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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I improve my overall digestive health?

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    Dr Michael Elstein

    GP (General Practitioner)

    I am an anti-ageing/wellness expert and author of ‘Eternal Health,’ and ‘You have the power.’ I have appeared on radio and television and currently have ... View Profile

      This is an excellent question as good digestive health which depends on the adequate production of stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and a healthy balance of gut germs is absolutely fundamental to wellbeing, and sadly often neglected by doctors, but embraced by natural health practitioners. Bad breath, burping, bloating and excessive gas suggest that the digestive system is compromised.  A coated tongue is another pointer towards suboptimal digestive function.  Eating sufficient protein found in fish, beans, eggs, meat, nuts and seeds, taking time to chew your food in a relaxed atmosphere, and a healthy balance of hormones are fundamental to good digestive function. 
     If you want to improve your digestive health find a practitioner who takes a comprehensive digestive history and performs a thorough examination. This would involve focusing on a number of historical symptoms and physical clues which identify exactly what is limiting your digestive process.  You might need tests which assess your reactions to foods, the balance of your hormones, your capacity to produce sufficient stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, the integrity of your gut lining and the balance of germs in your gut.
     The much advertised GORD or reflux  can be related to coeliac disease indicating that a simple gluten-free diet rather than acid-suppressing medication might be all that is necessary.  This needs to be discussed with a doctor.
      Herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile and ginger can assist digestive function.

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  • Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris ... View Profile

    In terms of dietary changes that you can employ to improve your digestive health, follow my recommendations below:

    1. Adequate fibre - dietary fibre helps us to keep our bowels and digestive system healthy. Did you know that there are 3 types of dietary fibre? Soluble and insoluble fibre and resistant starch. Its the resistant starch that plays a big role in digestive health as it acts as a pre-biotic which helps to feed our good bacteria and help them grow. Ensure you are getting enough dietary fibre by consuming foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole-grains. Aim for 25-30g of dietary fibre each day.
    2. Regular consumption of yoghurt - Yoghurt not only is an excellent source of calcium but also probiotics. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria which help to keep our digestive system healthy. Regular consumption of yoghurt with probiotics helps to balance out the good and the bad bacteria in our bowels.
    3. Drink plenty of water - Try to aim to drink around 2 L of water each day. This doesn't mean you have to drink 2 L of water from a bottle. Foods with naturally high water content includes fruits and vegetables, and green tea also contributes to your water intake.
    I recommend you visit an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)  who can help you to improve your digestive health.

  • Allison Byrnes

    Nutritionist

    In my practice, I provide nutritional consulting services to individuals, groups, and businesses. I'm interested in the role good nutrition plays in a healthy mind ... View Profile

    So there are several things you can do nutritionally to improve digestive health. One of which is to ensure you're eating enough fibre. For adults, the Australian guidelines recommend an adequate intake of fibre of 30 grams per day for men and 25 grams a day for women.

    Good sources include foods like rice bran, root vegetables, chicory, asparagus, garlic, onions, artichokes, legumes, fruits (such as apples or citrus fruit), oats, and whole grains.

    Fibre is helpful for several reasons, including that it can act as a prebiotic food, which is broken down by the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system and can assist with our overall digestive health. Additionally, probiotics (such as contained in yoghurt or sauerkraut) can introduce the helpful bacteria.

    Other things to remember include drinking enough water, as it can help with food digestion and absorption; eating slowly, chewing food completely and sitting up after eating to allow food to digest.

    Also Exercise and stress reduction can help.

    It's worth remembering that some high fibre foods can cause unwanted side effects for some people. It may be best to see a qualified nutrition professional to work out the most beneficial diet for your digestive health.

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