4 steps to improve your health - including drinking more water, probiotics, incorporating smoothies and juices, and eating more veggies!
Over the past couple of weeks and months I have been making a lot of changes to my diet to incorporate what I am learning about as a Holistic-Nutritionist-to-be! Today I would like to share some of the things that I immediately changed when I began to learn more about how a healthy digestive system can improve your overall health.
Since I have made these changes I have started to feel a great difference in my own health, and I want to share with you how I have done this. I am also exploring other dietary changes including food combining, and the acid-alkaline diet, but I will discuss those in a future post in more detail. For now, here are the four easy things you can do to improve your digestive and overall health:
My normal morning routine before was to wake up, and go right for the coffee. For my entire life, coffee has been a big part of my family's morning, kind of a morning ritual that we all enjoy. While I really like the taste of coffee, I have realized that I don't absolutely depend on it to get through my day. In fact, I actually feel a lot better when I don't have it!
What I have changed about my morning routine is that I now wake up, and reach for a big glass of water. The morning is a prime time for cleansing, the last time you ate was the night before, and your digestive system has had about 8 hours to rest and get a fresh start. Drinking water or hot water with lemon in the morning helps to slowly wake up your digestive system and promote detoxification. You've probably also become slightly dehydrated over the night, and therefore it is really important to get all the water you can before you start digesting food. Water is involved in almost every process in the body - digestion, elimination, circulation, and transporting nutrients. Your liver and kidneys need water to be able to get rid of metabolic waste, your blood needs water to eliminate toxins, and your intestines need water to eliminate all that waste! Drinking lots of water helps support ongoing detoxification, which is your body's natural way of staying healthy!
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The second thing I changed about my morning routine, was to add in a probiotic. Good bacteria that enhance your digestion are called probiotics! A whole flora of friendly probiotics live in the digestive tract. They help to maintain a healthy intestine and are necessary for the proper digestion of absorption of nutrients. On top of this, probiotics also help maintain a healthy immune system, and regulate inflammation in the body. They also prevent the growth of unhealthy micro-organisms such as candida yeast overgrowth, and will crowd out other pathogenic disease - causing bacteria. Other benefits of probiotics include protection against allergies, and reduced gastrointestinal tract inflammation.
Look for a probiotic that has a dose of 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU), and make sure that the colony is alive, otherwise you won't be getting any of the benefits. For children, a dose of 1-10 billion CFU is sufficient per day. This article by Reviews.com Best Probiotic Supplement Reviews of 2016 contains up to date, helpful information for choosing the right probiotic to suit your needs.
3. Smoothies and Juice
My friends will know that I have always loved smoothies, and have been making my own juices at home with my champion juicer for almost a year now.
Putting greens in my belly is my number 1 priority in the morning, and it feels so good. This morning I added two drops of Young Living lemon essential oil for an extra boost for my digestive system. So refreshing! 🍋🙏💚
This is another great way to promote ongoing detoxification. Smoothies are loaded with plant fibre from all those fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fibre is a carbohydrate, but it passes through the digestive system without being digested. Although it is not absorbed into the body, fibre is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut. Fibre absorbs waste such as it travels through the digestive tract, making toxins easier to get rid of, and allowing the absorption of nutrients. Fibre will attach on to sugars and fats, slowing their absorption into the blood, and allowing them to be eliminated. It also stimulates peristalsis (contractions of the intestine) that help move food through the digestive tract. The absolute best source for fibre is whole plant based foods, especially those that haven't been peeled! Go ahead and blend all of that fibre into your morning smoothie!
Smoothies and juices are also great because they are full of antioxidants. We've all heard of antioxidants before, but probably don't know much about how they work. Every day your body is exposed to and manufactures free radicals as a result of normal physiological processes. Free radicals are atoms that are either lacking an electron, or have too many electrons, and are therefore unstable. They try to get rid of or gain electrons from other atoms, causing oxidative damage. This leads to oxidative stress, which occurs when free radicals wear down your body's defences, and can eventually lead to chronic disease.
Antioxidants are vitamins (e.g. vitamin C and E), minerals (e.g. selenium) and enzymes that counteract free radicals by donating electrons and stabilizing free radicals. They work together to maintain stability when one has donated an electron, and therefore compliment one another. Great sources of antioxidants are leafy greens, beets, carrots, berries, and any variety of fruit or vegetable that is vibrantly coloured! Incorporating these food-based antioxidants into your morning smoothie or juice can help protect the body from free radical damage and chronic disease. How awesome is that?!
4. Cut Down On Meat
Cutting meat out of my diet has been way easier than I expected, and I honestly don't miss it because of how great I feel. I know this might not be for everyone, and weekday veg is another option for those of you that want to make a change, but aren't committed to cutting steak and bacon just yet!
In short, the reason that I decided to go vegetarian is both environmental and health related. Two topics that are actually inseparable when you think about how our health is directly affected by how we treat our environment.
Vegetarians have a decreased rate of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and lower cholesterol levels. Vegetarian diets also typically contain a much higher amount of complex carbohydrates, fibre, and phytochemicals. As a result, a vegetarian diet promotes detoxification and is very cleansing.
Calcium and Vitamin B12 are the most common deficiencies in vegetarian diets, both of which are available in supplement forms. All other nutrients, essential fatty acids, and proteins can be obtained from other whole foods in ample amounts! Not only that, proteins that are available in plant based foods such as chia seeds, spirulina, and quinoa will be a lot easier to digest and absorb than animal based proteins, which require much more energy to break down.
From an acid-alkaline point of view, animal products are acid forming when they are digested. Your blood us naturally slightly alkaline, having a pH between 7.34 to 7.45. Many of us are used to a traditional diet that is very high in acid-producing foods, and our body therefore has to work extra hard to make up for this imbalance, trying to restore that alkaline pH to the blood. Alkaline minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium are necessary in our diet to be able to restore the blood pH. If there are not enough alkaline forming foods in your diet, then the blood will have to pull these minerals from deposits in your bones and teeth. Eating less meat (and more veggies!) is a great way to ensure that you are getting the right amount of acid and alkaline in your diet.