Why keeping your digestive system healthy is critical

Coach Jon
Fit To Post Health

Eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient exercise are crucial to maintaining a healthy digestive system. (Thinkstock photo)

Coach Jonathan Wong has a Doctorate of Science in Holistic Medicine and is the author of "The Happy Body - Getting to the root of YOUR fitness, health and productivity". He is also the founder and CEO of Genesis Gym Singapore (tm), which aims to provide the best personal training and fitness services in Singapore. The views expressed below are his own.

I recently wrote an article on "5 Awesome Things About Your Body" and was pleasantly surprised to see how happy some readers were to find out that our bodies are truly special.

If I were to add on to that article, the next "Awesome Thing" would probably be your digestive tract. It has incredibly difficult and important functions to perform. For example:

  • It has a big part to play in immune system function as it's total exposed area is about the size of a football field. Keeping it healthy will improve resistance to illness.
  • It has brain and mood functions as about 2/3 of your brain chemical are produced in the digestive tract. Keeping it healthy will improve mood and concentration.
  • It has digestive functions to break down and absorb food. This may sound "obvious" but think about how much heat is required to make a piece of chicken for example into "energy".
    You need to BBQ it at high heat for about an hour to turn it into charcoal for energy. Your digestive system does this at just above room temperature, using acid that is 3 MILLION times more acidic than the rest of your body (which is mostly alkaline). Keeping it healthy will improve nutrient absorption, reduce reflux and bloating, and reduce constipation.
  • It has detoxification functions. After all, where is bad stuff going to come out from? Poop is the preferred method for most toxins. Keeping it healthy reduces risks of disease made worse by toxicity -- these include cancer, diabetes, and hypertension.

Okay, so how do you know if your digestive system is working well? Below is part of a health history questionnaire given to all our personal training clients at Genesis Gym.

We do these questionnaires because we care about health as the No.1 priority, even before fat burning, or other fitness goals. If you are healthy it's a lot easier to achieve your goals, if you are not, then it's far more difficult and perhaps even impossible until you clear up underlying health conditions.

Give yourself a score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 for each statement in the sections below. Then total up the scores for each section. Use the guide below to give yourself the scores.

  • 0 - if you never have this problem
  • 1 - if you have this rarely
  • 2 - if you have this sometimes
  • 3 - if you have this often or always

Section 1:

  • Feeling that bowels do not empty completely
  • Lower abdominal pain relief by passing stool or gas
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Hard dry or small stool
  • Coated tongue or “fuzzy” debris on tongue
  • Pass large amount of foul smelling gas
  • More than three bowel movements daily
  • Do you use laxatives frequently

Section 2:

  • Excessive belching or burping
  • Gas immediately following a meal
  • Offensive breath
  • Difficult bowel movement
  • Sense of fullness during and after meals
  • Difficulty digesting fruits and vegetables
  • Undigested foods found in stool
  • Pass large amount of foul smelling gas
  • More than three bowel movements daily
  • Do you use laxatives frequently?

Section 3:

  • Stomach pain, burning or aching 1-4 hours after eating
  • Frequent use of antacids
  • Feeling hungry an hour or two after eating
  • Heartburn when lying down or bending forward
  • Temporary relief from antacids, food, milk, carbonation
  • Digestive problems subside with rest and relaxation
  • Heartburn due to spicy foods, chocolate, citrus, peppers, alcohol and caffeine

Section 4:

  • Roughage and fiber cause constipation
  • Indigestion and fullness lasts 2-4 hours after eating
  • Pain, tenderness, soreness on left side under ribcage
  • Excessive passage of gas
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Stool undigested, foul smelling, mucous like greasy or poorly formed
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Difficulty losing weight

Section 1 represents your colon, a score of less than 10 is ok, 11-20 is a moderate problem, and 21-30 means something is likely to be going wrong.

Section 2 represents your stomach, a score of less than 10 is ok, 11-20 is a moderate problem, and 21-30 means something is likely to be going wrong.

Section 3 also represents your stomach, a score of less than 7 is ok, 8-14 is a moderate problem, and 15-21 means something is likely to be going wrong.

Section 4 represents your small intestines, a score of less than 9 is ok, 10-18 is a moderate problem, and 19-27 means something is likely to be going wrong.

What are your scores?

If you score high in one or more of these sections, a trip to visit a health professional would probably be a good idea.

Because, if you get your digestion in shape, it is far easier for you to get in shape as well!

Coach Jonathan Wong has a Doctorate of Science in Holistic Medicine and is the author of "The Happy Body - Getting to the root of YOUR fitness, health and productivity". He is also the founder and CEO of Genesis Gym Singapore (tm), which aims to provide thebest personal training and fitness services in Singapore.