Healthwise: Spring into Digestive Health

As the season begins to warm our winter-worn faces, many of us are thinking about overall lightening – from weather, to wardrobe, to diet – and now is as good a time as any to start thinking about digestive health.  As we welcome spring, a natural dietary shift occurs from chilies to salad; likewise, the good bacteria in the gut also change to better digest seasonal foods.

Healthy digestion is the cornerstone to the optimal functioning of so many of our organs and systems. Poor digestion leads to fatigue, acne, bloating, flatulence, eczema and nausea, among many other ailments. So what are the active measures to be taken against dysfunctional digestion? Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, sits down with me and discusses prevention and natural aids.


The role of probiotics is to break down sugars and regulate the PH level in the gut, while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. By taking a probiotic supplement, you can help build a protective layer on the intestinal wall. Jamieson’s Advanced 4-Strain is one that Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed recommends, although there are many brands and formulas from which to choose.

Many people nowadays look for their source of probiotics in yogurt. While true that this food does contain the microorganisms needed to break down food, the added sugar in such products actually negates the benefits because it destroys the good bacteria. Instead, take a supplement on an empty stomach. Or use prior to travel or flu season to prevent and/or treat diarrhea.

Digestive Enzymes

A digestive enzyme is a supplement you would take at the beginning of a meal that you may have difficulty digesting: for instance, when eating spicy foods, dairy products, or high levels of sugar. These enzymes help break down food into smaller blocks to facilitate the absorption of nutrients in the body. Certainly, keep them on hand if and when you plan to indulge!


Magnesium contributes to healthy digestion. It draws water into the bowel, acts as a natural softener and helps calm the nervous system. Dr. Kendall-Reed recommends a daily dose of magnesium for those who are prone to constipation.


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Nowadays, many people experience food intolerances, such as gluten sensitivities, mainly due to the genetically-modified foods that our systems recognize as a foreign body. We are simply not equipped with the necessary enzymes to digest genetically-modified foods. If you suspect a food sensitivity or intolerance, the simplest way to identify the culprit is to avoid the suspected food for one week and then heavily re-introduce it on one day to evaluate your system’s reaction.

According to Dr. Kendall-Reed, foods to consume only in moderation are dairy, soy, MSG and sugar. Instead, stick to non-processed foods.  By eating clean, you eliminate the need to read labels and can maintain a highly functional digestive system and enjoy overall health.

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