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World Digestive Health Day 2023: All about the gut

On the occasion of World Digestive Day, discover the importance of the gut and its implications on long-term health, along with measured steps to make a difference.

World Digestive Health Day 2023 All About the Gut
Image Credit: Jaz Bushell

The human digestive system is an enigma- an incredible world, a complex ecosystem within us. 

Facilitating digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, and replenishing the stores of vitamins and minerals in the human body, the gut quite literally does it all. It is no surprise then that the gut is called the second brain. Some even believe that the gut ‘talks back’ to the brain and its signals, therefore determining the way the brain processes information such as sounds, colors, textures, etc. 

Gut health is therefore the key to active, healthy living and sadly, the most overlooked. 

The theme of World Digestive Health Day 2023 is “ A Healthy Gut From the Start” which focuses on understanding the normal functions of the gastrointestinal tract and helps identify when to seek GI care for symptoms. 

World Digestive Health Day 2023: All about the gut

There are no ‘quick fixes’ to a healthy gut. It cannot be fixed by instantly reducing or increasing your calorie intake or adopting a new fad diet. It is a slow burn process that takes discretion, and the wisdom to apply exactly those lifestyle changes to your body and lifestyle. 

If the warning signs are ignored long enough, gut health can snowball into much more serious lifestyle diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, obesity, GERD (Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease); skin issues such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis; and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, to name a few. 

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Let us first look at the signs of an unhealthy gut:

1. Acidity, Gas, Bloating:

Food is medicine, but it can be redundant to eat healthy food if the gut bacteria is not at optimal levels.

A temporary change in lifestyle like a new work schedule, a vacation, or a wedding in the family call for late-night eating, skipping meals, or haphazard schedules. These do warrant the occasional digestive issues like burping, passing wind, constipation, or diarrhea. However, if these occur regularly, it signifies that the gut is not able to adequately process the food.

2. Poor sleep patterns:

Feeling sleepy right after a meal, instead of feeling energetic and fresh, is a red flag that most do not consider. Poor quality sleep at night with regularly occurring bad dreams also signifies that food is not digested well.

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3. Deficiencies: 

Having low levels of vitamins and minerals despite regular access to nutritious food is a warning sign of digestion not being optimal. In a scenario like this, supplement intake will only treat the symptom temporarily, but not the cause itself. 

4. Fatigue and falling sick frequently:

A low mood, lack of stamina, unwillingness to exercise or frequent infections/allergies also signify issues like lactose/gluten intolerance, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc. These are harder to detect but are almost always caused due to lifestyle problems. 

Some do’s for Gut Health: 

1. Eat small meals, frequently:

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The gut, especially a compromised gut will not physically be equipped to handle large amounts of food at once. Clogging the gut is overestimating its ability for absorption and sabotages timely digestion. 

2. Nutrient-dense foods for the win:

Nutrient-dense foods, with a higher nutrient-to-calorie ratio, like dry fruits, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables are imperative to overall health. These are naturally sourced powerhouses of nutrients when eaten at the right time in the right way.

For eg: Nuts and dry fruits are best eaten in the morning, i.e. soaked almonds or raisins for breakfast are the best way to start the day. 

3. Stress less:

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The impact of mental health on the digestive system is profound. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. The fight or flight mode gets activated when a human being is exposed to any danger- even stress. This hampers digestion and makes the gut even more sensitive to certain inflammatory foods.

4. Say NO to restrictive diets:

Any diet plan that overly focuses on the restriction or excessive intake of a food group like a high protein or low carb diet severely impacts the gut.

This is because the digestive tract needs a million different types of bacteria to digest food optimally, and excess bacteria of one type make the gut sensitive to other foods. 

A culturally diverse diet, where the gut is exposed to healthy but varied forms of food in a balanced way, helps the digestive system retain its strength, while also helping the expansion of the gut microbiome. 

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5. Identify your junk:

Processed foods, despite their labels, are devoid of nutrition and the preservatives in processed foods are highly inflammatory. These are difficult to digest, yet the gut receives no nutrition from them.

Regular intake of processed foods like biscuits, cereals, and fruit juices, which are usually deemed ‘healthy’ are often the most harmful because many underestimate the damage they can do.

This World Digestive Health Day, look into the less romantic but more rewarding aspects of healthy living. Take care of your gut and it will take care of you!

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Written By

While she was born in Mumbai and raised in the UAE, Atiya strongly believes she grew up in a completely different world - the World Wide Web, like many other Gen Zs. Rarely ever seen out of home and a hardcore introvert, Atiya reaches out to people via ink and paper. She strongly believes in very few things - one of them being the influence and power of the written word. When she's not writing, she's usually bookmarking fashion inspiration, reading, gardening, or working out.

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