A good functioning digestive system is essential to good health

Health Aug 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Health-medicinal_fruits_By Kalayaan Garcia de Vera

People who suffer from unexplained headaches, constant bloating, heartburn, listlessness or lack of energy, and interrupted sleep always tend to think they have a serious illness.

They then try to treat each symptom as an ailment singularly caused by one organ’s malfunction, so to speak.  We know however that our body systems are interrelated and it could be that those symptoms may just be traceable to one common disorder.

The problem may just be a case of poor or inefficient digestion, perhaps because of the kind of food they always eat.

For instance, health problems such as weight gain, exzema, allergies, asthma, constipation, gall stones, fungal infections, arthritis and even some forms of cancer may just have been caused or worsened by poor digestion.

When the digestive system is healthy and is thus functioning properly, other organs are healthy too. So it is important to consider what  aids good digestion,  what kind of foods one should eat, and what one should remove from your diet.

Why is that?

To put it bluntly, the gastrointestinal tract isn’t just a passageway for ingested food to be processed, and its residual by-product to be eliminated as waste.

A healthy gastrointestinal tract should be able to help the body digest food properly so that its nutrients are efficiently absorbed, and at the same time it helps the body eliminate waste and toxins regularly.  That’s the reason why a healthy digestive tract is considered one’s foundation to health and well-being.

As we nutritionists always say: we are not what we eat, but we are what we digest and absorb.  Nutrients must be able to go through membrane barriers in the digestive tract to finally reach the cell.  And if we do not have a healthy digestive tract, the nutrients that finally manage to end up in the cells are not optimized to their maximum benefits.

With improper absorption or nourishment come inefficient cleansing, as both processes which occur in the digestive tract are interrelated.

What happens then? Indigestion occurs resulting in gas, heartburn, burping, bloating, constipation, bad breath, general discomfort and heaviness or fatigue, and headaches.

So what kinds of foods should one eat to promote good digestion?  This question is especially important to ponder on, for people who have already compromised digestive processes, such as those who have had their gall bladders removed.

In general, to help optimize digestion, include health-promoting food that are anti-inflammatory or non-allergenic, such as vegetables, especially lettuce, kale, parsley, ginger, cucumber, beets, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin or squash, turnips, celery and cauliflower; fruits (except oranges and grapefruit), especially avocados, all kinds of berries, apples, apricots, cherries, dates, figs, mangoes, papaya, peaches; soy products (especially miso and tempeh); nuts (all); beans; fish; organic chicken and turkey; non-gluten wholegrains such as quinoa, buckwheat, rice and millet.  Include good oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, and grapeseed oil.

Foods to avoid would be alcohol, coffee, corn, dairy, red meats, sugar, wheat and gluten product, yeast, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, cottonseed oils, and citrus.

It is also important to consider maintaining a good digestive system that assures a good bowel cleansing, and constipation prevention through the aid of probiotics, digestive enzymes, and detoxification not only of the digestive tract but the kidneys and liver as well.  Herbs such as milk thistle, and dandelion are known to be good for cleansing, and with added fibre, helps in elimination.

Clearly, a basic thing to maintain a healthy digestive system is to avoid by all means constipation.  Filipinos should know that they have a lot of native foods that are nutritious and at the same time effective in promoting healthy digestion, as they are very effective in helping prevent constipation.  Dr. Jaime Z.Galvez Tan, MD, MHP, in his book he co-authored with his wife, Ma. Rebecaa M. Galvez Tan, RN, Medicinal Fruits and Vegetables, lists down the following as good foods that help with constipation: ampalaya, asparagus, balanoy, balimbing, dayap, gabi, kamatis, kangkong, linga, malunggay, manga, mani, melon, niyog, papaya, pili, ponya, saging, sampalok, utaw.

Indeed I cannot overemphasize  the importance of why we should all look into having a healthy digestive system – not only for adults like us, but especially for children and seniors.  If the food we eat are nutritious, and the nutrients are absorbed properly, and the waste and toxins are effectively eliminated, we can expect to live a good health life.  And as a bonus, we can also expect to be beautiful , with healthy, smooth and glowing skin, for if your guts are clean, and your cells benefit from the optimal absorption of nutrients, then your skin will naturally have a radiant glow that can only come from being truly healthy and clean, inside and out.

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(Kalayaan Garcia de Vera is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated at the top of her class with honours at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.. As a member of the Canadian Holistic Association of Nutritionists Professionals, she has conducted weight loss studies and detoxification workshops. Her website is www.yourholisticnutritionist.com)

(Ed: For information on how your digestion plays a very important part of your overall health and well-being book a complimentary nutrition assessment with our Registered Holistic Nutritionist< Kalayaan Garcia de Vera, RHN, by phone 416-995-6146 or e-mail:  kgarciadevera@gmail.com)