Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine has stated that “All disease begin in the Gut”.
If the gut is healthy, so is the rest of the body. Generally, people understand that diet has an impact on their gut. However what we don’t realise is that our lifestyle can have an impact on the digestive health too!
In the human body, a healthy gut has primarily three functions - digestion of the food, absorption & distribution of nutrients and prevention of toxins from entering the body.
Many of us suffer from gut problems like indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric reflux, stomach upsets, constipation, diarrhoea, and excess wind or flatulence etc. Most times we ignore the symptoms and pass this off stating “this is normal” or “will pass away”, however to understand and address this we need to look at our digestion process.
The process of digestion begins in the mouth, where our teeth and tongue grind the food, enzymes in saliva help to chemically break it down, food then travels down a tube called the oesophagus or food pipe, it then enters the stomach, where it is mixed with gastric juices that contain enzymes and acid, the acid kills bacteria, and helps the enzymes to break down the food this then passes into the small intestine, where it is broken down into nutrients small enough to be absorbed into the body. Absorption takes place along the inner surface of the small intestine, which serve to increase the surface area across where the nutrients can be absorbed.
What causes the imbalance?
The reasons for a disturbed gut could be varied - Stress, drugs (antibiotics), excessive alcohol, unhealthy diets or even natural ageing process, the reason could be many causing gut discomfort.
Eating the right foods can help to keep the digestive system in good working order and prevent any digestive disorders.
So what are the right foods?
Include whole grain varieties of staple foods (rice, pasta, bread and cereals) in your daily diet; a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre helps the food transit through the digestive system more easily. It is good to start your day with wholegrain flakes or grainy muesli or even porridge, use wholemeal / whole grain bread and wholemeal rice or pasta for meals.
Beans, lentils or split peas are other food groups that benefit the gut, add these regularly in salads, meat dishes, or in casseroles. Add barley to homemade soups and stews.
Fruits and vegetables consist of both soluble and insoluble fibre, Five plus a day is ideal and where possible eat them raw or with skin on.
Dairy foods like yoghurt are beneficial to the gut and also add protein and calcium to your daily diet.
Remember the gut works 24 hour - round the clock, as long as the system is running smoothly...All is well. A well functioning gut helps us to resist disease and infection as this strengthens our immune system that is stimulated by intestinal bacteria.
So take notice of your ‘Gut Feeling’... Eat Right and Feel Great....till next time take care, be healthy and active.
This article is a general guideline ONLY, if you have any medical condition and for individual conditions you should consult a health professional or your medical practitioner immediately.
Varsha Asrani is a New Zealand Registered Dietitian. For personal consultation or any question, suggestion or views please email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.