IntroductionDigestion is one of the most important functions our body carries out. In absence of effective digestion, our body will not be able to absorb all the essential nutrients required on daily basis to enjoy health at its best. Thus, maintaining our digestive health is very important to keep ourselves healthy. Simple healthy changes made in our diet and healthy life style keep our digestion healthy throughout the life. Unhealthy diet, inactive body, mental stress, too much travel, impure water are some of the causes which can really upset our digestive system. When digestive system upsets, it causes bloating, constipation, nausea and may also lead to diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome etc. Main function of our digestive system is to extract nutrients and water from the foods and fluids we consume and thus it is very important to take care of what we eat and drink to maintain our digestion as well as health.
Here are a few methods which will help to achieve good digestive health-
Eat fiber-rich FoodsTo maintain good digestive health, we should consume at least 20-25 gm of fiber in a day. Whole grains, wheat bran, fruits like apples, citrus fruits, figs, pears, vegetables like spinach, cauliflower etc are all rich in fiber. Increase fiber intake slowly as sudden increase will cause bloating, stomach cramps, gas etc and thus to prevent this, amount of fiber-rich foods in our diet should be increased gradually. Also, it prevents stomach cancer and esophageal cancer. Fiber makes sure that bowel functions properly, preventing constipation. It keeps stomach full and prevents binging on unhealthy foods and drinks. Both soluble and insoluble fibers should be consumed. Soluble fiber is found in beans and oats. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat. Both are essential for good health of digestive system and also for overall health. High fiber diet prevents diverticulosis, hemorrhoids as well as digestive condition known as irritable bowel system.
Increase intake of Fruits and Vegetables Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible from a broad spectrum of colorful ones cause different colors mean different nutrients content. To provide body with all the essential nutrients, it is better to choose all these colorful fruits and vegetables in some amount. Even dried fruits should be included in daily diet but in small amount. All these fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and minerals which provide lots of health benefits including improvement in digestive health. Also, as they contain fiber in abundant amount, working efficiency of digestive system too improves.
Eat on same time everyday All our meals and snacks should be consumed on same time every day and this schedule maintaining if done strictly keeps digestive system very efficient and in top shape. Always consume all the meals as well as snacks on regular schedule i.e., around same time everyday.
Adequate protein intakeProtein requirement of our body should be fulfilled as it is essential for our body and part of a balanced diet. Consume non-animal foods like soy, beans, nuts as they are rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats and there is presence of no cholesterol. Animal foods have saturated fats and cholesterol and thus even if it is consumed then make sure to eat lean meat and fish. Excess of fat in meat will slow down digestion and thus carefully select lean protein food sources.
Decrease fat intakeFats present in foods we consume are digested at a very slow rate. This results in constipation. However, it is an essential part of balanced diet and thus should be included in it, but we should not consume it in excess amount which can deteriorate digestive health causing overload on it. Always eat fatty foods along with those food stuffs which are high in fiber. This will facilitate easy digestion.
Incorporate Probiotics Our digestive tract has colonies of naturally present healthy bacteria and are known as probiotics. Their main function is to keep body healthy no matter how unhealthy we eat, combat the effects generated on taking antibiotics as well as those effects created when mental stress is high. They increase immunity. They increase efficiency of digestive system to absorb nutrients and water from the foods and fluids we consume. They help to break down lactose. Thus, we should try to increase their number by including foods in our diet which are good sources of probiotics and one of them is curd. Also, probiotic supplements can be taken to rebuild healthy bacteria.
Drink plenty of Water and other fluids For digestion to take place efficiently, adequate fluids intake is essential. One should drink water with every meal and also throughout the day which keeps body well hydrated at all the time. Even 100% fruit juices, decaffeinated herbal teas, green teas, vegetable juices, smoothies all help in hydration and efficient digestion. Fluids and water in digestive system tend to quickly dissolve fats along with fiber and also allows them to pass further down the digestive tract more easily.
Limit Alcohol and other addictions Alcohol is toxic, particularly to digestive health and thus should be avoided. Even if consumed then alcohol in moderation helps body to some extent when compared with heavy drinking. It causes inflammation and irritation to the lining of stomach which result in nausea and vomiting and all this worsens if no food is present in the stomach. Even smoking and tobacco consumed in other forms too does interfere with functioning of digestive system. These addictions increase acid production in stomach causing heart burn and also result in stomach ulcers.
Consume mindfully Eat slowly and stop eating when 80% full. Eat healthy and rather than eating two big meals in a day, eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Give more importance to nutritious food rather than binging on anything. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables and also carry them while going outside so that risk of unhealthy binging decreases. Too much eating will cause heart burn and also upsets stomach. Eat foods which are easy on digestive system rather than binging on those which creates excess of overload causing digestion to slow down.
Exercise Sphincter exercises and pelvic floor exercises help to improve bowel movements. At least for 30 minutes and for 5 times in a week, indulge in some physical exercise. It can be walking, swimming, jogging, breathing exercises, yoga etc. Exercise helps foods that we eat to constantly move through digestive tract.
Medication Antibiotics should be taken only when necessary. They are effective against bacteria and are not meant for viruses, but even then we continue to take them for treating common cold and flu caused by viruses. Every time we take them, we kill both good and bad bacteria in our digestive system. This all results in diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome as well as losing so much of good bacteria in our gut slows down working efficiency of our digestive system.
Adequate sleepSleep should be for adequate hours and regular because our digestive system too adapts according to it. It has a direct influence on our bowel habits. Our digestive system too needs rest and thus to provide adequate rest to digestive system and increase its working efficiency as well as to improve bowel habits, we need to get adequate hours of sleep daily.
Manage stressStress has a direct impact on our digestive system and thus managing it becomes very important. Every time stress builds up or tension prevails, take some time to calm down and relax. Stress either slows down or speeds up digestion. When we are under stress, muscles of digestive tract put up very little effort and digestive enzymes are secreted in negligible amount. This all will result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, ulcerative colitis and can also worsen peptic ulcer as excess of acid production takes place in stomach. Thus, avoid stress and use meditation to relax mind and body.
Treat infections and food allergiesPresence of any sort of infection, parasites, yeasts, bacteria in gut can retard digestive function. Until and unless these infections are not taken care of, proper digestion cannot take place. Even allergies caused by food can cause retarded digestion. Thus, it is better to go on elimination diet for some time. Go dairy free, cut out corn, soy, eggs and other food stuffs which are causing allergies to see whether there is any improvement in digestion related symptoms.
Heal gut lining and take digestive enzymesGut lining if inflamed or irritated causes inefficient digestion and thus healing and soothing should be done by nutrients like glutamine and zinc. As soon as healing occurs, digestive system will start functioning efficiently. Also, replenishing digestive enzymes in the body by taking them with food will facilitate better digestion, especially when we lack naturally occurring digestive enzymes in our gut.
ConclusionTo achieve overall vibrant health, good digestive health is mandatory. Inefficient digestion can be very well fixed by knowing the root cause beneath it. Elimination of cause itself will speed up healing process as well as making changes in the eating habits and lifestyle will further greatly improve digestion efficiency. Replace unhealthy diet with a healthy one. Avoid stress and practice relaxation techniques. Pay attention to the body and take care of what we eat, when we eat and how much we exercise. This will all create positive effects on health as well as digestive system.
Good article from the author. Eating nutritious and delicious food would be our target. But seldom do we give the thought for the digestive food which is good for our health too. As we get older, our digestive system also weakens and we should not try hard food. Especially the elders must not go for non-vegetarian food during the dinner. So better to have digestive food in little quantity so that our body metabolism should feel comfortable and accept it.