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10 tips for better digestive health

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Gut bacteria helps keep the immune system healthy, says Dr Roy Patankar

The gut and stomach play an important role in maintaining overall health of the body. The gut helps other organs to stay healthy as the good bacteria within the stomach help in digestion by breaking down carbohydrates into small chain fatty acids that promote its absorption.

In the absence of good bacteria, carbohydrate breakdown stops and can lead to diarrhea. This makes it essential to consume a balanced diet which includes enough fruits, vegetables, curds and fermented foods.

Ensure that you maintain a balanced diet at all times. As antibiotics are not able to figure the appropriate bacteria to kill, they end up harming some of the good bacteria. This has a huge impact on the gut bacteria and affects the immunity system as well.

In certain countries in the western world, fecal transplantation has been introduced to balance out bacteria in the gut. This has been getting a good response in other countries; however within a few years it will hopefully be introduced within India as well.

Homemade yogurt is the best remedy to generate probiotics; it has protective bacteria that helps improve the gut. There are no food items that can help bacteria to foster. However, oral antibiotics, surgeries or chemotherapy can lead to a reduced number of good bacteria in the stomach or gut.

Our digestive health is directly impacted by the foods we eat and the lifestyle we live. By taking steps to improve your digestive health, you'll help your digestive system function more efficiently, improving your overall health and sense of well-being. Regular consumption of a balanced diet helps to maintain the flora in the gut which helps in maintaining good health.

Try these 10 tips for better digestive health

1 Eat a high-fibre diet. A high-fibre diet helps to keep food moving through your digestive tract, making you less likely to get constipated. Such a diet can also help you prevent or treat various digestive conditions, such as diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, it can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

2 Get both insoluble and soluble fibre. It's important to consume both types of fibre, since they help your digestive system in different ways. Insoluble fibre, also known as roughage, can't be digested by the body and therefore helps add bulk to the stools.  Soluble fibre draws in water and can help prevent stools that are too watery. Good sources of insoluble fibre include wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains; get soluble fibre from oat bran, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

3 Incorporate probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are the same kind of healthy bacteria naturally present in your digestive tract. They help keep the body healthy by combating the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress. In addition, probiotics can enhance nutrient absorption, may help break down lactose, strengthen your immune system, and possibly even help treat IBS. It is recommended that people eat good sources of probiotics, such as low-fat yogurt or kefir, on a daily basis.

4 Limit foods that are high in fat. In general, fatty foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making you prone to constipation. But since it's important to get some fat in your diet, it’s said that pairing fatty foods with high-fibre foods can make them easier on your digestive system.

5 Choose lean meats. Protein is an essential part of a healthful diet, but fatty cuts of meat can lead to uncomfortable digestion. When you eat meat, select lean cuts, such as pork loin and skinless poultry.

6 Eat on schedule. Consuming your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system in top shape. Aim to sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks around the same time each day.

7 Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is good for your digestive health. Fibre pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to pass through more easily.

8 Skip the bad habits… smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol. Liquor, coffee, and cigarettes can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system, and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn.

9 Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation. Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is good for your digestive health. Make it a point to work regular exercise into your weekly schedule.

10 Manage stress. Too much stress or anxiety can cause your digestive system to go into overdrive, according to Adams. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis.

Dr Roy Patankar is a Gastroenterologist and Director, Zen Hospital

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