The Digestive System – Common Ailments & Five Simple Ways to Help.
The digestive system is essentially a tube approximately 30 ft long, comprising of organs and glands that run from the mouth to the bottom. It carries out the task of breaking down the food we eat, absorbing nutrients and expelling waste products. It is at the core of our health and some common ailments that can arise include constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn/acid reflux, mouth ulcers and IBS.
Digestive disorders are common for many of us and can be caused by a number of different factors. These include infection, poor dietary choices and a lack of good gut bacteria, stress, smoking, drinking alcohol and drug interactions. For example, a course of antibiotics can affect the amount of good gut flora for several weeks, even after a short course. One study researching the effect of antibiotics on gut flora suggested that longer courses may affect the gut for up to two years. Another drug that can affect function of the gut is the overuse of antacids. Overuse of antacids can increase the alkalinity of the stomach, causing side effects such as stomach pains and diarrhoea, in some cases inhibiting the absorption of certain nutrients leading to poor nutrition.
So what simple steps can we take to help the functioning of our digestive tract?
Fibre – don’t just up your fibre intake, think about the types of fibre you are eating. For the bowel to function well it requires both soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is what we know as roughage, which adds bulk to the stool and is found in bran, whole grains and vegetables. Soluble fibre helps water uptake through the gut and is found in oat bran, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Stay hydrated – the digestive tract needs to stay moist to work well. This is why you should keep yourself well hydrated; sometimes when we feel hungry it may be because we are actually thirsty. So if you feel a bit peckish, try a glass of water first.
Chew thoroughly – the digestive process starts as soon as we put food in our mouths. Chewing stimulates the production of saliva which starts breaking down starches and sugars in the food we are chewing. Not chewing and gulping food down can make the digestion process harder further down the line.
Manage stress – stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones have the ability to raise the pulse and affect the digestive system causing symptoms of nausea, heartburn or stomach pain. Stress can also cause inflammation in the gut leading to conditions such as IBS or even an inability to properly digest nutrients.
Pre and Probiotics – adding probiotics to our diet can help improve levels of gut flora and help keep the digestive tract healthy. Prebiotics are essentially food for probiotics and can be found in onions, garlic, whole grains and artichokes. So if you are taking a probiotic supplement, it may also be worthwhile to include these foods in your diet to give the flora a boost.
Otus Live in Care can find a Live in carer who can help you maintain or achieve a healthy and balanced diet. A Personal Live in Carer can provide you with their time and experience , seven days a week. Live in Carers can be introduced to provide care in both the short or long term as well as respite care at home.
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