The role of the digestive system is to break down (or digest) our food, eliminate toxins and absorb the energy and other key nutrients our bodies need to function well. But it’s important in other ways too.
Taylor Clark, Physiologist at AXA Health, offers up some top tips for keeping your digestive system functioning well, and outlines which exercises can help boost your digestive health.
Our immune system
70% of the body’s immune system resides in the gut. So if our gut health is compromised, for example by:
- eating a bad diet
- or stress
so can our immune system. As a result, this can leave us with an increased risk of a wide range of conditions.
According to research1, these could include:
- autoimmune conditions such as coeliac disease, colds and flu
- type 1 diabetes
- skin conditions such as eczema, chronic fatigue and even cancer.
>For more on how to have a healthier gut, check out our article How to have a healthy gut
Gut health on mental wellbeing
Gut health also plays an important role in how our mind functions and how happy we feel. If our gut health is under par, our mental wellbeing can also suffer.
So it’s not just about preventing digestive disorders such as constipation, bloating and wind – our digestive health really is central to our overall wellbeing. The good news is that there are simple things we can all do to help support good gut health.
Making sure we eat and drink the right things is obviously important but how we move our bodies also affects our digestion. For one thing it helps stimulate the gut and increases intestinal activity.
Exercise for gut health
Physical activity increases blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system, which massages our food along the digestive tract. A process known as peristalsis – causing them to work more quickly and effectively.
Research also suggests that exercise affects the balance of bacteria in the gut2. This gut flora, as it’s known, plays an active role in protecting our immune system, preventing the growth of bad bacteria and helping the body digest and absorb what it needs from the foods we eat.