Bowels, guts, intestines – call it what you will as long as you also call it important!
A healthy bowel helps us to receive maximum nutrition from our foods and efficiently and regularly eliminates the waste products of digestion. Latest research now tells us that a healthy bowel means more than just healthy digestion. Gut flora – the good and bad bacteria in the lining of the gut plays a significant role in our overall health.
How our bowels work
Our bowels are the end of our digestive system and have three components – the small bowel (small intestine), the large bowel (large intestine) and the rectum. By the time food arrives in the small bowel from the stomach, it is liquid and nutrients have been broken down to their simplest form. Most of our nutrient absorption occurs in our small bowel. The large bowel then receives what is left and is mainly responsible for absorption of water and preparing the waste for the body.
Research has revealed the following foods and nutrients may assist with bowel health
- Fibre – keeps regular bowel movements by encouraging foods to pass through the bowel more quickly. It is crucial for keeping the digestive system healthy and helps to feed the good bacteria. Fibre prevents constipation, helps to reduce cholesterol level and can make us feel fuller for longer after eating. Find fibre in wholegrain breads, cereals and fruits and vegetables.
- Vegetables and fruit – a great combination of fibre and antioxidants, packaged with winning vitamins and minerals. Go for fresh, frozen and tinned to increase variety.
- Oily fish – the omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish have anti-inflammatory properties that have been linked to reducing inflammation in some bowel diseases.Choose oily fish twice per week.
- Garlic – there is good evidence that garlic may help in the prevention of stomach and colon cancer due to a high level of antioxidants. Also known as a natural antiseptic that can assist cleaning up the free radicals that can damage healthy cells. Add a few cloves to your next meal for delicious flavours and extra antioxidants.
- Selenium – protects the healthy cells from damage by circulating free radicals. Nuts, fish, eggs and wholegrains are great sources.
- Calcium and Vitamin D – the evidence is increasing for the protective effect of these nutrients on reduced bowel cancer risk. Be sure to meet your recommended daily servings of 3 – 4 dairy serves per day.
- Probiotics – microorganisms that help to restore and build up the good bacteria in your gut. Particularly useful after a tummy bug or bout of diarrhoea. Natural sources of probiotics include yogurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and miso.
2 tips for good bowel health
1. Choose water as your drink of choice – not only is it refreshing but it assists with digestion and keeping our bowels working well.
2. Get active! Physical activity can help move food through your digestive tract keeping it in good shape.
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