Our digestive system is a complicated and finely balanced system, critical in breaking down food into nutrients, which our bodies need for energy, growth, and cell repair. Food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before our bloodstream can absorb them and carry them to cells throughout our body.
The body breaks down nutrients from food and drink into carbohydrates, protein, fats, and vitamins. It only takes a minor imbalance to upset the system so it’s a good idea to give our digestive system all the help we can by following a few simple guidelines to boost our digestion, keep our digestive system in check and benefit the rest of our bodily functions.
A basic understanding of how the system works, helps us appreciate how to help and maintain the system. The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus.
We put food into our mouth which passes through the hollow organs of the GI tract. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.
Bacteria in the GI tract, also called gut flora or microbiome, help with digestion. Parts of the nervous and circulatory systems also play roles in the digestive process.
Together, a combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of the digestive system complete the complex task of digesting the foods and liquids that we all consume each day.
The digestion process works by moving food through the GI tract, starting in the mouth with chewing and ends in the small intestine. As food passes through the GI tract, it mixes with digestive juices, causing large molecules of food to break down into smaller molecules.
The body then absorbs these smaller molecules through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers them to the rest of the body. Waste products of digestion pass through the large intestine and out of the body.(1)
Table of Contents
- 1 These simple guidelines will help ensure that your digestive system gets as much help as it needs and passes on the benefits to you.
- 2 1. Breakfast is important – don’t skip it.
- 3 Eat slowly and chew properly
- 4 Exercise
- 5 Don’t overeat
- 6 Drink lots of water
- 7 Avoid processed foods
- 8 Cut down on alcohol (I know, I know – not what you want to hear!)
- 9 Take your lunch break
- 10 Peppermint tea
- 11 Enjoy an early dinner
- 12 You may also like:
These simple guidelines will help ensure that your digestive system gets as much help as it needs and passes on the benefits to you.
1. Breakfast is important – don’t skip it.
My grandmother used to say that the breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She was right. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism which means your body starts burning calories earlier and it’s always better as a rule to eat earlier in the day than later.
On this basis, a good breakfast should mean that you will not feel the urge to eat as much later on, giving your body and metabolism much more time to burn off those calories and digest your food properly. Including a probiotic like natural yoghurt can also help with digestion as it enhances the natural bacteria already present in your body, the natural gut flora or microbiome as we described above, which can help boost your digestive system. (2)
Eat slowly and chew properly
Many of us are guilty of eating too quickly and not chewing our food properly, perhaps because we’re late or we’re just eating on the run, but bolting your food is not good for you and puts extra stress on your digestive system.
As described above, your digestive system needs to break everything down using digestive juices, and this will take considerably longer if you haven’t chewed your food properly. So, slowing down, chewing a lot more will really help your digestive system and also perhaps result in you eating slightly less! (3)
As we all know, exercise is important, and generally these days our lives are so hectic that we don’t get enough. Exercise also helps our digestive system, so any exercise is good, even if it’s just walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, or walking to the shops, or getting off the bus or train one stop early and completing your journey on foot. Your digestive system doesn’t care how you move, only that you do.
Seriously, just don’t eat so much! Our bodies are designed to break down a reasonable amount of food several times a day, but most of us have been brought up to be polite and clear our plates and avoid waste, which is fine unless the portions are so huge that we’re actually eating two meals!
This is a particular hazard if eating out in some restaurants where the portions are ridiculously huge. When at home, leave some space on the plate and don’t overload it, or in a restaurant where the portions are huge, miss out on the starter or pudding, or just have two starters instead of a main.
Drink lots of water
Water is crucial for many aspects of our bodily functions, but specifically for digestion, it helps move food effectively through our GI and aids digestion. It’s a good idea to drink water about 20 minutes before and with every meal. Try the Turapur Water Pitcher for a month, you’ll never drink bottled water again!
Avoid processed foods
Processed foods are the enemy of digestive health. Preservatives, additives; they’re all bad and whilst it might be difficult to avoid them altogether, consume in moderation. Anything that has a shelf life of 6 months has to be hiding a list of chemicals and additives!
Cut down on alcohol (I know, I know – not what you want to hear!)
Unfortunately, many digestive system diseases are alcohol related. Now, unless you are completely teetotal, this means just being sensible and cutting back, or not drinking during the week, or just regulating your intake.
Or, if you can’t cut back, at least try to avoid fizzy drinks and champagne as the bubbles can irritate your stomach and digestive system in general.
Take your lunch break
Most of us that work in an office, or even at a desk, are guilty of eating lunch at our desks. It’s helpful to actually go out, take a walk, get a little exercise and move around a bit. If you happen to have sunshine, find a patch of grass, take off your shoes and tilt your face skyward.
Apparently bare feet help release some toxins, plus you get some vitamin D, essential to overall good health. Just remember to put your shoes and socks back on before you go back to the office!
Try drinking peppermint tea instead of coffee occasionally. Firstly, peppermint is good for helping digestion, especially if you suffer sometimes from indigestion, but also excessive caffeine is not good for your stomach as it can raise acidity levels. Peppermint is also calming so helps with stress.
Enjoy an early dinner
Going back to the point we made at breakfast, eating earlier in the day is better than eating later, so don’t eat late in the evening either. If eating out, go out early. Ideally we should eat at least 3 hours before sleeping.
Following these simple guidelines should help your digestive system cope easier, reduce the load and make you feel better overall. Just remember how much work your digestive system has to do to break down whatever we eat and absorb those all-important nutrients, so any help we can provide is useful. (4)