Sunday, September 12, 2010

Exercise and your digestive health

NEW YORK - MARCH 17:  A woman strains to scale...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Do you have problems with sluggish and poor digestion? Do you find your self often reaching for antacids, laxatives or some other OTC digestive aid? If so, join the other 4 million Americans suffering from similar complaints. Over indulgence, inactivity, or the notorious sedentary lifestyle of the "couch potato" all can pre-dispose us to digestive woes such as constipation, GERD and weight gain.

What are we doing to ourselves?

According to Nathan Schiller's article "The food and exercise connection," over 4 million Americans suffer from constipation, which is defined as having less than three bowel movements per week. That's something! We eat three times a day, so ideally, we should be having bowel movements at least 2-3 times a day. Unfortunately, most people don't. No wonder our society is plagued with such a high incidence of colon cancer and other diseases which are the result of toxin build up. Just imagine your home's plumbing system getting backed up with wastes if the main sewer line wasn't working Ugh, that spells disaster. Graphic[ illustration, but it's the same, or worse, with our bodies.

Just imagine from the opening illustration the over eating "couch potato" whose diet consists of highly processed foods such as meats, potatoes, breads, potato chips, pretzels and ice cream. This diet, which is lacking not only in nutrients and fiber, is also the root cause of many digestive disorders. Without adequate fiber and physical activity, this guy can become victim to constipation, GERD, metabolic syndrome, due to his wide girth, and hemorrhoids. Who wants all that?

What foods should we eat

Our diets should consist primarily of fruits, grains, vegetables, seeds and nuts - all in the raw state, as much as possible. (There are individuals, who, due to pre-existing diseases, can not consume certain grains such as wheat, oats and barley. These individuals may be pre-disposed to celiac disease. Gluten- free diets are recommended for them.)

How does exercise improve digestion

Digestion, as most folks already know, is the process whereby our bodies breaks down the foods we eat into smaller molecules that are absorbed into fingerlike projections, or villi, in the small intestine. The food molecules are transported through the blood to the bodies cells, tissues and organs.

Exercise helps to strengthen the digestive organs and helps the process of transport and elimination of the wastes. Once the nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines, the wastes are propelled along into the large intestine or colon for removal. A good exercise program will strengthen the muscles in the intestines thereby contributing to motility and peristalsis, rhythmic contractions of the colon, until the food is finally expelled through the anus. Just remember to wait until two hours after eating to exercise.

Physical activity and exercises that are good for digestion would be walking, roller blading, roller skating and strength building exercises. It is probably a good idea to stay away from high impact exercises such as running and jogging because most people who have inactive lifestyles probably are carrying a few pounds of extra weight which would make running and jogging undesirable on those weight bearing joints. Also, it is common for people who are overweight to have problems with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) which can be aggravated by the jostling around of gastric contents up into the esophagus.

In summary

Lifestyle changes are never easy but the benefits will be well worth it.

Engage the assistance of a friend or fmaily member for encouragement. Two is always better than one. Good health to you!


Schiller, Nathan, April 16, 2009, "The food and exercise connection." Retrieved September 12, 2010 from website

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