Call directly: +44 (0)7931 999303 Or: +44 (0)1342 325729


Improving Digestive and Intestinal Health

Ways to naturally improve your digestive and intestinal health

Whether you have a digestive condition or just want to optimize your digestive health,
below are my top eight tips on improving the overall functioning of your digestive tract – the natural way.

1. Eat enough vegetables. 
At least 50 % of your diet should consist of raw or cooked vegetable matter. Ensuring a balance of raw, steamed, boiled or cooked matter. The key here is obtaining a balance in the range and breadth of vegetables you consume, and applying the common sense of “what’s in season” in selecting what you eat. That’s not always possible, but do the best you can. Where possible choose organic or biodynamic sources of the raw foods.

2. Drink 1.5 litres of pure or filtered water every day. 
Water not only helps digestion of solid matter, it also helps move nutrients into your blood and eliminate toxins. It’s an incredibly useful catalyst in various digestive and chemical processes within the body, so don’t deprive your body of this reagent.

However, avoid drinking liquids for 30 minutes before or during meals. The point of the stomach is to provide a concentrated acidic environment for food, particularly protein and fats to begin to be digested, so why would you dilute this?

3. Take digestive enzymes after meals rich in protein or fat, or as you age.
There is evidence which suggests micro-nutrient deficiencies are far more prevalent in ageing populations than previously thought.

With ageing, our stomach, pancreas and liver produce less of the enzymes which facilitate the breakdown of foods into the vital amino acids, vitamins and minerals needed. Too little consumption of and processing and cooking of raw vegetable and fruit matter also limits the natural digestive enzymes we should get into our diet.

Personally I recommend individually indicated digestive enzymes based on a patients age and circumstances, and the evidence suggests this is best practice to minimise deficiencies and optimise nutrition.

4. Eat fermented foods.
Consume fermented foods with or just prior to eating meals. Substances like naturally fermented apple cider vinegar and pickles, crème fraiche, saurkraut, yoghurt, buttermilk or fermented milk (such as kefir) are high in naturally occurring enzymes. These natural sources of enzymes facilitate the digestive process and also help to introduce some “good bugs”(bacteria) into the digestive tract.

5. Take high-quality probiotics. 
Prolonged illnesses, antibiotics and many drug treatments, and poor diets often deplete the digestive tracts “good bugs”. What determines “good” I hear you say? I recommend those manufacturers who make high quality, mixed strains supplements with high numbers (upwards of 5 billion live) of naturally occurring colony forming bacteria. I always recommend ones which guarantee the “live” status of these bacteria and which have been kept in cold storage to prolong these bacteria’s vitality.

The evidence is a little unclear about how well these bacteria establish themselves in the digestive tract. What is clear however is the range of benefits effective use of these supplements has over our digestive and immune systems health.

6. Include other natural digestive aids. 
Use ginger (Zingiber officinale), dandelion (Taraxicum officinale), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) or peppermint (Mentha sp.) in cooking or as teas. Each of these have a calming effect on the stomach and digestive tract helping with either digestion, reducing bloating or easing nausea and vomiting.

7. Get more exercise. 
Exercise facilitates digestion and reduces the likelihood of constipation. It also stimulates the right sort of appetite and supports the body to produce it;s own mood enhancing hormones, reducing the urge to reach for refined carbohydrates and sugars.

8. Maintaining a food diary. 
This is one of the easiest way to identify possible food sensitivities. It’s also the best way to identify which foods you are eating routinely or in excess. It works best if you invest the time and are totally honest about recording everything you consume. If you feel guilty about recording it in the diary, maybe you should be cutting it out anyway!

It’s worth highlighting that my health philosophy is about treating the person, not the disease. It’s unwise, from my experience, to simply try things or replace an existing synthetic agent or treatment, with a natural remedy. This is especially true for homoepathic and naturopathic treatment which need to be prescribed on an individual basis.

It’s always best for a healthcare professional to review your case so they understand the fuller picture, so they can treat that whole patient and the cause of disease in them, and for the long term. Some patients may also still require chemical interventions to treat digestive conditions.

Dealing with digestive system imbalances is an interesting but complex subject. It’s difficult to cover all of this in a short article. If you’re hungry for more, please contact me with any questions or to set up a consultation.

Disclaimer – This article is intended to offer general advice to the reader, and is for information only. This article should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Sussex Natural Health as taken all reasonable care in writing and compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. In order to keep the format succinct and accessible to members of the general public, articles have not been specifically referenced in the standard scientific format. References are however available on request. The advice offered, or any general suggestions made in the article are not intended to replace specific advice given to you by either one of the Sussex Natural Health team or another professional healthcare practitioner. It is always advised to seek specific advise and guidance, individually in preference to following general advice.

Sources for this article
1) Gastrointestinal physiology and functions, Schneeman, B.O. British Journal of Nutrition (2002), 88, Suppl. 2,S159–S163
2) Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Murray, M. Pizzorno, J. Atria Books 3rd Edition, July 2012
3) Carriere I, Delcourt C, Lacroux A, Gerber M. Nutrient intake in an elderly population in southern France (POLANUT): deficiency in some vitamins, minerals and omega-3 PUFA. Int JVitam Nutr Res. 2007 Jan;77(1):57-65.
4) The Clinician’s handbook of Natural Medicine, Pizzorno, J.E. Murray, M.T. Joiner-Bey, H. Churchill
Livingston 2nd Edition, 2008.
5) The Ecological Role of Lactobacilli in the Gastrointestinal tract: implications for Fundimenatal and
Biomedical research. Walters, J. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. June 2008, doi: 10.1128/
surveillance-blood (Adapted from
8) The New Holistic Herbal, Hofman D. Element Books Ltd, 2nd Edition 1990.
9) Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to
immune function. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23.