The gastrointestinal tract includes all the organs of the digestive system that work together to digest food, extract nutrients and expel waste as feces. The quality of the expelled waste gives valuable clues as to how the gastrointestinal tract is functioning. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, diarrhea and constipation, are signs of an unhealthy gut and need to be taken seriously in order to avoid chronic disease.
Some common causes of increased bowel movements, or diarrhea, are food allergies such as a lactose or wheat intolerance and emotional stress. A decrease in bowel movements, or constipation, can be attributed to inadequate intake of water, insufficient exercise, less fibre in the diet from fruits and vegetables, emotional stress, over the counter medications such as painkillers, antacids and antidepressants, iron supplements, excessive use of laxatives, and changes in work or travel schedules that cause you to delay or hold the urge to ‘go’.
Taking control of your bowel movements can help prevent gastrointestinal problems and this can be done by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Follow these strategies to help reverse constipation or diarrhea and prevent the development of chronic disease:
- Include whole foods in your diet with plenty of fresh organic vegetables and fruits. These provide good nutrients and fibre.
- Avoid all sources of gluten which include wheat, barley and rye. Brown rice and quinoa are good alternatives.
- Stay well hydrated with fresh, filtered, pure water.
- Avoid excess sugar, preservatives, MSG, additives, excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol and all processed and packaged foods as they have a detrimental affect on the gastrointestinal (and immune) system.
- Increase your fibre intake with psyllium, hemp hearts or freshly ground flax seeds which keep your bowel moving regularly while at the same time ‘sweeping’ clean your intestinal tract.
- Increase your intestinal flora (good bacteria) by including naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir or add a daily probiotic supplement.
- Take digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid with pepsin before each meal to increase the acidity in the stomach, which helps reduce indigestion.
- Exercise daily – walking, jogging, jumping on a rebounder, or whatever type of exercise you enjoy.
- Tackle any emotional or stressful situations. Take up meditation to calm anxiety and stress.
- Antidepressants and antibiotics can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Implementing the above strategies will help to minimize and manage any adverse effects if you have to take pharmaceutical drugs.