Losing weight is more than what you eat, but also how that food is broken down inside your body and later, expelled.
Kirsten Curtis from the Herbex Research department says digestion plays a pivotal role in weight loss as it burns down calories and helps with metabolism.
“The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract (which includes the stomach and intestines), the liver, the pancreas and the gallbladder. Together with gut bacteria, hormones, and nerves, the digestive system’s organs break down the food and drinks we consume each day. This broken-down food is used for energy, growth and repair. Whatever is not used by the body is then expelled later that day,” she explains.
But how does digestion affect weight loss? Curtis says digestion can either slow or speed up your metabolism: Large quantities of gluten and starch (or simple carbs) are super easy for your body to break down, which slows the metabolism, leading to potential weight gain.
She explains that certain foods can keep you fuller for longer, like high-fibre foods which take longer to digest and keep you full and satiated for longer,. It takes away the craving to snack and keeping hunger at bay – which aids weight loss.
But those with food intolerances (dairy and gluten being the most common) may struggle to lose weight. Food intolerances are a result of the body not being able to digest certain foods properly. This can leave you feeling bloated and suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
“Leaky gut syndrome, otherwise known as increased intestinal permeability, is when the barriers in the small intestines don’t work properly. These barriers are there to let material/particles through into the bloodstream and to prevent harmful substances from getting in. If these barriers let the unwanted substances into the bloodstream, this triggers the immune system, which leads to an imbalance of microbes in the gut, nutrition deficiencies and food sensitivities, all of which can lead to weight gain,” says Curtis.
“With gut bacteria, trillions of bacteria can be found in your intestines. They assist with digestion, your feeling of satiety, and how fat is stored – to name a few – all of which affect weight loss and gain. Antibiotics, sweeteners, and preservatives kill off the good bacteria, paving the way for bad bacteria to thrive, which again, knocks your digestive system out of sync.”
She explains that poor digestion can result in one having an uncomfortable digestive system and these include; bloating, upset stomach, low libido, constipation, unwanted weight gain and loss, gas and burping to name a few.
But you can break the cycle and get your digestive system back on track.
These are tips her tips improve your digestion:
- Keep a food diary to identify any food intolerances you may have and eliminate foods from your diet accordingly.
- Eat slowly: Gulping your food down puts stress on the digestive system.
- Stay hydrated: Water keeps things moving, and it helps curb your appetite.
- Eat fibre-rich foods: Fibre assists with keeping you full and keeps your digestive system operating smoothly.
- Avoid excessive sugar and alcohol: Both can mess with your digestive system so limit them as much as possible.
- Choose ‘real’ food: Processed foods are harder to digest thanks to their high sugar and fat content.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, yoghurt and whole grains – the superfoods of good gut health!
- Eat foods high in probiotics: Yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha. Probiotics maintain a healthy balance of bacteria which helps the body with digestion and helps fight off the bad bacteria.
- Get moving: Regular exercise keeps the food moving through your digestive system and helps with maintaining a healthy weight, which in turn, promotes a healthy digestive system.