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Robin Gaudette

A recently reported study, comparing results from 15 years ago, revealed that 42% of Americans tried to lose weight, and obesity is now up to 40%, representing an approximate 8% or greater increase. In the same study fewer people perceived themselves as being overweight.

While exercise and proper nutrition are key to weight loss and maintenance, let’s explore why health of the digestive system is just as important.

The old adage “you are what you eat” is better stated, “you are what you digest and absorb” to create fuel for every bodily process, from creating energy to repairing cells and removing waste products.

The content here is for informational purposes. If you rely on medication or supplements to help your digestive system work, have reflux or are bloated after a normal meal, have difficulty with elimination or regularity, or if you need further nutritional guidance, please contact your healthcare provider.

Without optimal digestion the body works less efficiently and effectively, possibly allowing its key duties to be overlooked.

Anyone with the goal of improving fitness or losing weight must first assess digestive health. Here are some simple things you can do to get your digestive system on the right track:

Your digestive system is a series of muscles. Moving more during the day aids the digestive systems musculature. Torso twisting motions from the center of the torso and forward and side bending movements will help support digestive muscle movement.

Reduce your digestive workload by eating smaller, frequent meals and practice balancing food groups.

Certain foods can support the digestive system, allowing food to be broken down and metabolized more efficiently.

Nuts, seeds, grains, beans, greens and cacao help mitigate the body’s stress response.

Foods such as avocado, beans, goat’s milk kefir and cheese, raw spinach and parsley help repair the lining of the digestive tract improving absorption of nutrients.

Fiber — while necessary for healthy digestion — can overwhelm the system if not taken in balance. Split up the recommended 25 grams per day into 5-10 gram servings.

Fiber requires an adequate amount of water for digestion. Adequate daily water consumption in ounces is half your body weight in pounds (120 pounds equals 60 ounces of water), split up over the day.

Instead of a probiotic in pill form opt for fermented foods to combat the “bad” bacteria ingested.

Chewing food thoroughly will begin initial breakdown with the enzymes in the mouth.

Avoid what I call “pre-digested” food, or overly processed, chemical-laden shelf food.

Be aware of the word “fortified” — during processing nutrients are removed and some are added back in.

Our body has its own ability to detox. When things are “perfect” in digestion land your body performs detox daily.

However, sometimes the system can be overwhelmed and require a bit of assistance. Help your system along by eating foods that support the normal detox system: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds. Choose plants more often for protein and fat: avocado, olives, hemp and flax.

Consume foods close to the form they are found in nature.

Add nuts and seeds: walnuts, cashews, hemp, sesame and sunflower seeds.

Eat the rainbow naturally by including vibrant vegetables and fruits in your diet: reds, yellows and purples. Frozen fruits and veggies are less expensive, available year around and just as good for you.

Boost your detox efforts and add flavor with spice: garlic, horseradish, chilis, oregano, cinnamon and ginger.

Stimulate your body’s natural cleansing, toxin-eliminating system with broccoli.

Making better choices more often will help lessen the impact of making occasional bad choices.

The digestive system also needs recovery and relaxation time to make work more effective and efficient.

Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at robin.gaudette@raprd.org.

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