As one-third of the UK population regularly suffers from digestive illnesses such as IBS, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach-aches, nausea and sickness and cancers of the digestive tract are the largest cancer killer, actually 23% of all UK cancer mortalities, our Digestive System does deserve special attention as it must be one of the most important parts of your entire body.
“Death sits in the bowels. Bad digestion is the root of all evil!” Hippocrates, BC 400 BC
You may or may not know, however, 80% of our immunity is right there in our gut and taking care of it is an essential part of a healthy body and a stable weight management.
Small Intestine is where the majority of digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place. As our body is exposed to toxins in everyday life, such as smoking, alcohol, medications, stress, pollution, chlorine and many more, maintaining healthy digestion helps body eliminate them from the body. Without gut’s ability to neutralise and eliminate toxins from the body – weight loss is impaired and, as a result, we can experience a weight gain, as just one of the “side effects”.
It is the finger like villi that line our small intestine that absorb nutrients from our food as it forces its way between them on its journey along the digestive tract. Unhealthy foods make villi unhealthy, flatten them out and decrease nutrient absorption, devastating for your immunity and general health.
As a result of the damage to the small intestine and villi, poor absorption can lead to iron deficiencies and anemia, just to name a couple. As iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, now low oxygen levels in the blood can lead to other diseases including: Cancer, Elevated levels of Cholesterol, Heart Attack, Increased risk of Atherosclerosis, Slowed metabolism leading to stored body fat and weight gain, stroke and more…
A healthy diet supports healthy villi to keep them strong. And, strong, healthy “gatekeepers” means better nutrient absorption of the good nutrients and better overall health!
DIGESTIVE HEALTH – OUR SECOND BRAIN
The latest research has discovered that our digestive system could be our Second Brain as it controls our mood, health and much more. I am sure many of us are not alien to a feeling of stress or anxiety that has driven us to be glued to a toilet seat with diarrhea. Dr Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University was the first one to expound the existence of an independent nervous system that exists in the lining of the oesophagus, stomach and intestines, in the gastrointestinal tract, back in the late 1950s. Known as “enteric nervous system” – our gastrointestinal tract contains as many neurons as the spinal cord and about 40 neurotransmitters, as many as are found in the brain.
Our gut is also the only organ that can work independently from the brain as it controls the absorption of food and movement through the intestines without any input from the central nervous system. It even continues to function after brain death.
There is obviously a lot more to Gershon’s research but the bottom line is that digestive disorders are a bit like mental illness of the second brain. A significant number of very reputable studies both in animals as well as humans have proven that emotional stress in childhood can cause chronic GI diseases in adults. Emeran Mayer is a professor at the UCLA in the department of medicine, physiology, psychiatry and behavioural sciences who confirms that majority of his patients with digestive disorders have indeed suffered some emotional or physical trauma in childhood. Anxiety and gut reaction commonly go together, according do Dr Mayer.
The work coming out of the Mayer’s labs bears out the beliefs in ancient health systems such as traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda that includes the Buddhist monks theories of mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques. The tradition of the cleansing diet, fasting and enema goes back thousand of years. Fundamentally, they are all about changing gut flora.
Having been involved with Herbalife for a number of years, principles and science upon our programs and nutrition are based on are exactly a mix of Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic principles and products related to our digestive tract play a huge part in creating a suitable program for a client in order to cleanse, detox and re-populate the gut with friendly flora.
“The connections between the functioning of the gut and an individual’s psychological and physiological state are so numerous, one could easily argue that a huge number of the day-to-day health issue or symptoms that can be addressed through diet are about the mind-gut connection. The gut can secrete chemicals that make us do things. We are, to an extent, its slave…”, says Mayer.
Meyer also believes that 80% of our well-being comes from a complicated relationship between our brain and our intestines.
ADVICE FOR KEEPING YOUR SECOND BRAIN HAPPY:
Learn to manage stress
Keep your digestive system relax by meditating
Avoid or reduce alcohol
Eat diet rich in fruit and vegetables and listen to your body as someone’s medicine could be someone else’s poison… some people handle heavy roughage such as wheat bran very well, whilst some are better with soluble fibre coming from oats.
Avoid refined sugars, deep-fried foods, dairy milk
Eat fermented foods such as live, plain yoghurt, miso and sauerkraut
Take a daily probiotic. (Feel free to reach out to me with help with those)
Aloe has many cleansing and detoxing properties as well as enzymes that help digestion. I highly recommend Herbalife’s Herbal Aloe Concentrate, mango flavoured one is my absolute favourite.
Please comment below, especially if you are suffering from any form of digestive issue and would like to share what works for you. If you have any questions or would like some support, I am here to help. Until then, happy, healthy digestion!