Most of us don’t think much about the digestive system unless we are hungry or have a digestive issue. If you suffer from digestive woes, you might be interested in knowing why digestion is so important for our overall health and what it is responsible for. Might seem obvious but I promise you, it’s not.
Digestion is so much more than simply providing a means to ending hunger. That food that you put into your mouth actually provides nutrients to our cells so they can perform all the tasks they are responsible for each and every day of our lives.
But, that’s only the beginning of the story. There are so many really cool things about the digestive system that anyone suffering should really know about if they want to heal.
Did you know that digestion actually begins in the brain?
When you smell that movie theater popcorn or you see a huge billboard with a juicy cheeseburger and crispy fries, that’s when we start to salivate, and our digestive system revs up. In fact, just thinking about food can get the digestive system going!
Just a cool fact most of us weren’t taught in school.
So, why is digestion such a big deal when it comes to our overall health?
Well, you probably already knew that the food we consume is used as energy for our body. And while that is true, there’s so much that happens in between.
Yes, our digestive systems take that food we eat and break it down into nutrients that the body is then able to use for energy, growth and cellular repair. There are thousands and thousands of processes in the body that require nutrients in order to function optimally.
So, what else does the digestive system do?
It serves as a transportation highway for ingested food to move through the entire digestive system. There are stops along the way that I will be discussing soon. Be on the lookout, it's actually pretty fascinating.
It chemically and mechanically breaks down food
It extracts and absorbs nutrients
It is home to roughly 70% of our immune system and provides a huge immune barrier for antigens coming into the body
Helps remove waste from the body
It activates hormones
Communicates with the central nervous system
It helps maintain balance in our microbiome
That’s a lot of work and coordination!
As you can see, our digestive systems are incredibly important. And I am just scratching the surface.
If anything along the pathway is not functioning properly, that’s when we begin to experience unpleasant symptoms.
What can you do to support optimal digestion so that you can improve your overall health?
For starters, make sure you are choosing good, nourishing foods as often as possible. Think about adding good clean proteins like fresh fish (not farm raised), grass fed and grass finished beef, organic, free-range chicken. Lots and lots of different types of veggies and fruits, organic when possible. Nut, seeds and healthy fats like avocado are all great to round out your daily nutrition needs.
Find ways to remove built up stress from the body. Stress is unavoidable no matter who you are but having ways to release that from the body is very important for our overall health and digestion. Some suggestions are body movement like taking a walk in nature, yoga or, for some people, that might even be running or swimming. Focusing on gratitude or spending time with someone you love like your BFF or even your pet. Do something you really enjoy like gardening or creative art.
Take a break from technology. Put down the phone, turn off the computer and step away from news outlets. There's a lot of overwhelming information out in the world and we don't have to fix it all or even be aware of most of it!
Learn to say "no". We tend to over schedule so many things in our lives. Evaluate what's on your calendar and eliminate unnecessary appointments. Check out the handout below on how to balance your priorities to help improve your health.
These are just some of the ways you can improve your digestion but feel free to get creative here.
And remember, food is important but there are so many other things we do each and every day that affect our digestion. Choose ways to improve it, not impede it. And, not everything has to change at once. Take it slow but move in the right direction!