Daily Nutrition & Well-being
Healthy Digestion, Healthy You
Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training 20 October 2023
Your digestion system is incredible. It does so much without us even realising it. From breaking down food into nutrients and energy, to removing waste from your body and playing a key role in immune health, a healthy gut can have a huge impact on your overall well-being1,2.
What you eat and the way you live your life can influence the well-being of your digestive system3.
A nutrient-rich, balanced diet can help to nourish all of your body’s cells, including those in your digestive tract. Your brain and your digestive tract are in constant communication with each another through a series of signals. An incredible amount of information passes between your gut and your brain, so much so that the nervous system residing in your digestive tract is often called the body’s “second brain”.
On top of that, your gut microflora play an important role in immunity and the cells lining your digestive tract act as physical and biological barriers against microbial invaders2. All these systems help to protect your body against bacteria and viruses that could make you sick.
Are you doing enough to take care of your digestion system? We’ve put together some tips to help you achieve optimal gut well-being.
Fibre, Fluids and Digestive Health
One of the most important things you can do to take care of your digestive health, is to make sure that you are consuming enough fibre*. The average person should consume 25-30 grams of fibre a day5. When it comes to fibre, most people think of it as the substance that helps to keep the digestive process moving – and certain fibres do just that*. But not all fibres work the same way, which is why we often talk about two types of fibre.
Insoluble and soluble fibre can act in different ways. Your digestive system is home to trillions of microorganisms and is also made up of thousands of species6. This bacterial colony is called the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is like a powerful ecosystem that contains good and bad bacteria. Every single person’s gut microbiota is unique to them and their health needs.
You can introduce beneficial bacteria into your system, by consuming probiotics that can be found in certain foods. These include yoghurt and kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, miso paste and olives7.
Exercise, Stress and Digestive Health
Regular exercise can help to support digestive health in a number of ways. As your muscles contract and your breath deepens during exercise, your intestinal muscles are stimulated, which in turn helps to move food through your system8.
It’s common knowledge that exercise is a good way to reduce stress, but it can also help to soothe and ease digestive upsets that can occur in response to negative emotions9.
The connection between your brain and gut is something you’ve probably experienced in the form of a “gut reaction”. When stress or anxiety strikes, your brain sends a signal to your gut – and the next thing you know you’ve got a churning stomach.