10 gut truths

Easy-to-swallow tricks to get your digestive tract on track.


1. Chew your food
We often forget that chewing is an essential part of digestion. Swallowing big chunks of food requires the body to produce large amounts of highly acidic gastric juice to finish the job. This surplus of fluid irritates the fragile mucous membranes lining the stomach. 

In addition, chewing coats food in saliva, which contains amylase, an enzyme that helps the body digest the carbohydrates in bread and other starchy foods. The upshot? Eating more slowly allows you to avoid heaviness and bloating after meals. And a leisurely chew gives the brain has time to send an “I’m full” signal before you overdo it! This makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.

2. Eat at regular times
Do you eat lunch at noon one day, 1 p.m. the next, and at 2 p.m. the day after that? Faced with such uncertainty, the adrenal glands produce more cortisol, a stress hormone. The body then goes into survival mode. It slows down its metabolism and stores fat, believing that it must prepare for a period of famine. This can lead to weight gain and increased risk of illness.

3. Stay fluid
Yes, eight glasses of water is still the gold standard of hydration. How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Constipation or dark urine are signs that you’re dehydrated. Always keep a glass of water handy and drink even before you feel thirsty.

4. Go pro(biotics)

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are added to yogurts, fruit juices, milk and even cakes. They’re also found in certain fermented foods, such as:

  • sauerkraut, made from fermented shredded cabbage; often served with sausages and cold cuts.
  • miso, made by fermenting rice, barley or soybeans. It makes an excellent broth.
  • tempeh ? fermented soybeans ? which is prepared like tofu but has a stronger flavour with hints of mushroom and nuts. 
  • kimchi, a commonly served Korean side dish of fermented vegetables and chili pepper generally prepared with a type of Chinese cabbage. It can be found in Korean restaurants and grocery stores. 
  • kefir, a drink made from fermented milk or sweetened fruit juices, which has been consumed since ancient times. 
  • Yogurt, which always contains friendly bacteria. These exist in even greater quantities in probiotic yogurt.

5. Don’t forget about prebiotics

These sugars nourish the good bacteria (or probiotics) living in the intestinal tract, thereby contributing to a healthier gut. Where are they found? In garlic, onions, asparagus, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, chicory root, barley, wheat, rye, berries, legumes and linseed.

6. Fill up on fibre
There are so many good reasons to eat fibre. Here are a few:

  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight. Those choosing a diet rich in fibre are generally thinner than those who don’t.
  • Improves digestion. A diet rich in fibre lowers the incidence of bloating and constipation. 
  • Keeps the digestive tract healthy. Fibre controls the discomfort caused by irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids. 
  • Prevents or reduces constipation. Fibre acts like a sponge: it absorbs water and increases stool volume and weight, thereby reducing intestinal transit time. When diarrhea strikes, it has the opposite effect, absorbing excess water.

How much fibre should you consume each day? For women, 25 g; for men, 38 g.

7. Don’t dine and dream

Sleeping on a full stomach increases the risk of acid reflux. When you’re lying down, the small struture that keeps gastric juices from backing up into the esophagus has to work harder to do its job. If you’ve eaten too much, raise your upper body and sleep on your left side. Ideally, wait three to four hours after noshing before hitting sack.

8. Know your tummy taunters

According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, certain foods aggravate acid reflux: alcohol, peppermint, fatty or spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus fruit, products containing caffeine (including coffee and chocolate) and sugary drinks. As for alcohol, it exacerbates heartburn and diarrhea. The main culprits for gas and flatulence? Sugary foods (especially candy and chewing gum) and legumes. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

9. Weigh your weight
Many studies show that weight has a direct effect on digestive health. For example, excess stomach fat ups the risk of acid reflux and obese people have a greater incidence of stomach ulcers. But there is good news: Weight loss can reduce the symptoms of some gastrointestinal disorders and halt their progress.

10. Butt out

Cigarette smoking is harmful to every organ in the digestive system and leads to disorders such as ulcers and heartburn. Smoking also increases the risk of Crohn’s disease, especially in women, and gallstones.

For more information, visit the Canadian Digestive Health website.

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