Happiness is having a Healthy Gut

“You are what you eat”. The make-up of our body and mental balance depends on the food we choose for ourselves. Hence it is very essential to choose wisely and smartly. What a smile does to the face, a healthy and balanced diet does to the body. A smile is the best make up for the face and eating healthy and right is the best make up for the mind and body.

 

Most of us eat in order to satisfy our hunger or taste buds. In this bargain, to satisfy just a small part of our body we forget paying attention to the entire body and its process, thereby inviting ill health. A general health and well-being to a large extent depends on what you feed or provide your body and mind with, in short, it depends on your nutritional status and quality. A healthy diet is a balanced diet of protein, unsaturated fat, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit, all of which are low in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

Food is extremely essential for life, right from conception to the last breath. Not only does it help provide relief from hunger but it also provides the body with abundant nutrients which are important for life and functioning of the body. Hence it is very essential to eat right at every stage of life. Faulty eating is like inviting health issues and problems for your body. It hinders the body and mind from functioning well. A famous quote goes by saying- “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness”, holds quite true.

 

As said diet forms a very important part of dealing with these conditions, because if we are to simply treat with medicines, and the faulty diet were still to continue, the system would stand no chance of correcting its imbalance.  Let us see how a few most common gastric ailments can be tackled with a healthy diet.

 

ACIDITY/ HEARTBURN

It is a very common condition seen amongst the population these days and usually occurs as a result of acid reflux from the stomach into the oesophagus. Symptoms experienced by an individual suffering from this condition usually include burning pain in the chest, tightness in the chest region, regurgitation of sour, bitter acid in the mouth, sour eructations, nausea etc.

 

Foods that can pose to be potential trigger for this condition include

  • Beverages such as tea, coffee, alcohol and carbonated drinks

  • Highly spiced and seasoned food- to a large extent they affect the acid levels of the stomach giving rise to easy reflux of acids in to the oesophagus

  • Fried and oily food

  • Certain medications like painkillers and aspirin

Eating irregular meals, faulty dietary habits, sleeping immediately after meal and consuming large quantity of meals in addition to the above mentioned foodstuffs often give rise to reflux causing acidity or heartburn.

One can tackle this condition by correcting their dietary habits, eating at regular intervals, consuming food with high pH content. Foods with high pH content have less acid as a result of which the symptom intensity decreases causing less distress.

 

Lifestyle and dietary tips to combat acidity include-

  • Consumption of foods with low to moderate levels of spices in accordance with the intensity of symptoms.

  • Eating small and frequent meals effectively, which help in balancing the acid secretions in the stomach.

  • Drinking water before meals helps dilute the acid present in the empty stomach.

  • Losing weight in obese individuals to a large extent helps reduce the symptoms.

  • Avoid going to bed immediately after consuming food.

  • Foods that help combat this condition include- oats being rich in fibre and easy to digest, green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green peas etc., lean portions of poultry and meat, lemon juice, fruits which are less in acid content such as banana, watermelon and cucumber, coconut water, ginger, drinking milk especially before bedtime helps control the night time rise of acid levels.

 

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Irritable bowel syndrome is yet another very common condition seen amongst the population all over the world. Medications and dietary changes most of the times help tackle this condition efficiently.

Potential triggers for IBS include-

  • Milk and dairy products

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Fatty and fried foodstuffs

  • Caffeine containing beverages like coffee and drinks

  • Sweets

  • Certain types or groups of medicines especially when continued for a long time

  • Smoking

These triggers often vary person to person. Emotional stress and various life events, often is a major trigger commonly found in many individuals.

 

Foods that can help control and alleviate the symptoms of IBS include-

  • Fibre- increasing the fibre content in the diet, helps increase the roughage that is essential for stools to be formed and to be expelled easily. Foods with high fibre content include whole grain breads, cereals, fruits- fresh and dry, barley, oats, lentils, nuts, brown rice, and soyabean.

  • Increase water intake along with an increase in the fibre content helps easy passage and evacuation of stool from the rectum.

  • One must avoid specific foods which make his/her complaints worse, which varies from person to person.

  • Probiotics- they contain healthy and gut friendly bacteria that can help alleviate the symptoms. They are usually available as probiotic supplements. Probiotic curd, buttermilk and juices too are available in the markets now-a-days.

 

Lifestyle modifications include-

  • Exercise- Any form of physical exercise definitely goes a long in curing various health issues, IBS being one of them. Walking, which is the most common and easiest form of physical exercise can help alleviate the associated symptoms to a large extent. Yoga and meditation are other forms of exercise that too can help control this condition.

  • One must consume small and frequent meals throughout the day, as compared to few and large meals. Eating small quantity at frequent intervals helps improve digestion resulting in easy formation and passage of stools.

  • Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages along with meals which cause disturbance in digestion.

  • Sleep - there is a very famous saying by Thomas Dekker, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. In order to maintain a good health and function efficiently it is very essential to sleep adequately. Sleeping for 8-10 hours daily, helps stay healthy.  Emotional stress and events- Our body and mind together form one entity. They perform together in harmony and inter-dependence. In today’s world no one is free of stress. One cannot escape stressful situations, but one can change his/her outlook towards it and deal with it efficiently.

 

CONSTIPATION

Constipation is regarded as a very common health issue, affecting people of all ages all over the world. Every person some time or the else develops this condition in his/her lifetime, but when it occurs very frequently or persists for a longer time, it can prove to be very distressing and troublesome. Passing hard and insufficient stools often makes a person feel constipated. Decreased fibre content, decreased water content, irregular and faulty dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, stress etc. are few of the common causes which giving rise to symptoms of constipation. Dietary corrections along with lifestyle modifications and suitable medications often help tackle this condition with ease.

 

Foods that help combat and ease the symptoms associated with constipation include-

  • Prunes- they are high in insoluble fibre and a natural laxative called sorbitol, the combination of which makes it very desirable to opt out for individuals suffering from constipation.

  • Beans-they have high fibre content, almost twice more than vegetables. So it is advisable to have baked beans, pinto beans, kidney beans except if asked to avoid by the doctor.

  • Fruits like kiwi, berries, banana, apples etc. are high on fibre and low on calorie count. They are relishing and easy to digest.

  • Dry fruits such as dates, raisins, figs and apricots etc. are another great source of fibre which helps alleviate constipation blues. Along with dietary fibre it they contain sorbitol which acts as a natural laxative. The fibre content helps retain water which makes the stool soft leading to easy evacuation.

  • Whole wheat grain bread - It is high in dietary fibre content and complex carbohydrates and low in fat, ideal for overcoming constipation.

  • Breakfast cereals like cornflakes, oats and muesli also have a high fibre content which is ideal to be included in the breakfast.

  • Salads play an integral role in providing roughage and bulk to the stool. Consuming a bowl of salad with meals helps reduce the discomfort to a large extent. Carrots, cucumber, salad leaves, radish can be mixed with salad dressings to enhance the taste.

 

PILES

Also known as Haemorrhoids is a painful condition as compared to constipation. Infrequent bowel movements and chronic constipation with poor muscle and sphincter tone often gives rise to this painful condition called piles. Frequent straining at stools in the long run causes weakness of the muscle tone leading to Piles. Some individuals may also complain of episodes of bleeding while passing stools. Improper diet with low fibre content, inadequate water content, irregular and faulty dietary habits to a large extent contribute to give rise to this condition along with other trigger factors such as bowel disorders, strenuous work, prolonged episodes of standing, obesity, hereditary, prolonged and frequent episodes of anxiety, stress and tention.

 

Dietary modifications that help ease this condition are-

  • Include foods (vegetables and fruits) rich in dietary fibre (mentioned above).

  • Maintain adequate hydration by consuming 6-8 glasses of water daily.

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages

  • Include low fat milk and dairy products.

Along with this, following regular exercise and avoiding straining at stools too can help alleviate the associated symptoms of Piles.

Having a healthy and balanced diet helps treat and prevent gastric disorders.

As quoted by Ed Northstrum, “It’s no coincidence that four of the six letters in health are HEAL”. Therefore heal yourself and walk towards health by eating healthy and wisely.

(this article has been featured in theothersong clinic newsletter H!)