5 Ways to Improve Digestion
Immunity Begins in the GI Tract

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Scientific research has found that about 80 percent of our immune system is actually found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

What exactly is the GI tract? It is the tube of soft tissue in your body through which everything you eat or drink is digested and assimilated, and then the waste products are eliminated.

Thus, improving your digestion is the first place to start if you want to improve your health and to prevent illness or disease.

The following six habits can help you improve your immunity and prevent numerous GI problems.

1. Drink Enough Water to Stay Hydrated

The entire GI tract is dependent upon water for optimal function. If your body is even slightly dehydrated, your GI tract will simply not be able to fully digest the food, especially animal proteins. 

Keeping your body hydrated means drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. Thus, if you weigh 180 pounds, for example, you would need to drink about 90 ounces of water, roughly 3 quarts or liters.

In addition, drinking 12 to 16 ounces of water 30 to 60 minutes before each meal will ensure optimal nutrient utilization from your food.

It is best to drink your daily quota of water between meals rather than with your meal. My research and personal experience has convinced me that it is best NOT to drink anything during a meal, other than sipping plain water or warm herbal tea.

If you find you are extremely thirsty during or after a meal, chances are high that either your body is chronically dehydrated or your food is too salty.

Drinking a large volume of water or any beverage during a meal may dilute the digestive juices.

Also, since digestion is a chemical process that generates heat, ingesting an ice cold beverage with food is most likely going to impair that process. In the very least, your body will have to work harder and generate more enzymes to break down the food.


2. Slow Down and Chew Your Food Well

Digestion begins with enzymes in your mouth. Thus the first step to better digestion is to slow down and chew each bite more thoroughly.

Learn to chew each bite of food 30 to 50 times or until it becomes a liquid.

I know that seems tedious or even impossible. I try to at least count my first few bites of food at each meal. That slows me down and I am much more likely to chew more, even though I am not actually counting every bite of food.

When you drink any beverage, hold the fluid in your mouth a little longer than usual instead of gulping it down, especially if the drink is ice cold.


3. Relax Before You Start Eating

Stress and anxiety can significantly inhibit how well your body can digest your food. Thus, in most cases, it is usually best not to eat at all if you are overly stressed, upset or in a hurry.

If you must eat on the run or when emotionally challenged, I recommend drinking fresh vegetable juice or a fruit smoothie, or just eating several pieces of fruit until you can sit down and have a relaxed meal. 

When cooking or preparing to eat a meal, it is extremely helpful to be mindful of how you are feeling. If you are uptight, worried or upset, take a number of deep, slow breaths before eating.

Or just taking a “time out” to relax, play a game, take a walk around the block or whatever you need to do to redirect your thoughts before eating. Your emotions will follow your mind.


4. Follow Basic Food Combining Guidelines

When eating poorly combined food, your digestive system can become overloaded and unable to function properly.

The food thus sits and rots in the digestive tract for long periods of time, severely compromising the effectiveness of the immune system and poisoning the blood stream with toxins. 

Poorly combined food will often make you feel uncomfortable, bloated and/or tired.

You can read more here about simple food combining guidelines.


5. Eat Fresh Whole Foods

Eat at least 8 to 10 servings daily of fresh vegetables and fruits (preferably organic), which are the best fiber foods for colon health.

Other good sources of fiber that are beneficial for GI health are moderate amounts of nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains such as oats, bran, and rice.

Avoid all processed, fried, canned, and fast foods. And try to minimize animal-based foods, such as meat and dairy products.

Gluten and dairy are the two food groups that tend to cause people the most digestive problems. If either of these are an issue for you, find alternatives! There are many to choose from in the markets these days.


Summary

The health of your GI tract is the key to your immunity! Follow the five guidelines to improve your digestion and elimination. With patience and persistence, you will see a difference.

If additional help is needed, a few key nutritional supplements to consider include the following:  magnesium, probiotics (the “good” bacteria), digestive enzymes, as well as natural fibers, such as psyllium, oats, hemp hearts, and ground chia seeds or flax seeds, which can be added to cereal or beverages.


References

Institute of Health Sciences; Probiotics Help Immune System in Your GI Tract; 2011.

Today’s Dietician; Gut Health and Immunity; 2012.


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