April is Digestive Health Awareness Month. And while most people have suffered from the occasional bout of digestive “issues” such as gas or bloating, you may be surprised to know that a healthy digestive system is responsible for more than just preventing tummy trouble. In fact, it may also improve your energy, get your skin glowing and keep your immune system strong. Here’s how to get your digestive system on track to keep you healthy from head to toe:
The surprising reason….you may have digestive issues such as gas, bloating or diarrhea
It’s common to think that what you’re eating is directly contributing to an upset stomach or uncomfortable symptoms such as gas or bloating. But the trouble may lie in more than just what’s on your plate. In fact, a lack of healthy bacteria (known as probiotics) in your digestive tract may be partly to blame.
Probiotics play many important roles in your body such as improving digestion, stimulating the immune system, and aiding in toxin removal. However, there are many factors that can reduce their protective effects - antibiotic use, stress, and an unbalanced diet are just some of the causes that disrupt the balance of good bacteria, and could be what’s throwing off your gut. Another common cause of digestive upset is what’s known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Consult your health care practitioner for a proper diagnosis – but the good news is, this condition can often be managed effectively through diet and supplementation with probiotics.
The solution: To get more probiotics, skip the high-sugar or artificially sweetened yogurts and opt for true probiotic-rich fermented foods such as miso or kefir. Better yet, choose a daily probiotic supplement such as Jamieson Essentials Probiotic 10 Billion to help replenish good gut bacteria. For a more therapeutic dose, chose a probiotic supplement with Probi Digestis®such as Jamieson Digestive Care™ Daily Probiotic. This probiotic strain has been shown in many studies to help relieve symptoms of gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort commonly associated with IBS.1,2,3
The surprising reason….you’re always getting sick
If you feel like you’re fighting cold after cold, no matter what time of the year, you may be surprised to learn that it can be linked back to your digestive health. Probiotics are natural allies that can offer protection for your immune system, but if they get depleted, that’s when the sniffles, coughs and colds can come on, even when you think you’re protected.
How does a healthy digestive tract prevent illness? In addition to helping break down, absorb and digest nutrients from food, probiotics also produce antibodies that account for nearly one-third of our immune system, and they increase the production of anti-viral cells that fight infection. In fact, certain studies have shown that up to 80% of your immune system can be found in your gut! A healthy bowel presents a natural barrier against “bad” bacteria, toxins and foreign bodies entering the bloodstream, and probiotics help to constantly repair the lining of the bowels. This is why a probiotic supplement can be a good addition to your daily routine.
The solution: To boost your intake of probiotics and keep your immune system working its best, you may also want to look at adding some fermented foods to your diet. Fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique that has long been used to increase the shelf life and flavour of certain foods; fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotic bacteria. Need some inspiration on where to start? Try kombucha with some fresh ginger.
Kombucha is a popular tea-based drink made by fermenting tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. It is excellent for digestive health and a number of other ailments. But when you’re having issues boosting your immune system, a ginger-flavoured kombucha is probably your best choice. Ginger has also long been recognized for its ability to calm the digestive system. By improving intestinal tract motility, enhancing the release of digestive fluids, and neutralizing acidic gastric secretions, ginger can help calm the digestive system when you’re not feeling your best. Nothing wrong with getting double the digestive health benefits!
The surprising reason…you’re always tired
If you suffer from fatigue or frequent periods of midday sluggishness, believe it or not, your digestive system could be to blame! While the exact reasons why digestive issues and fatigue co-exist remain unclear, some theories indicate that infection, immune problems, sluggish digestion (think: how you felt the last time you ate a big meal?) or a genetic predisposition as a potential cause. So what can you do if you’re feeling tired or having trouble staying focused? Yoga may be your answer
The solution: More than just a trendy way to work out, the soothing poses of yoga can help calm your digestive system to get things moving, and energize your body. With a combination of deep breathing, stretches that target organs in your abdominal area and time to focus the mind, it’s the ideal way to strengthen your body while boosting mental alertness. Yoga and other exercises can also help speed up digestive processes. You don’t have to leave home or have a membership at your local yoga studio either to reap the health benefits of a yoga workout. These days you can find lots of great videos for beginners and advanced practitioners alike on YouTube, various apps or simply by following images of simple poses online. Even 10 minutes a day will do the trick!
The surprising reason….you’re having issues with your skin
Struggling with acne breakouts, dry and flaky skin or other inflammatory skin conditions? You may not realize it, but fun fact: your skin is actually your body’s largest organ. Although you may think it’s what you put on or don’t put on your skin that can affect its healthy glow, it can actually be negatively impacted by poor gut health.
Wondering how that connection occurs? As you already know, probiotics play an important role in protecting the lining of your gut. When your levels of probiotics get depleted, it allows for the overgrowth of bad bacteria, viruses and yeasts. Eventually this sets in motion a process that allows toxins to creep into your gut, which caused a reaction in your immune system. This result is inflammation, which affects your body in a variety of ways – including, as you might have guessed, inflammatory skin conditions.
The solution: Taking a probiotic supplement is an ideal way to provide your gut with beneficial bacteria that can improve inflammatory skin conditions such acne. You can also try adding more fermented foods to your diet to boost your intake of probiotics – good options include kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and kefir.
A tasty solution for when you feel a bit creative:
Recipe: Banana-Berry Kefir Breakfast Parfait
Kefir is a cultured milk product, and can now be found alongside regular yogurt in the refrigerator section of your local grocery store. Kefir has a more sour taste than yogurt, but makes up for it by providing a more diverse array of probiotics that are beneficial to your digestive health. Try it out in place of regular yogurt in this delicious breakfast parfait.
1 banana, sliced
1 cup berries (fresh, or defrosted frozen)
¾ cup kefir
2 tbsp good quality granola
½ tbsp honey
Combine sliced banana and berries in a small bowl.
To assemble the parfait, layer ¼ cup kefir on the bottom, then top with half of the banana-berry mixture. Repeat with another layer of kefir and banana-berries. Top with the remaining kefir. Sprinkle granola on top, and drizzle with honey.
- Ducrotte P, Sawant P, Jayanthi V. (2012). Clinical trial: Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (DSM 9843) improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol, 18(30): 4012-8.
- Niedzielin K, Kordecki H, Birkenfeld B. (2001). A controlled, double-blind, randomized study on the efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum 299V in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 13: 1143-47.
- Nobaek S, et al. (2000). Alteration of Intestinal Microflora Is Associated With Reduction in Abdominal Bloating and Pain in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol, 95(5): 1231-8.