Dr G Prakash
The digestive system is one of the most critical of our body systems. If it can’t digest the food properly and help the body absorb nutrients, then it is impossible to achieve good health. Improper digestion affects not only the gut, but also hormonal, immune and nervous systems. It is possible that our diet may be balanced, but if the gut is not functioning properly, then it will affect the body’s nutrient absorption, and consequently, its energy production.
If small intestine does not absorb nutrients, the liver cannot process these and turn these into useful energy for the body. Hippocrates, often regarded as father of western medicine, is believed to have said that ‘all disease begins in the gut’. He was not off the mark. A major portion of the body’s immune system resides in the gut, which is also known as the second brain of the body. It keeps track of the allergens and microbes that get into our system. If the digestive system is unhealthy, it makes us susceptible to immune dysfunction.
Medicines designed to moderate acid levels in our stomach to treat gastrointestinal conditions often end up making it worse, and limit the absorption of key nutrients like magnesium and calcium. If the digestive enzymes don’t do their job, the food we eat does not get broken down properly. The indigestion can lead to flatulence, bloating and fecal impaction.
Look after the digestive system
Our gut health is often disturbed by unhealthy eating and living habits and mental stress. Naturopathy seeks to address the underlying causes behind improper functioning of the body, taking into consideration physical, mental, social, genetic, environmental and other factors. Naturopathic physicians have a thorough understanding of how digestive wellness affects our overall health.
Here are some tips that will help us maintain a healthy digestive system:
1 Cut back on sweets, as well as fried and fatty foods. Fatty foods are one of the main reasons behind bloating. Fat slows down the process of emptying the stomach, which may result in increasing the sensation of fullness.
2 Do not overeat, and make sure to include plenty of fibre-rich vegetables, sprouts and fruits in the diet.
3 Chew food thoroughly while eating. Do not gulp down either food or liquids.
4 Avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, carbonated drinks and white flour.
5 Keep yourself hydrated; drink at least 3 litres of clear water every day. Dehydration slows down the lymphatic system and inhibits the removal of waste from the body.
6 Herbal teas are good for boosting digestive health. Chamomile, ginger, peppermint, green tea, dandelion root and lemon tea have been shown to aid in healthy digestion.
7 Drink two glasses of water when you wake up, followed by a cup of green tea with lemon juice. It will aid in good bowel movement, and help avoid constipation.
8 Avoid dairy products. Opt for soya milk and its products.
9 Reduce simple carbohydrates in the diet.
10 Avoid non-vegetarian food, refined oils, and fried items.
11 Do not eat if you are anxious, upset or in a hurry. Meal time should always be a relaxed occasion. Eating when you are stressed out or while watching TV can interfere with our digestion. Practice mindful eating.
12 Avoid consumption of tobacco in any form — smoking, chewing, snuff, zarda, or pan masala. Tobacco is responsible for some of the most common digestive disorders, like peptic ulcers, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Smoking also affects the liver’s ability to process alcohol, medications and other toxins, causing these to accumulate within your body.
13 Make sure to exercise daily. Take a brisk walk or practice yoga for at least 45 minutes daily.
14 Take four teaspoons of isabgol and a quarter tea spoon of ajwain with a cup of warm soya or skimmed milk before you go to bed.
Following these simple tips will promote good digestive health and aid optimal liver function. If you still face problems, then a naturopathic doctor can recommend a diet based on your needs and condition.
— The writer is deputy CMO, Jindal Naturecure Institute, Bengaluru.
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