Just ask a bit around the office and one thing becomes clear: you are not the only one struggling with digestive issues. Be it bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or general abdominal pain, it seems that more and more people are battling these often inconvenient and embarrassing digestive issues. No one size fits all solution exists. There are, however, some general points of importance that we can apply to ensure our digestive system and gut stays in tip-top shape!
Drink it up, buttercup…
It is easy to forget that our bodies consist largely of water. In fact, 50 – 65% of our body composition consist of this life-giving fluid. When we are slightly dehydrated, our digestive system ensures that fluids are absorbed from food residue in the colon to maintain homeostasis. This leads to dry faecal matter and difficulty in passing stools, which presents itself as constipation. Water is also a lubricant for the peristaltic movement of food up until this point. How much water one must drink depends on the individual, but 30 ml for every kilogram you weigh is a good guideline. That is about 2 liters water daily or 8 cups of water. If you struggle to drink enough water, Click here for my top tips to drink more water.
… but slow down with the booze!
The body sees alcohol as a toxin and as soon as it arrives in the body, the body metabolizes it. Thus, it is directly absorbed in the blood stream. This is done via the stomach lining – this affects the acid secretion in the stomach which is responsible for balancing gut bacteria. There is an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria which can promote the movement of these bacteria to the small intestine, which can lead to diseases. The mucous lining of the stomach is compromised and this promote inflammation and the formation of stomach ulcers. Remember that the liver is also part of the digestive system. One role of the liver is to metabolize the waist products of alcohol. Excessive alcohol intake or abuse can lead to permanent liver damage. Be kind to your liver and stick to the general guideline of one unit alcohol per day.
Probiotics – friend or foe?
Probiotics are currently marketed as the solution of all of life’s problems. This does, however, not tell the whole picture. Current evidence illustrates that probiotics may be beneficial in certain specific conditions and GI related illnesses such as acute diarrhoea. Immune-compromised people and pregnant women should not be using probiotics. Probiotics are also not recommended for infants at this point in time. The quality of probiotic is also worth investigating, as not all probiotics were created equal. Discuss specific strains and requirements with your doctor.
The take-away run and your gut
Fast food does indeed influence the bacteria in your gut. With increase of take-aways, a decrease of the good bacteria in the intestine has been found, which not only influences the health of the GI tract but of your body as a whole. The sugars in these fast foods serves as the ideal breeding ground for bad micro-organisms to grow and the microbial balance to be disturbed. Fast foods are also mostly high in fat, which decreases the transit time of food through the digestive tract. This causes slower gastric emptying and increased gas formation, leading to bloating and abdominal pain.
Keeping it simple
Drinking sufficient water, increasing your fibre intake of both soluble (oats, certain fruit and vegetables) as well as insoluble fibre (bran, nuts, seeds), eating regular meals, controlling portions and reducing fat intake (especially from trans-fatty acids) can all go a long way to take care of your gut. Include some foods that naturally contains probiotics such as yoghurt and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut. Slow down with the coffee, drink in moderation and do not underestimate the relationship between emotional wellbeing and gut health. Taking care of your stress levels through exercise and meditation can all be tools in your toolbox to prevent your gut from acting up.
Here is to a happy gut!
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