Last week, we spoke about us having 2 brains – the one in our head and the one in our stomach.

This week we continue talking about stomach and digestive system health and how having a happy tummy is vital to your general health and well-being:

It’s all about balance when it comes to your digestive system’s health. When your digestive system is in tip-top shape, about 80-85 percent of bacteria are good guys and 15-20 percent are bad guys. You feel great, your body is strong and nimble, you rarely get sick, your energy is consistent – life is good. The healthy bacteria are free to do their job with ease. They assist with digestion, produce disease-fighting antibodies, crowd out bad bacteria and produce certain hormones, vitamins and nutrients. 

But when the harmful bacteria stage a revolt, all hell breaks loose. They totally stop up the works and cause painful problems like inflammation and infection, which can then lead to health issues such as constipation, candida, allergies, arthritis, headaches, depression, autoimmune diseases and more.

Medications (especially antibiotics and antacids), environmental toxins and chemicals, stress and illness greatly affect the ratio of good to bad bacteria. When bacteria are wiped out indiscriminately, the good guys are mowed down, giving the bad guys a chance to increase their ranks. Hello, chronic health issues.

The food you eat also affects the ratio of good to bad bacteria. Everything you consume is processed and either absorbed into your body or eliminated via your digestive system. Your stomach completes the amazing task of digesting your food and pulling the nutrients, vitamins and minerals out of the food so that they can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

And your digestive system’s mind-blowing capabilities don’t stop there. Your gut also identifies invaders – toxins, microbes, viruses and allergens that could harm your health – and moves them through your digestive system so that they can be excreted.

The key to this system working in your favour is two-fold:

  1. Lend your digestive system a hand by feeding your body whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.
  1. Consistently practice a healthy lifestyle (less stress, exercise, less exposure to environmental toxins, proper rest) that supports the good tummy bacteria and keeps the harmful bacteria under control.

One of the most important factors in maintaining digestive health remains as always, in keeping hydrated and staying hydrated. Your digestive system needs water to keep bacteria and waste moving through you, which will help prevent constipation and bloating. When you’re dehydrated, these issues can throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to inflammation. Give your stomach a hand and drink more H2O!

The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink about 1.6 litres of fluid and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. That’s about eight glasses of 200ml each for a woman, and 10 glasses of 200ml each for a man.

However, the amount a person needs to drink to avoid getting dehydrated will vary depending on a range of factors, including their size, the temperature and how active they are. One of the quickest and easiest ways to see whether you are dehydrated is to check the colour of your urine (keeping in mind that certain medication or even health supplements can give you Day-Glo yellow coloured urine). The lighter and more pale your urine is, the more hydrated you are. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.  Be sensible about your water intake though – again, it’s all about balance.