Digestive Health



Food is any substance of animal or plant origin that is consumed for nutritional benefits. It also aids growth and is involved in the repair of cells. However the body cannot use the nutrients from food in
its natural form; it has to be broken down to simpler forms that are absorbable by the cells. The process of this breakdown is known as digestion. Digestion is carried out by the digestive system which comprises the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), pancreas, liver and gall bladder. Some parts of the nervous and circulatory systems as well as hormones play important roles in digestion. Some bacteria found in the GIT (normal flora) assist in digestion too.
When swallowed, food moves down to the stomach through the oesophagus with the aid of the peristaltic movements of muscles. From the stomach the digested food moves to the small intestine from which nutrients are absorbed to the blood stream. The waste products move to the large intestine where there is reabsorption of water and nutrients just before the waste product is passed out as a solid matter known as stool.
Digestion depends largely on the nature of the food and the time of consumption. While the enzymatic actions on some foods begin in the mouth, others start off in the stomach. The body clock also regulates when digestion starts and ends. Therefore there is need to exercise caution in what is eaten and time of eating. Unhealthy foods and wrong eating time have been observed to play major roles in the onset of various digestive disorders. These include colon cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, celiac diseases, haemorrhoids etcetera. Symptoms of digestive disorders range from bleeding, bloating, pain in tummy, constipation, incontinence, heartburn, nausea, vomiting etcetera.
To maintain the health of the digestive system, it is essential to take note of the following:
      ·         Eat high fibre diet: Such foods include whole wheat meals, nuts, fruits and vegetables etcetera.
      ·         Eat foods low in fats: Foods high in fats include fried foods and processed foods.
      ·         Stay hydrated: Water is the best option. 3L of water per day is recommended.
      ·         Exercise regularly: This encourages bowel movement as it helps to keep supply of blood to every region. It keeps the bowel moving: preventing constipation.
     ·         Manage stress: Inability to manage stress effectively can affect the digestive system.
     ·         Eat on schedule: Understand how your body clock functions and eat in line with the right timing for a meal. The body clock is the body’s internal mechanism that schedules periodic activities and functions.

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi
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