April 14, 2023

Supporting Your Digestive Health the Natural Way

Does a plant-based diet have any effects on digestion?

Plant-based dieting can help improve digestion in several ways. For example, eating more plant-based meals can help you get more of the essential vitamins and minerals which are important for maintaining optimal digestive health.

Plant-based diets are also usually low in saturated fat, which can help reduce symptoms of acid reflux and other digestive issues. They may also reduce your risk for diseases such as obesity and diabetes, both of which can be linked to poor digestive health.

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But first, what is digestion and digestive health?

The process of digestion begins as soon as food enters your mouth. Then your body moves the food through your digestive system through the digestive organs, and with the help of gastric acid, the food is broken down into smaller parts that can be absorbed with ease.

Digestive health is the state of the digestive system and its ability to properly break down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. Good digestive health is important for overall health, as it can help prevent a range of digestive issues, including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Problems with digestion

Digestive disorders are not uncommon. Some symptoms you should pay attention to and that may indicate you have some type of issue when digesting (certain) foods are; abdominal or joint pain, frequent vomiting, bloating, headaches or migraines, feeling dizzy or nauseous, and experiencing constipation, diarrhoea or heartburn.

Factors that affect digestion:

  • how quickly you ingest food
  • how much or little you chew
  • food combinations
  • posture while eating
  • medication
  • unnoticed intolerances/allergies
  • activities right after you’ve had a meal
  • rapid change in your diet

Psychology and digestion

When it comes to the psychological aspect of things, that, in turn, plays a huge role in digestion. Negative thoughts about food affect your relationship with it. Whatever you eat, make sure to eat it without shaming yourself for eating it and feeling guilty. Enjoy every bite, and if you don’t enjoy a certain food, skip it.

Generally speaking, stress, anxiety, and changes in behaviour, such as diet and physical activity, can influence digestion, too. For example, exercise can help improve digestion by stimulating the digestive tract muscles, while poor dietary choices can interfere with digestion accordingly.

Ask yourself…

If you’re experiencing issues with digesting food or certain types of food, here is what you can ask yourself to try and find the problem.

  • Is it a single food or a combination of different food that causes you issues?
  • Given that you’ve identified which food that is, do you see any changes when you consume a smaller amount of it?
  • What about when you take more time to chew?
  • How often do you eat, and do you need to give your body food more regularly?

If, at some point, you discover that cutting specific foods out of your diet works best for you, try to replace those with different kinds of the same group.

For example, if you find it difficult to digest or simply do not like apples, try to find other fruits with similar nutrients to make up for it.

Food that aids digestion

Some types of food are particularly helpful when it comes to digestion.

  • Food containing fibre. Fibre aids digestion, and it is an important element to consume on a daily basis. However, if your body is not used to fiber, take it easy and make sure you slowly increase your intake. Begin with soluble fibre like oats, bananas and apples. Vegetables, fruit and their skin and whole-grain foods are also rich in fibre. Also, note that too much fibre may cause you to bloat and not help much.

Read more about fibre and digestion here.

  • Fresh ginger. Ginger is a vegetable that naturally helps with bloating and digestion. Raw ginger goes well with salads and in tea, while ginger powder can be used in both cooking and baking to better flavour your dishes.
  • Leafy green vegetables contain helpful-to-digestion nutrients as well.

Foods that may cause bloating

Bloating can be due to specific food intolerance or sensitivity. It may also be the result of stress, hormonal imbalances, and certain medical conditions.

So, if you already experience bloating, you might want to avoid:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta
  • Carbonated drinks & sodas
  • Spicy food
  • Greasy food and foods high in saturated fats
  • Too much fibre
  • Bell peppers

Individual digestibility

Each individual is different, which is why each case should be looked into separately. Start by breaking down, either by yourself or with the help of your nutritionist, the food you eat and try to notice when you are experiencing any of the symptoms above after ingesting certain food.

That is not always enough, though. Pay close attention to your emotional and physical state when eating, too! Taking an allergy test will also help easier track certain foods your system naturally cannot digest.

Encourage yourself to reflect on your eating behaviour. Perhaps get a notebook and note it down. Be mindful and try to separate your meals from other activities.

And most importantly, try to be totally there when you eat.

Remember that eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are two of the best ways to maintain good digestive health.

Disclaimer; If your digestive and bloating symptoms are intense and persisting, consider visiting a doctor and seeking proper medical advice.

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