Food EducationHealth

Heal Your Gut by Learning the Best and Worst Foods for Digestion

Digesting – we don’t have to think about it, our bodies just do it! In fact, your body can expend up to 80% of its total energy trying to digest meals like Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, where the food will sit in your stomach for up to 7 hours until completely digested.

Digestion is important! It plays a critical role in being able to properly absorb nutrients from food, determines what your energy levels will be like, and how effectively you will lose weight. I your digestion is impaired (for whatever reason), you may suffer from bloating, and indigestion as well as feel tired, lethargic and not able to move (think sloth…).

How To Heal Your Gut

An easy way to heal your gut, speed up digestion and feel more alert is to properly combine your foods and learn when to eat faster digesting foods and slower digestion foods. Fast digesting foods are things like fruit and leafy vegetables or high-water content vegetables. These foods should be consumed earlier on in the day. Slower digesting foods are things like fats (avocado, oils), and root vegetables, and should be consumed later in the day.

If you consume things like wheat, eggs, dairy, or meat, you may feel consistently slowed down, because these foods sit in your digestive tract for incredibly long periods of time where deadly bacteria, fungus, mould and yeast multiply and thrive in their most optimal conditions. Since fruit and vegetables digest at a much faster rate (30 minutes to 1 hour – compared to several hours or even days for most meat), these bacteria, fungus, moulds and yeast simply cannot survive, because there is nowhere for them to live (food matter is eliminated before they even get a chance to multiply!).

This is one reason why most people who turn to a plant-based diet report higher energy levels and feel “light and bouncy” (as some might say it!). This is also a reason why most of the foods that help power and keep our digestive tract clean are those which are plant-based.

Before I get into the actual foods which help our digestive tract, I would like to speak about the dire importance to consume plenty of water before your meals. I normally drink 4 litres of water daily (1 litre in the morning upon waking, 1 litre before lunch, 1 litre before a mid-day snack, and then 1 litre before dinner).

Drinking water before your meals is important because: a) it helps aid the digestive process; b) it will make you less hungry overall; c) it will keep you hydrated and make your skin soft; and, d) it helps the liver perform more optimally.

Foods to Heal the Gut

Some great foods to include in your diet to help improve digestion are things like papaya, avocado, bananas, leafy greens, mango, ginger, asparagus and beets (among many others – these are my top 8 pick!). Not to mention, all plant food is high in fibre, and fibre is the what you need to help push waste matter through your intestines and colon, and ensure that nothing stays stagnant in your GI tract (when that happens, then you re-absorb toxins that are meant to be pushed out, resulting in a variety of sicknesses).

Papaya and mango are two of my favourite foods for improving digestion. Papaya contains enzymes called papain and chymopapain. These little guys help our body break down proteins from food into amino acids and protect the body from inflammation. Eating papaya after a meal (or with a meal) is a great way to promote digestion and prevent bloating, gas production and indigestion. Similarly, mangoes also contain digestive enzymes (magneferin, katechol oxidase, and lactase) which aid in the digestion of proteins. These two fruit are a great way to replenish good bacteria in the gut after a round of antibiotic use, and will thus strengthen our immune system and better protect against illnesses like the flu and cancer.

Avocado lovers unite! You are doing your digestive system wonders! They contain B Vitamins which help in digestion and they promote the release of digestive enzymes in our mouth and stomach, meaning better overall digestion of the food we eat. Avocados are also very high in fibre – just one avocado contains 13.5 grams, meaning excellent elimination and no need for constipation!

Do you like bananas? Your digestive tract sure does! Bananas can actually neutralize the acidity of gastric juices and prevent us from developing ulcers – not only that but they contain non-digestible fiber called cellulose, hemicellulose and alpha-glucans, which prevent constipation and makes sure our bowels are happy and regular.

Leafy greens and asparagus are definitely two foods you should be eating! Why? Leafy greens contain the fibre we need to help push and shove out toxic waste matter so that it doesn’t get re-absorbed in the body. Leafy greens like kale and more hardy greens like broccoli have recently been discovered to switch on a gene called T-bet which creates more innate lymphoid cells (immune cells) and thus promote good intestinal health by keeping “bad” bacteria out of the intestine.

Asparagus, on the other hand, is considered a type of prebiotic food, containing a fiber type needed by the probiotics in our gut to help feed off and multiply. When you eat foods like asparagus or onions (another prebiotic), you are essentially feeding the good bacteria in your gut! Happy gut bacteria = an incredible immune system!

Ginger is well known for it’s effects in the digestion sector. It has been used for centuries as a digestive aid to help stimulate our digestive enzymes, and even settle an upset stomach (think honey, lemon, ginger tea – our mothers usually made this for us when we had the flu or a cold to settle our tummies). Ginger actually helps increase muscle contractions in the stomach, which helps move food into the upper small intestine, and empties the stomach at a faster rate.

Don’t be scared if you ever consume beets and you poop out purple! Red beets and their greens provide individuals with significant constipation relief due to their rich fibre content and ability to push things through at all costs. Red beets are also incredibly nutrient dense (potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium), and these nutrients maintain the health of your gut, especially the lining and smooth muscle fibres which contract in waves to create bowel movements.

Foods that Destroy Gut Health

Foods that you may want to avoid if you are looking to improve your vital life energy force would be foods high in saturated fat (fatty meats and processed junk food), dairy, wheat, and drinks like soda, caffeine and alcohol. 

Fatty foods induce heartburn as a result of indigestion and the poor absorption of fat – humans have a hard time digesting fatty meats and other processed foods – these foods can sit in our digestive tract for DAYS.

Dairy on the other hand is nature’s perfect food – but only if you’re a calf! In fact, countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (Africa & Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. In addition, around 75% of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products (aka. lactose intolerance) – even if you may think you can stomach dairy products, there is a high chance that your body is taking the brunt of your cheese addiction in a negative way (bloating, mucus build-up, suppressed immune system, cancer, etc.)

Wheat is also another major culprit of creating poorly functioning digestive system. Most of the wheat consumed today is hybridized and contains sodium azide (a known toxin). It also gets irradiated during the manufacturing process which means a lovely infusion of gamma rays with a side of peanut butter & jam. Wheat also contains gluten, and our bodies are physically incapable of breaking it down due to lack of the proper enzymes. Wheat also contains gliadin & glutenin, immunogenic anti-nutrients which can lead to an array of autoimmune diseases like celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, and much more. These little molecules increase intestinal permeability, resulting in systemic inflammation by the immune system. 

Alcohol, soda and caffeinated drinks are all highly acidic and create a hostile environment in our digestive tract. These drinks can trigger acid reflux via inflammation of the stomach, and esophageal relaxation. Soda simply should not be consumed. If it can clean toilets, then it shouldn’t be going in your body!

Sources:

http://www.naturalnews.com/026372_cancer_papaya_protein.html

http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v14/n4/abs/ni.2545.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/leafy-greens-healthy-gut-cruciferous-vegetables-digestive-immune-system_n_2807158.html

http://www.bastyrcenter.org/content/view/1424/

http://drbenkim.com/articles-foods-good-digestion.htm

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