The Importance of an Effective Digestive System

Elizabeth Beetham, BSc Holistic Nutritionist, Natural Health Journalist and Wellbeing Expert shares her knowledge on the Importance of Good Digestion.

The importance of an efficient digestive system cannot be overestimated and yet in this country the average rate of elimination of waste from the body is every three days. Recently one of my Clients told me that it was quite normal for her to only eliminate once every week and this is not unusual. It is horrifying to think of the toxic build up of waste hanging around in the body, which is one of the reasons I undertake a herbal detox at least twice a year. The detox is easy to do – you eat normally eliminating alcohol, sugary and fried foods and all red meat for just ten days. It is called ‘The Healthy Starter Detox’ and you can buy it from my website or contact me for details.

The symptoms of constipation can range from gastrointestinal pain and discomfort to lethargy, headaches, irritability, feelings of depression, and lack of appetite. There are many causes of constipation which include; low fibre diet, lack of fluids, lack of exercise, change of routine, pregnancy, menopause and menstruation, stress, aging, medicines, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome which often alternates with diarrhoea.

My philosophy is that if you want to feel great you need to eliminate every day. How do people who have struggled with a sluggish system and problems with constipation achieve this goal?

1.   Increase Your Dietary Fibre

The intestines and bowels work in a rhythmic action, called peristalsis, moving food through the body to eliminate waste. To support this system in its action we need plenty of dietary fibre. Over-processed “junk food” is low in fibre and results in a sludgy, fatty or creamy mass which cannot be moved easily through the body.

We need plenty of plant foods which contain fibre; our main sources are whole grain cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds. Most cereal fibre is found in the outer layer of grains which are removed when grains are refined and this is why a refined diet often results in constipation.  Choose instead brown rice, nuts, wholemeal bread; which all add bulk to stools which in turn helps stimulate bowel contractions.

The general guide for fibre intake is 25g to 30g each day so eat more fibre whenever you can; for example lentils, pearl barley and cracked wheat can be added to casseroles to help increase your fibre intake. Fibre helps keep the digestive tract healthy; so by eating more fibre, you will improve your digestion and help avoid constipation.

2. Increase Your Fluid Intake

Even if you have the healthiest diet and are committed to eating the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, if you do not drink enough fluids you may well become constipated. Fluids soften food, bulk it out and make it more comfortable and easy for waste to leave the body naturally.

Two thirds of the body consists of water and we lose about a litre each day through the skin, lungs and stomach and via the kidneys as urine, therefore it is essential for health to drink plenty of good fresh water. Alcohol, coffee and tea which contain caffeine are all diuretics and cause the body to lose water and should be avoided or at least reduce the consumption of these drinks. To ensure you do not become dehydrated, to support the digestion and avoid constipation, ideally we need to drink around two litres of water each day.

It may sound strange but we do eat fluids; fruits and vegetables consist of around 90% water which is supplied in a form that is very easy for the body to use and at the same time they provide us with a high percentage of vitamins and minerals. A cucumber contains 96% water and tomatoes 93%. A diet high in fruit and vegetables will provide you with approximately half a litre of fluid each day. Fruit and vegetables contain the two most essential components you need to avoid constipation that is fibre and fluid.

If you have concerns about your digestive health, particularly if you have IBS, why not make an appointment to see me. Digestive health is essential for your good health.

Live with joy and health.

Elizabeth Beetham
Tel: 01926 864263