By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
Hippocrates, known as “the father of Western medicine,” said more than 2,000 years ago, “All disease begins in the gut.” This is as true today as it was then. So it’s important to get in tune with your digestive system and consider if a plant-based diet can improve your health.
A few signs of unhealthy digestion include gas and bloating, loose stools, constipation, acid reflux, inflammation (anywhere in the body), throat and nose irritations, food sensitivities, and skin disorders.
Problems in the digestive system can eventually cause our overall health to break down. Here are some potential consequences of this breakdown: autoimmune disorders, food and general allergies, autism, arthritis, diabetes, eczema, and even mental illness.
A major part of improving gut health is eating healing foods on a regular basis. A diet consisting of mainly plants can be excellent for digestive health.
Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t eliminate other foods like meat, cheese or bread, but these are eaten sparingly and plants make up the majority of your nutrition. I recommend organically grown food when possible, to avoid carcinogenic chemicals.
Consider “eating the rainbow” at every meal by adding color to your plate using whole vegetables and fruits. For example, if you’re making a sandwich, add lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado. Enjoy a side salad instead of chips. During breakfast, add colorful fruit to your oatmeal or make a smoothie with greens. At dinner, load your plate with fresh veggies and treat meat like a side dish.
It’s easier than you might think, but if eating this way is a big shift for you, take baby steps so that you enjoy the process and ensure the changes are sustainable. Avoid telling yourself you can never eat certain foods again – unless you have a disease that is triggered by them – because the mind will often crave what it can’t have
Plants are typically lower in calories than meat and processed foods so make sure that you are eating enough to feel satiated.
The fiber in a plant-based diet will keep food and waste moving smoothly through your system, and help eliminate constipation and diarrhea. But because eating plants is cleansing, the body may take some time to adjust. You might also find that some plants work better for you than others.
If you experience bloating or gas due to the increased amount of fiber, consider these tips: Try nut butters over whole nuts; eat more root vegetables instead of grains; eat more greens like kale and spinach over cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli; and try hemp hearts or pumpkin seeds over legumes such as black or pinto beans. Experiment and listen to your body.
Other benefits of a plant-based diet include: improved beneficial bacteria in the gut; reduced inflammation, risk of cancer and diabetes; lowered blood pressure; and potential weight loss.
Enjoy the rainbow on your plate.
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org