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Exercises And Foods That Aid in Digestion And Promote Gut Health!

Everyone seems to be on a health kick these days. Good gut health vs. bad gut health, as well as the exercises and foods that aid in digestion, appear to be all the rage on social media and Google searches. So how does one determine whether something is the latest fad or is actually based on truth?

The digestive system is the key to good health and longevity. We are a society surrounded by stress, toxic environment, fast food, with an increase in viral infections and the use of antibiotics. None of these are conducive to good digestive health.

Millions of dollars are spent each year trying to avoid bloating and constipation in the antacids, laxatives, enzymes, and fiber we purchase. You can improve gut health and digestion by making simple diet changes and doing a couple of exercises to strengthen the core.

Begin with Exercises and Core Toning to Improve Digestion

Core strength is important for everyone because:

  • The muscles of the mid-body support the weight of the body when standing

  • It helps to minimize pain often felt in one area due to weakness of muscles in another area

Lower back pain is often felt because of weakness in either the:

  • Abdominal muscles

  • Lower back muscles

Abdominal Muscles

Most of the attention that is paid to the abdominal muscles is directed toward the rectus abdominis or the 6-pack. This is the group of muscles covering the abdominal cavity, housing the organs; which is the outermost muscle from the bottom of the ribs to the navel. However, other muscles in the abdominal region are essential to proper core strength.

  • Lower abdominals are located below the navel

  • External Obliques are the muscles of the side which are accessible to the touch

  • Internal Obliques are located underneath the external obliques and cannot be touched

  • Transverse Abdominis is located underneath the internal obliques and is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. This muscle is most important for the protection of the spine and internal organs. This sheet of muscle is also known as the body’s corset as it is the muscle that tightens the mid-section and flattens the belly.

Women who go through pregnancy will experience dramatic distension of this muscle allowing for the growth of the baby. Quite often post-pregnancy, the muscle does not return to its original shape and strength. Exercises targeting this muscle can help in strengthening it and returning it to a flatter shape.

Back Muscles

There are many muscles of the back as it is very large and complex. But when it comes to the core, the muscle of interest is the lower back muscle or erector spine. These are two muscles on either side of the spine attaching to the hip bones or pelvis. Pain in the lower back can be due to:

  • Weakness in the lower back muscles

  • Weakness in the abdominal muscles causing lower back pain

  • Standing for extended periods will often cause lower back pain especially with weak lower back muscles.

Exercises

Crunches: While lying on your back on a bench, lift your shoulders upwards just a few inches, enough to feel the full contraction of the rectus abdominis or 6-pack. As there are 3 “rows” of muscles forming this group, there are 3 variations to completely work the area and this is based upon leg positioning. The upper body movement described above is done with the legs:

  • Forming a 90-degree angle between the upper and lower legs to work the top row

  • Lowering the legs to form a 45-degree angle will target the middle row

  • Feet flat on the floor targets the lower row

Obliques are exercised with the same movement describe above except that the body should be turned slightly to one side and then to the other.

Lower abdominals are exercise by lying flat on either a bench or the floor. The beginning position is with the legs together vertically in the air. You should be able to feel your tailbone against the bench or floor. Slowly move your feet over your face while maintaining the legs outstretched. This contracts the muscle when done slowly! People often do this movement too quickly which only uses momentum to move the feet from point A to point B rather than by contracting the muscle itself.

Transverse Abdominis can be worked on the weight stack/pulley machine by grasping a rope, hands by the side of your head while your knees are on the floor. The upper leg should remain vertical and only bend forward at the waist. Do not allow your hips to drop during this movement as that is simply using bodyweight to lift the weight rather than the contraction of the muscle.

To correctly work the 6-pack, the spine must curve in the lower back. To work the transverse muscle, the back remains flat.

Foods to Improve Gut Health and Improve Digestion

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to add Lacto-fermented foods to your diet. To improve digestion, one must find a balance between the beneficial bacteria and the disease-causing bacteria that naturally occur in your gut. Adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, kombucha, and milk or water kefir increases lactic acid-producing bacteria (common in probiotic supplements), creating an environment that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria.

The four top benefits of adding Lacto-fermented foods to your diet are:

1. Balance The Production of Stomach Acid: Fermented foods ease digestion by regulating stomach acid in the gut.

2. Help The Body Produce Acetylcholine: Acetylcholine increases the movement of the bowel and aids in the reduction of constipation. Increasing the production of acetylcholine improves digestion.

3. Beneficial to Diabetics: Carbohydrates in lactic acid-fermented foods are broken down, which decreases the burden on the pancreas and improves its function.

4. Produces Compounds That Destroy And Inhibit Disease-Causing Bacteria: Many disease-causing bacteria are sensitive to an acidic environment. By increasing lactic acid bacteria in the gut, like those found in sourdough bread, scientists have discovered that it kills disease-causing microbes. Current research suggests that it also eliminates the super-bugs that are resistant to most antibiotics.

TYPES OF LACTO-FERMENTED FOODS

a) Sauerkraut and Kimchi: Contains natural probiotics that improve the immune system and aids in digestion. It has many beneficial enzymes and a high amount of vitamin C. Often touted as a superfood.

b) Sourdough Bread: It contains a culture of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that naturally occur in bread. It requires hours of fermentation, which increases the lactic acid bacteria that promote healthy bacteria in the gut.

c) Kombucha Tea: A naturally fermented probiotic beverage rich in living colonies of good bacteria and yeast. Improves digestion. Research indicates that it fights candida overgrowth. Kombucha contains antioxidants, which boost the immune system.

d) Milk and Water Kefir: Rich in Lactobacillus, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and micro-and macronutrients, making it one of the most powerful foods in the world. Promotes bowel movements and bile production, improving liver and gallbladder function. It improves digestion which regulates metabolism. As with kombucha, it eliminates harmful bacteria, rids the body of pathogens, and has anti-fungal properties.

Drinking enough water and eating the right foods go a long way in improving digestion and promoting good gut health. Adding Lacto-fermented foods to your diet will reduce abdominal bloating and discomfort, belching, and other symptoms caused by a stressed digestive system. These foods will also eliminate the need for over the counter medicines that we have come to rely on to treat the symptoms we have created.

How does Digestion work?

During the process of food digestion, solid food is:

  • Chewed into small pieces and combines with an enzyme in the saliva and is then swallowed

  • When in the stomach, acids reduce this to a gel-like mixture that moves into the small intestine where most of the nutrients are absorbed into the blood and transported for use.

  • This remaining mixture later leaves the body as solid waste

The digestion process can be aided through the consumption of:

  • Dietary fiber comes in two forms, soluble or insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber will combine with the mixture aiding in the absorption of the nutrients

  • Insoluble fiber allows for smooth passage of the mixture through the digestive tract. This is important as is prevents a build-up of solid waste causing bloating and cramping. And if moving through the GI tract is too slow, irritation can occur known as diverticulitis or a more chronic condition called diverticulosis.

2. Water is important for the following reasons:

  • Ensuring that the mixture traveling through the body is soft

  • Hydration of the body, like dehydration, can cause problems with digestion as well as retention of water in the skin and solid waste in the intestinal tract

Before Goodbye

Developing strength in the core muscles while not consuming enough water and fiber to improve digestion might feel like putting a belt around a balloon, both are important. Most people don’t drink enough water and don’t care about it. But if you consider that drinking 2-3 liters per day will aid in weight loss by eliminating solid waste and retained water, as well as removing salt from the body, it might become more of a desire.

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