The hallmark of modern living can be summed up quite nicely with these words: So much to do, so little time. Work, play, family, friends, interests – these all call for our attention and we wholeheartedly embrace the challenges of juggling these many elements of our lives.
Between balancing our needs and finding the time to do so, other areas of our lives may end up short-changed, especially those that we deem not as important, especially meals.
Eating too fast or missing meals because we need to balance the demands on our time places unnecessary stress on our digestive system, and this can badly impact our health.
Heartburn, metabolic problems, heart disease, weight gain, indigestion, feeling bloated, stomach cramps – these are just some of the problems that could crop up if you do not take your time when you eat.
Tips for a better digestive health
To help prevent digestive problems, here’s what you can do:
♦ Chew properly: Thoroughly chew and swallow each bite before taking another bite. Taking smaller bites also helps you chew better.
♦ Drink enough water between meals: As a rule of thumb, you should consume two to three litres of fluids daily, from food and beverages (plain water is the best). This also depends on your age, gender, lifestyle, weather and condition (i.e. pregnant or breastfeeding).
♦ Increase fibre intake: Dietary fibre increases stool bulk and softens it, making it easier to pass. Other health benefits include controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels. Get your fibre from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and other legumes.
♦ More probiotics: Another main component of the digestive system is the gut microbiota, microorganisms serving various roles in the gut. For the gut to be at its optimum level, the gut microbiota needs to be a balance of good and bad bacteria. Consuming probiotics may help maintain the balance.
According to a study conducted by Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2018, regular consumption of live cultured milk drinks containing L. acidophilus and L. paracasei showed positive effects on the research subjects’ digestive health whereby their food digestion time from 20 to 45 hours was reduced by five to 15 hours, and they also showed improvements in constipation symptoms.
More clinical trials are ongoing worldwide to clarify the role and explore the potentials of probiotics.
♦ Beware of food sensitivities: Many people aren’t aware that they suffer from food sensitivities, thinking that their recurrent stomach-ache or bloating symptoms are just coincidental. These can affect digestion and nutrient absorption. Dairy products and grains are among the common causes. Consult an expert to detect possible offending foods and improve your digestion. Food sensitivity is different from food allergy.
♦ Practise mindful eating: This means paying attention to the way food is prepared and consumed. It makes you more aware of how your body is affected by your eating habit. It starts from buying your ingredients, so choose more natural produces and less processed foods. Appreciate the food on your table and try to savour the meal. Another way is to use small tableware to limit your portions. These habits help you to eat slower, which aids digestion.
Eating is not only to savour the taste of food and satisfy our hunger, but also to sustain ourselves with nutrients. However, we tend to forget that digestion is also part of the eating process after food disappears into our stomach.
This process is as important as choosing the food we eat. Having good digestion also ensures our body is properly nourished and stays healthy.
This article is courtesy of Digestive Health Malaysia (DHM) society and Vitagen Healthy Digestion Programme (VHDP), in conjunction with the World Digestive Health Day 2019 awareness campaign. Dato’ Dr Fitjerald Henry is a Consultant General Surgeon (Colorectal) and also a Council Member of Digestive Health Malaysia Society. He is not associated with, and does not endorse any brand or product. For more information, contact 03-5632 3301.
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