Good digestive health is an important factor in overall health, and, just like all aspects of the human body, digestion is a complicated and intricate process. At Gaia Herbs, we want to help you work toward optimal gut health.
To help get you there, we’ll review how your digestive system works, explain how it affects the rest of your body, and provide important tips to keep your digestive tract running as it should.
Understanding the Digestive System
The digestive system includes the digestive tract — which is made up of a series of organs and is also called the gastrointestinal tract (or GI tract) — and three other organs: the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
The main purpose of this complex system is to break down proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals from the food and drink you consume. This allows your body to use those nutrients.
To understand more about digestive health, let’s review the journey your food takes through the digestive tract.
The Digestive Tract
The digestive process starts as soon as you take a bite of food. As you chew, you begin mechanically breaking down the food. Saliva, a digestive juice, also begins breaking the food down at the same time.1
When you swallow your food, it proceeds down the esophagus into your stomach. Here, stomach acid and enzymes continue the digestion process.
Next comes the small intestine followed by the large intestine. The small intestine continues to process what you’ve ingested and sends nutrients into the bloodstream, where your body can make use of them. The small intestine is where most nutrient absorption occurs.
Your large intestine is full of microorganisms (also known as good bacteria) that feast on any undigested food. And, before the leftovers are disposed of via stool, your large intestine soaks up any remaining water.
That’s the trip that your food takes through your body. The other three organs involved in digestion (the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder) create and store excess digestive juices.1
You can provide natural support for your body’s digestive process with supplements that help maintain digestive health, such as Gaia Herbs GI Feel Good.
This delicious tonic can be taken as needed to help support a calm stomach and maintain GI tract health.* It is made with a blend of soothing herbs including Chamomile, Fennel, Spearmint, Catnip, Ginger, and Gaia-grown™ Lemon Balm.*
As you can see, there are several moving parts to the digestive system, and each part needs to do its job well in order to maintain optimal digestive health. Additionally, the digestive system is not isolated, meaning it affects your whole body.
Digestive Health and Your Whole Body
Maintaining good digestive health helps to ward off common digestive issues such as upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers, and the like.
However, the positive effects of good digestive health go far behind the GI tract itself. The Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at NYU Langone Health says this:
“Not only is the gut filled with nerve cells that receive and provide information to the brain, but the gut also produces more than 90% of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate our mood or emotions.”2
They go on to note the important role that the digestive system plays in immune function, through stomach acid and enzymes that sterilize food, as well as the good bacteria in your gut that help fight disease and keep you healthy.2
Digestive health is truly one of the foundations of overall health and wellness. Knowing that this system is wonderfully complicated and affects so much of your body, the important question is about what you can do to improve digestive health.
That’s exactly what we want to dive into now because, at Gaia Herbs, we’re passionate about helping you live a thriving, healthy life. That includes offering high quality, safe, pure, and effective herbal products combining science and traditional knowledge, as well as providing helpful tips.
Tips for Good Digestive Health
Because so much of your body is affected by a healthy gut, digestive health is far more involved than simply eating the right food, though that’s a good place to start.
One note before we continue: remember that basic healthy habits — such as staying active and getting enough sleep — can contribute to good digestion and can also help to reduce some issues like constipation, bloating, and symptoms of IBS.2,3,4
Start with a healthy lifestyle, and then follow the additional tips below.
1) Eat Well
For digestive health, consume foods that are unprocessed and high in fiber.5 That means plenty of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Remember the microorganisms that live in your large intestines? High-fiber foods provide the nourishment that your gut bacteria need to flourish, which is exactly what you want.6 That brings us to the next tip.
2) Eat Probiotic-Rich Food
The word “bacteria” has gotten a bad rap. But, as we mentioned, there are many beneficial microorganisms (probiotics) like bacteria, fungi, and viruses in your gut. All together, these microorganisms are called the gut microbiota, intestinal flora, or gut bacteria.
While you have several of those probiotics already living in your gut, you also consume them when you eat probiotic-rich foods or take probiotic supplements.
To incorporate these healthy microorganisms into your daily diet, eat foods like yogurt or kombucha. And, if you think you may need even more support, ask your doctor about taking a probiotic supplement.
3) Take Prebiotic Supplements
Prebiotics are different from probiotics. The microorganisms in your gut are living things that need nourishment to thrive. Prebiotics provide that nourishment.
Can you eat your prebiotics? Yes. Asparagus, garlic, onion, wheat, honey, banana, tomato, peas, beans, and more all contain prebiotics that will support your gut microbiota.7
However, taking a prebiotic supplement, such as Gaia Herbs Microbiome Food, provides your body with herbs that you probably don’t consume daily.* That means you’re also consuming prebiotics that you wouldn’t get otherwise and that are typically missing from the standard diet.*
For example, Microbiome Food is formulated with Larch and Acacia gum (also known as Gum arabic). Both act as a prebiotic for the microbiome, particularly the beneficial microbial species Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.*
Plus, prebiotic supplements are easy to take. If you’re taking Microbiome Food, simply stir one teaspoon in four to six ounces of water and drink it once a day between meals.
Maintaining digestive health doesn’t have to be hard and can be quite tasty with Microbiome Food’s comforting Cinnamon flavor.
4) Manage Stress
Stressors in life are unavoidable, but a healthy body can help you manage stress and vice versa — and managing stress well contributes to good digestive health.
In an article entitled “Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options,” P.C. Konturek, T. Brzozowski, and S.J. Konturek write this:
“... exposure to stress (especially chronic stress) is a major risk factor in the pathogenesis of different diseases of the gastrointestinal tract including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer, functional dyspepsia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel disease (IBS), and other functional disorders of the GI tract.”8
Care for your digestive health by managing your stress in ways that work for you: enjoy time in nature, practice mindfulness, learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments, and surround yourself with supportive people.
You can read more about reducing stress and anxiousness here.
5) Practice Mindful Eating
Mindfulness can help manage not only stress but also digestive health directly. When it comes to digestion, the idea is known as “mindful eating” and boils down to savoring, enjoying, and focusing on what you’re eating.
Harvard Health Publishing discusses mindful eating: “A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices.”9
Additionally, mindful eating can help you consume just the right amount, instead of overdoing it. Here are some ways to put this concept into practice:
- Eat distraction-free (no TV and no phone)
- Appreciate the flavor, smell, and texture of your food
- Chew slowly
- Stop to chit-chat between bites
6) Take Digestive Bitters
Mindful eating is one way to support digestive health before you even swallow your food. Taking digestive bitters is another way. The use of bitters to help aid healthy digestion has a long history of use in China, India, Europe, and the Americas, dating back thousands of years in some cases.*
Bitterness naturally stimulates your salivary glands and digestive enzymes and facilitates normal digestion. The taste of bitter foods can provide that stimulation, as can a prepared digestive bitter such Gaia Herbs Sweetish Bitters.*
To help maintain healthy digestion in adults, mix 60 drops in a small amount of water and drink it 15-20 minutes before your next meal.*
7) Use Herbs to Maintain Good Digestion
We believe in using traditional herbal wisdom and herbs in our formulas that have been relied on for thousands of years to help maintain good digestion.*
That’s why we use Fennel, Peppermint, Licorice, and Marshmallow (just to name a few) in products designed to target specific digestive complaints.* For example, Gaia Herbs Gas & Bloating™ and Reflux Relief® provide relief from occasional digestive complaints so you can get back to enjoying your life.*
Other herbal supplements that help support optimal digestive health include:
When you take any of these Gaia Herb supplements, you can feel confident and informed about what you’re putting in your body. We think you deserve to know exactly what’s in your herbal supplements. This is why we created Meet Your Herbs®, the world’s first herb traceability platform.
On our unique platform, you can simply type in the herb ID found on the back of your Gaia Herbs product and discover the origin of your herbs, how they were grown, harvested, and extracted, and see validation of your product’s level of purity and potency.
Head on over to meetyourherbs.com to take a closer look for yourself, and read about other herbs that naturally support healthy digestion here.
Listen to Your Gut
Your digestive system not only converts food to nutrients that your body can use, but it is also connected to your brain, produces serotonin, and plays a big role in immune function.
It’s clear that listening to your gut and caring for your digestive health is imperative for a healthy body and a full life. Adopt a diet based in unprocessed, fresh foods that are high in fiber, and include probiotic-rich foods and a prebiotic powder such as Gaia Herbs Microbiome Food.
In addition, manage your stress, eat mindfully, and use products that naturally support good digestion, such as Sweetish Bitters, Gas & Bloating™, and Reflux Relief®.*
Your gut (and the rest of your body) will thank you.
1Your Digestive System & How it Works.
2 Your Gut Feeling: A Healthier Digestive System Means a Healthier You.
3 Association between digestive symptoms and sleep disturbance: a cross-sectional community-based study.
4 The Role of Physical Exercise in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
6 Can gut bacteria improve your health?
7 Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications.
8 Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options.
9 Mindful eating.