Have you woken up in the middle of the night due to a sharp pain in your abdomen? Do you constantly worry about the nagging pain that hits you around your belly button? Many of us suffer from bloating, belching, flatulence and trapped gas. The gnawing pain in your abdomen that keeps coming back, even at the wrong times, could well signal an unhealthy gut inside.
Apart from abdominal pain, hosts of other symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, lower and upper back pain could well point towards a disruption in the gastrointestinal microbiota or the microorganisms residing in our gut. Signs such as sleep disturbances, skin irritation, unintentional weight fluctuations and food intolerances stem from a poor gut that needs your long due attention.
Rather than blaming your better half for your poor food digestion or cursing your stars for another ‘no motion’ day, it is high time you considered what exactly is not right with the fauna or microbial ecosystem in your gut. Is the lack of fibre the only culprit for your poor gut health or are there some age-old eating habits that have taken a toll on your digestive health?
Foods that ruin your gut health and how to keep your gut healthy
First and foremost, let us understand what exactly goes wrong when we develop some habits that are hard to die. That cola next to your workstation, that stale bun in your refrigerator, the high calorie dessert binging in the night and fried snacks at every other evening get-together are enough to wreak havoc in your gut environment.
- High sugar food
- Your favourite Fast Food
- Too much fatty dairy
- Bacon, Steak and Tenderloin
- Too much refined
Obviously, you do not like the soggy oatmeal. It’s bland and uninteresting, right? And who cares about fibre in fruits and vegetables and please don’t get started about what all benefits we get from probiotic yogurt. That’s a myth, right? Well, not quite! Even though we might practically despise eating what is great for our gut, we can at least begin with eating what is good for it.
If there is anything positive and uplifting about the tragic Corona times of today, is that you finally have some awakening and time to invest in your health. You can carefully walk around your home (with distant hand gestures and smiles for your neighbours) and think about the best way to calm down that burning sensation in your belly. You need to focus really hard on your habits and the lack of the best food routine that can set the rhythm right for a healthy gut in the long run.
Gut trivia –
Our gut is home to 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria comprising nearly 2 million genes (the microbiome)
Some of the worst foods that you instantly need to remove from your daily diet to save you from ‘bad stomach days’ include but not limited to:
High sugar food – Eating a lot of sugar and sweet delights can lead to reduction in the level of good bacteria in your gut. High sugar content in our food such as high fructose corn syrup and processed desserts result in inflammation in the body and cause stomach problems.
Your favourite Fast Food (Greasy, Processed, Unhealthy, Empty Calories) – We all understand but seldom shy away from the junk food that literally spells junk. The amount of refined flour, unhealthy fat, preservatives, animal protein and harmful gluten leads to several stomach diseases over a due course of time. Hence, an occasional fast food break is permissible over regular binging.
Too much fatty dairy – People throughout the world swear by cheese and its many variants. And not just cheese, people love condensed milk, milk solids, fat-rich dairy such as yogurt and so on. While one can have skimmed milk and low-fat yogurt, a rich and creamy variety of dairy can do more harm than good to your digestion.
Bacon, Steak and Tenderloin – Many studies indicate that regular consumption of red meat tends to lower the amount of good microbes in the gut and increases the risks of colon and rectal cancer over a period of time. We know it and we need to limit the consumption starting today!
Too much refined – As discussed earlier, too much refined sugar, refined flour and even refined oil can harm the balance of microbes in your digestive tract. The ‘whites’ in your diet such as refined food including rice, bread, pasta, crackers, breakfast cereals, simple sugar etc. further result in sugar cravings that lead to more damage to your gut health and ph balance in your stomach.
Lest we forget, apart from our diet, our daily hygiene, senseless and uncontrolled antibiotic abuse, poor lifestyle and low physical activity also alter our intestinal microbiota.
So, what exactly is good for your gastrointestinal tract or the digestive system? How can you do the best for the number of organs such as mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum that form your digestive tract and system in the body?
Gut and Brain Go Hand-in-hand –
Gut has a direct relationship with our brain. Any form of changes or problem in the gut can impact the central nervous system in our body. Hence, you can recall your stress leading to an upset stomach.
Tips for maintaining a healthy gut
As discussed earlier, your proper gut health stems out from the right balance of the microbial state inside the body. Any form of imbalance in the microbe environment in the digestive system is referred to as dysbiosis. This condition can result in a number of digestive and overall health disorders and diseases. Some of the major health issues resulting from microbe imbalance in the gut include obesity, colorectal cancer, pancreatic disorders, high glucose level and cardiovascular diseases.
The gut has a direct relationship with the overall immune system of our body. The gut also comprises most of the endocrine glands that are responsible for hormone secretion in our body. Hence, it is critical to maintain a healthy gut.
Some of the best diet tips to ensure a healthy gut include:
- Eat more fibre – Fibre is an important dietary component that helps in good bowel movement. It also helps in ensuring that you feel fuller for long and you do not eat a lot of high calorie food. This further helps in checking cholesterol and sugar levels in the body.
It is advised to add a lot of salads, fruits and whole grains to your meals. Hence, you are in a better position to prevent serious digestive complications such as diabetes, bowel cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The best sources of fiber in diet are whole grains cereals, whole grain bread and pasta, fruits such as oranges and melons, vegetables such as sweetcorn, broccoli and carrot; pulses, beans, nuts and seeds. Oatmeal is your doctor’s favourite for people with frequent complaints of gastritis and bloating.
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables are crucial – The best way to enrich your diet with the right macronutrients is to add a bowl of fruits and vegetables to your platter. A mix and match of colourful seasonal veggies and fruits are nature’s best gift without the addition of any harmful chemicals or preservatives in them. Your gut bacteria stand to benefit from these types of food.
- Avoid unhealthy snacks – It is best to discourage your child against unhealthy snacking right from the beginning. No matter how much they crave for the burgers, pizzas, fries, tacos and hotdogs, instill the habit of eating fresh fruits or nuts as snacks instead. Unhealthy snacks promote gas-related problems and even bloating from an early age. Hence, it is important to choose healthy mid-meals or snacks over fatty foods, greasy micro-meals and desserts.
- Probiotics – More and more research is proving that probiotics are, in fact, beneficial for maintaining a proper balance in the microbial ecosystem of our gut. Probiotic supplement, drinks and food has helped even cure some of the gut-related issues.
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that are good for our digestive system. Hence, they help add the good or the helpful bacteria to your gut and keep it healthy.
- Yogurt and fermented foods – The goodness of yogurt and other fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar enrich your digestive tract with good bacteria. They help with good digestion, improving immunity and also maintain healthy weight. You can add the fermented foods such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut to your diet and boost your gut health.
Switching from a low-fat, plant-based balanced diet to a high-fat, high-sugar diet can change the bacterial content in your gut within 24 hours. Now, if you are planning that pizza party, hope you have already taken your dose of probiotics and have done enough running on the treadmill in the morning!
Lastly, a good mix of balanced nutritious food with a healthy, active lifestyle can do wonders for your gut. Start slow and pace up with a daily routine you can be proud of!