(NaturalNews) It is estimated that as many as one out of every three Americans suffers from some type of digestive disorder, whether it be occasional gas or bloating, or something more severe like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or chronic diarrhea. Whatever the particular issue, digestive upset tends to negatively affect nearly every other aspect of life, as the gut is the body's primary source of immunity and vitality. So correcting digestive issues is a top priority when trying to get one's overall health back on track.
If you suffer from poor digestion, you are not alone, and you do not have to hobble your way through life taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs for temporary symptom relief. Here are some helpful tips for naturally addressing the root causes of your digestion issues without the need for drugs:
1) Balance your gut bacteria with probiotics. In order to better understand how the human digestive system works, it is helpful to think of it as a complex and delicate ecosystem in which living organisms coexist with one another in a healthy balance. And in order for this ecosystem to thrive, there must be enough of each kind of species present to not only keep the others in check, but also to support the full spectrum of life that is necessary for the ecosystem to exist.
Nutritionally, this life-force is probiotic bacteria, which populate the gut and regulate the proper absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Probiotics also help ensure that toxins, allergens, yeasts, and harmful microbes are blocked from taking over and assimilating throughout the body. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that you regularly feed your body plenty of healthy probiotics such as Acidophilus, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium to help promote regular bowel function and boost immune health.
"Termed probiotics, meaning 'for life,' these good germs, like the helpful bacteria in our ancient ancestors' diets, increase the absorption of nutrients, alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and fight cancer growth," writes Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., in her book, The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone Age Ancestors Will Maximize Your Health. "These bacteria ... crowd out or kill off disease-causing bacteria, produce natural antibiotics, and possibly switch off an enzyme that triggers colon cancer."
2) Eliminate refined sugar, GMOs from your diet. One of the primary causes of poor digestion for many people is processed foods, and particularly those that contain high amounts of refined sugar and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Since roughly 80 percent of the body's immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract, exposing it to high amounts of processed carbohydrates in the form of refined sugar puts excess stress on the immune system, which in turn triggers a potentially disease-causing immune response.
Likewise, GMOs have been shown to severely disrupt bacterial balance in the gut, which over time can lead to autoimmune disorders and food allergies. A 2011 study found that GMO components actually embed themselves throughout the digestive tract and become permanent, reproducing fixtures inside natural bacterial colonies. Thus, it is important to avoid GMOs as much as possible and preserve your digestive health by eating only certified organic and certified non-GMO food products (http://www.anh-usa.org).
3) Get tested for food allergies, gluten intolerance. Many of the foods we eat today have been altered or hybridized in some way, even if they have not actually been modified genetically, which means they have the potential to trigger food allergies in some people. Vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs have also been shown to impart allergies in some populations as well, as they are often made with allergenic ingredients. Eggs, wheat (gluten), soy, tree nuts, and dairy are among the most common food allergens that, if left unaddressed, can cause chronic pain and digestive illness.
If you suspect you might have a food allergy, or if you have inexplicable digestive discomfort that just will not go away, you may want to be tested by an allergist. As it turns out, only a very small percentage of people have allergies that produce a noticeable and instantaneous reaction upon exposure -- the other 95 percent of the allergic population gets what is called a type two IgE reaction, which can produce varying and often inconsistent reactions.
You can also try adhering to an elimination diet, in which you eliminate certain foods from your diet one at a time and observe how your body responds. Precision Nutrition has created a helpful writeup on how to do an elimination diet, which you can access here: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet
4) Eat more healthy fats and take zinc L-carnosine. Believe it or not, fats are an important part of proper digestive function, with omega-3 fatty acids particularly important for gut health. Taking more fish oil and eating more raw, grass-fed butter (if you can find it), for instance, will help balance your digestion and repair your gut lining. Zinc, and zinc L-carnosine in particular, is also helpful for repairing the gut and easing intestinal inflammation.