29th May is World Digestive Health Day, a global health awareness day, that draws attention to one of the most neglected organs of our body – the digestive system. Celebrated every year, it emphasizes the importance of our digestive system which not only breaks down food into nutrients, used by the body for energy, growth and cell repair, but being the largest immune organ of the human body, it also protects us from diseases and infections. It is referred to as the “Second brain of the body” because it houses the enteric nervous system and two third of the neurotransmitters. Therefore, the digestive system is considered to be the ringmaster of the human body, “which not only controls digestion but also our immunity, bowel movements, health and happiness”.
A survey conducted across 33 countries on 73,000 people estimated that almost 40% of the population suffered from digestive disorders. Yet another survey, on the digestive health of Indian families revealed that 56% of the Indian families have reported digestive health issues. This survey was conducted amongst 538 mothers, aged 25-45 years across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
A poorly functioning digestive system impacts quality of life, influences energy levels leading to fatigue and tiredness. Not only that, the accumulation of toxins in the body, increase risk of cancers especially stomach and colon cancer. Good digestion, on the other hand, helps the body to break down food and absorb all the essential nutrients that are needed to keep the body healthy. People with a healthy digestion are less likely to suffer problems such as constipation, diarrhea, acidity and bloating.
Therefore, there is a strong need to take care of your digestive health, which is possible by making simple changes to your lifestyle.
- Well Balanced Diet– Have a well – balanced diet, eat on time and avoid late night meals. Eat in a relaxed environment and focus on eating. Just eating.
- Mindful eating – Be mindful of what you eat – Sometimes when we are distracted, it is easy to eat too much, which often leads to indigestion and bloating. Be mindful of what you are eating. Avoid oily and spicy foods.
- Chew and Chew – Be sure to chew each mouthful of food thoroughly before swallowing. The act of chewing is often overlooked, but chewing produces saliva, and the longer you chew, the more saliva is made. Saliva helps start the digestive process in your mouth by breaking down some of the carbohydrates and fats in your meal.
- Hydration – Hydration is key. It is important to have enough water and keep oneself hydrated.
- Get Moving – Regular exercise is also important for digestive health. Exercise helps the food move down your digestive system. Taking a walk after a meal may be a good idea to give the digestive system a push.
- Probiotics as part of your daily diet – The addition of probiotics to a well – balanced diet will ensure that the digestive system is active and healthy for better absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins and harmful substances from the body. Probiotics also boost immunity by activating the immune cells of the intestine and reduce risk of infections.
- Healthy Fats – A healthy digestion requires good fats that not only help you feel satisfied after a meal but are also needed for proper absorption of nutrients.
- Say “No” to Stress – Stress has been linked to stomach ulcers, diarrhea, constipation and many other disorders. Stress hormones directly affect your digestion and influence it negatively. The gut and the brain are intricately linked – since your brain is affected, it will also impact your digestion.
- Say NO to bad habits – Bad habits like smoking,drinking too much alcohol, or eating late nights should be avoided as much as possible.
In the midst of this pandemic, there has been a surge in digestive problems because people have been confined to their homes. There has been an overconsumption of food, meals have become spicier and high in calories. Meal timings have been disturbed as people have struggled to keep up with their daily routine and sleep cycle.
It is time to get back on track and ensure that the digestive system is well looked after.
Like they say, A Happy Gut = A Happy You.