The Importance of an Athlete's Digestive System

Eating 'Good' Foods

Most of us have been eating processed foods for years, robbing the body of much-needed enzymes and nutrition. Other ways we have damaged our digestive systems over time include doses of antibiotics which kill much-needed gut bacteria or intestinal flora which is found in our colon, the lower part of our digestive tracts. This intestinal flora produces important vitamins K (for blood clotting), B12, thiamine and riboflavin. This flora also makes up a large portion of the "bulk" of our stools which can be a factor in preventing constipation, as well as supporting our immune system. Both are crucial to good performance and health in athletes. Once you destroy this "good bacteria" you must replace it.

Other means of stressing the digestive system including overeating and taking antacids affecting our stomach's high acidity. Products like Zantac or antacids that indirectly or directly reduce stomach acid, cause more issues in the long run. As we noted earlier stomach acid serves an important role in digestion. The proper approach is to strengthen the digestive tract rather than continuing to smother the side effects of poor diet and a weak digestive system with drugs.

Basically, as a society we have simply thrown a lot of garbage down the hatch, not realizing how it would affect our health. Then we have remedied any side effect and have essentially "hardened" our stomachs. We tend to assume that it is "normal" to feel like garbage. No it is not! We are paying the price. At this point many of our digestive tracts are like those little flickers left in fires that need to be carefully fueled or they will go out. We are paying the price with allergies to a variety of foods, stomach aches, constipation and many diseases related to poor digestion ranging from arthritis, eczema and gallbladder issues to name but a few.

More: 8 Ways to Add Vegetables to Your Diet

For the most part, disease can be related back to the digestive system. Poor digestion equals poor nutrient absorption. What we need to do is slowly build the strength of our digestive tract and turn that little flicker into a giant flame! Once your digestive tract has the vitality of a bonfire you can afford to throw a big log in it once in a while. It will be strong enough to handle a wider variety of foods than the weakened version may currently be. You will have more energy and be much less toxic inside with regular elimination. If you find yourself with a more and more limited diet and a list of ailments that seems to keep growing, it's time to start building up your fire, bit by bit. It's time to light your core on fire!

Here are some simple things you can start with:

  • Add more whole and vital foods to your body and increase the amount of digestive enzymes and nutrients in your body. Make "deposits" into your bank.
  • Remove as many processed packaged foods as possible from your daily nutrition regimen.
  • Have a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal with meat or protein to aid digestion.
  • Chew your food until it is a paste in your mouth to digest carbohydrates and create greater surface area for digestion of other macronutrients.
  • Don't drink with meals and dilute digestive juices, wait 20 min on each end if possible. If you are eating slowly you won't need a glass of water to wash it down.
  • Supplement with a full spectrum plant digestive enzyme before meals.
  • If possible start your day with a drink that will stimulate digestive juices and wait a little while to eat to allow the juices to scavenge the blood and help digest "debris" and toxins. The "master cleanse" drink can help. It is made of purified water, fresh lemon juice, pure maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Fresh ginger can be added. Allow the stomach to sit empty on these mornings if it can fit into your training plan. This can be a nice rest for the digestive tract.

Everything we eat goes into our core to be broken down, digested and absorbed. The stronger our digestive foundation, the more we reap from our good nutrition. Begin to visualize your digestive tract as that fire in the pit of your belly. Start to build it up strong like a ball of fire sending its powerful nutrients out like long rays, reaching every last cell in every inch of your body. Every choice you make affects your performance both mentally and physically as an athlete. Start to make the connections more and more with the foods you eat and how they can affect the power that flows through your body to create a new level of power!

More: 6 Green Super Foods to Add to Your Diet

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Anne Guzman is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Sports Nutrition Consultant with a degree in Kinesiology. Her passion lies in sports nutrition for endurance athletes. Anne raced full time on the women's professional circuit in North America with some bouts in Europe from 2007 until 2011. She runs

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