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How to Build a Healthy Digestive System

A healthy digestive system is very important to our health and immune system with keeping disease away. Learn how to build and have a healthy digestive system.

Many Americans complain of health problems that are associated with the digestive system. And television ads act as if these health problems are part of normal everyday life, and they are not. Americans tolerate these health problems that occur because of poor digestion as nothing to be concerned about. Television ads constantly tell us to go ahead and eat more junk food and if you get indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation or a number of other health problems, no problem, just take one of our medicines and feel better and go ahead and continue to eat all of that junk food.

These medications have their own side effects and mask the real health problem, which is an unhealthy digestive system to begin with. And it all starts with unhealthy foods or possibly foods your body cannot tolerate well. You have to listen to your body. If you feel sick every time after eating pizza, doesn’t it make sense that your body doesn’t want pizza or something on the pizza.

The Digestive System is Part of the Immune System

When we hear of a strong immune system, most people think it is because of vitamins or genetics and how the immune system keeps us from getting sick. A healthy digestive system is very important to our immune system and they work together. A good part of our immune system is actually located in our digestive system or gut. There is a thin wall between the intestines and the rest of your body, so it is important that the bad bacteria and pathogens remain in the gut and are disposed of properly so they cannot enter the rest of your body and make you sick.

Our gut or digestive system plays an important role in keeping us healthy by detecting pathogens that enter our body and getting rid of them before we get sick. The intestinal tract has a very large surface area and is exposed to all kinds of bad bacteria, parasites and pathogens that can make us sick and can be a first line of defense against certain pathogens. This is why it is so important to have a healthy digestive system, gastrointestinal tract or gut.

The Causes of an Unhealthy Digestive System

There are numerous digestive problems that are caused by an unhealthy digestive system including:

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD)

There are over 200 over-the-counter drugs for gastrointestinal and digestive problems in the United States that costs Americans billions of dollars each year. For most, these digestive problems can be cleared up by building a healthy digestive system. An unhealthy digestive system can also lead to or cause other health problems including:

  • Arthritis
  • Acne
  • Rashes
  • Allergies
  • Mood disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Eczema
  • Urinary infections
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Candida

There are a couple of ways that can cause an unhealthy digestive system. A poor diet is one way that we create an unhealthy digestive system. Eating highly processed and junk foods that are void of nutrients and fiber create a poor digestive system. So much of what is called the Standard American Diet is low in fiber, poor nutritional value and far too high in sugar. Meat has no fiber and white flour products have very little if any dietary fiber. This is a main cause of a poor digestive system. A diet low in vegetables and whole grains is another reason since they have a great deal of vitamins, minerals and fiber that build a healthy digestive system. So diet is a major factor for an unhealthy digestive system.

Another way to create an unhealthy digestive system is sometimes beyond our control but we need to be aware of this. Taking antibiotics, which we all have to at times in our lives, can destroy the good bacteria in our guts. The gut is full of bacteria, both good and bad bacteria and taking antibiotics will kill both the bad and the good bacteria. You can rebuild a healthy digestive system again after you are finished taking the antibiotics.

How to Build a Healthy Digestive System

The key to building a healthy digestive system and gut is to build up the good bacteria. It is estimated that there are 500 species of bacteria, both good and bad, that weigh three pounds in your gut and digestive tract. One important key to building a healthy digestive system and gut is to have more good bacteria than bad bacteria. There are ways to build up the good bacteria.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of carbohydrate that are nondigestible and act as food for probiotics. There are many new products on the market today that claim to be prebiotics, but they all might not meet the criteria to be a healthy prebiotic. According to the International Scientific Association for Prebiotics and Probiotics (ISAPP), consumers should look on the prebiotic label for FOS, inulin and GOS or TOS (transGOS). To be a healthy and helpful prebiotic, it has to be selectively fermented so it doesn’t just have a bunch of bacteria thrown in; it has to have the healthy good bacteria [1].

Probiotics

Probiotics are the health rage now in ads for many products, even though many of them are so high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors that they are actually junk food. Probiotics are good bacteria that heal and build a healthy digestive system and a strong immune system.

Yogurt is a good source of probiotics if the product was made correctly. Pasteurization can kill all of the beneficial bacteria, but by law in the US, these foods have to be pasteurized. Better quality yogurts can make their products without killing the good bacteria. Make sure the label says “live bacteria”. For more information, you can read How to Buy the Healthiest Greek Yogurt.

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics and include foods like:

  • Good quality yogurt
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Temph
  • Natto
  • Kombucha
  • Probiotic supplements

Looking at these probiotic foods and the bacteria listed is getting more confusing because some companies have copyrighted their own names for bacteria in their product. Some common bacteria that will be listed on yogurt should include [2].

  • Lactobacillus species (L. and species name) with the most common L. acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium species (B. and species name)
  • S. Thermophilus  

Eat a Healthy Diet

The best way for a healthy digestive system is to eat a healthy diet, which in many cases means avoiding processed foods, junk foods, fast food, white flour products and too much sugar.

A healthy diet should include plenty of vegetables, leafy greens and whole grains. You do not have to be a vegetarian or vegan. Just eat smaller portions of meat and a lot of vegetables and whole grains like whole wheat bread, quinoa and brown rice. You can learn more about whole grains in the article The Health Benefits of Whole Grain Foods.

Conclusion

As you can see, it isn’t hard to build a healthy digestive system and not expensive either. It would cost less money avoiding the junk foods and eating a healthy diet than it costs to buy all of those medications.

Copyright © January 2012 Sam Montana

Resources

[1] ISAAP – Consumers Guide to Prebiotics

[2] Dairy Council of California

UK Medical Research Council - Leafy Greens Protect the Gut's Immune System

Cover Photo by VeganBaking.net / Flickr.com

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Comments (13)

Handy info--for those truly interested in improving their health!

I always thought prebiotics and probiotics were basically the same....

Very informative and I eat either yogurt or drink buttermilk for my probiotics.

Great health article filled with such valuable info.thank you.

Very good points! thanks for sharing.

Bookmark this well informative article.

Good article.

Useful Info Sam!

Health starts in the gut! Valuable article.

Ranked #40 in Digestive Health

This is a great information about Healthy Digestive System. I will follow your advice once I experience a digestive problem. Thanks! Voted and shared.

Sam, the hypothesis of your article is so true. People are needlessly taking medication for digestive disorders, such as heartburn, when all they need do is improve their diet.

This is well researched and filled with factual and helpful information. I voted this up.

I really do like the Greek yogurts. It seems to have a nicer texture. It is more robust.

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