water allows the fibrous content from dietary sources to swell which encourages peristalsis and regular stool movements. The trick to drinking enough throughout the day is to ensure that the colour of your urine is light-coloured like pale straw. If your urine gets darker, ensure you drink some more. Once you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Pay attention to the signs your body is telling you. Improving hydration is good for all our health, allowing better excretion and detoxification, removing cellular waste and supporting kidney and bladder function.

Eat whole-foods, vegetables, fruits and whole-grains - whole-foods provide good sources of fibre, nutrients and beneficial compounds your body needs to perform at its best. Aim for real, unprocessed foods and diversity in your diet. For example, a handful of unsalted nuts and seeds with slices of organic apple will give you a good dose of beneficial fibre and pectin compared to a slice of white bread.

Incorporate some prebiotic and probiotics - adding foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, inulin and resistant starch provides the fuel your beneficial bacteria love to munch. Feeding the good bacteria encourages the health of your mucosal intestinal lining, resulting in better digestion. If you suffer from IBS or bloating you may struggle with the sugars in these foods so please talk to a nutritional healthcare practitioner to get the advice you need. Probiotics are foods that have been fermented with good bacteria and help to introduce strains into your tract, naturally seeding the gastrointestinal terrain.

It is not only diet that is important for good gut health.

Addressing your lifestyle and learning how to manage stress will encourage better blood supply into the bowel. This improves everything from nutrient absorption in the small intestine to the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract. A skilled, registered healthcare nutritional practitioner will work on all aspects of your life to balance and improve digestive function. 

Please refer to a practitioner for further information and details as to how nutritional therapy and naturopathic support can help you.

This article is purely for information purposes and should not be taken as medical advice.

If taking medication(s), please ensure you speak to your GP/consultant before making any changes to your diet.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bridgwater, Somerset, TA7
Written by Natasha Achilleos, BA(Hons), Dip(NT), Dip(NAT) (NaturoHealthNutrition)
Bridgwater, Somerset, TA7

Natasha Cornelius is the owner of NaturoHealthNutrition and is a registered nutritional and naturopathic practitioner. With specialist training in Nutrition and Naturopathy and a degree in research and social science, she has worked with people with a number of conditions and specialises in digestive, vascular, metabolic and hormonal health.

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