“You are what you eat”. The food we consume everyday serves as fuel to generate energy for our daily activities and also as building blocks to repair our body tissues and organs. However, the food we consume must be first broken down into smaller molecule of nutrients that is ready for the body to use.
The process in which ingested food is broken down into a form that can be absorbed and assimilated by the tissues of the body is called digestion. Some of the organs involved in digestion are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, gallbladder, pancreas and liver. Digestion includes the mechanical process of chewing, churning and grinding food with our teeth, as well as the chemical action of the digestive enzymes, gastric acid and bile acid.
Disorder of the Digestive System
There are a wide number of digestive system disorders. A few examples are given below:
1) Stomach ulcer
It is an open sore or lesion found on the mucous membrane lining the stomach. The lesion is caused by the damaging effect of pepsin and hydrochloric acid. Several factors involved in the development of stomach ulcer are infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), smoking, alcohol abuse, emotional stress and usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
2) Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a condition caused by the lack of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is secreted in the small intestine where it splits lactose into constituent sugars that can be absorbed by the small intestine. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk products. Common symptoms, which begin about 30 minutes to two hours after consuming foods or beverages containing lactose, may include nausea, cramps , bloating and diarrhoea.
3) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is an intestinal disorder defined as recurrent abdominal pain with bloating, painful constipation or diarrhoea which continue for years without causing any permanent harm to the intestine. IBS patient’s colon is more sensitive and reactive than others, causing strong response to even a mild stimulation that might not have effect on others. Emotional stress and anxiety have been identified as triggers for IBS.
4) Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine (colon), which can be found at the lower part of the digestive system. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, non cancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over long period of time, some of these polyps may become colon cancers. Some signs of colon cancer are change of bowel habits, blood in stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, feeling that bowel does not empty completely and unexplained weight loss.
Wellness Tips For a Healthy Digestive System
Consume a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains as they are an excellent source of fibre. Getting sufficient fibre helps in many conditions including constipation, haemorrhoids and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
> Restrict alcohol intake
Long term heavy drinking of alcohol inflicts a damaging effect to the digestive tract. It is a major cause of gastritis, ulcers, cirrhosis and liver damage.
> Restrict carbonated drink
Fizzy drinks introduce extra gas into the digestive system. This causes bloating in the upper digestive tract and abdominal discomfort. Plain water and fruit juices are better options.
> Eat on time
Eat on time, chew slowly and properly before swallowing the food for better digestion and nutrient absorption.
> Relax and manage your stress
When we are stressed, our digestive muscles become less efficient. Less digestive enzymes are secreted and the passage of food through the digestive tract will be slowed down which leads to constipation, heart burn and flatulence.
Apart from practicing a well balance nutrition intake, take supplements and avoid unhealthy habits such as alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking. All these will definitely give a great helping hand in strengthening your digestive system. A combination of recommended enzymes and fiber supplements are stated below: