World Digestive Health Day is celebrated every year on May 29. The day aims to raise awareness about digestive health and its importance. A healthy gut can improve our moods, energy levels, and even our immune system.
This World Digestive Health Day, we will discuss why gut health is important, common digestive issues you may experience, and how to nurture a healthy gut.
Why Is Gut Health Important?
The gastrointestinal tract, commonly known as the gut, performs the vital functions of breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. However, its functions go far beyond this. Recent research has shown that the gut is also home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microorganisms are vital in maintaining a healthy gut and overall well-being.
The gut microbiota is essential for proper immune function, as it helps regulate the immune system and fight harmful pathogens. In addition, the gut microbiota produces vitamins and other essential nutrients, such as short-chain fatty acids, that the body cannot produce on its own. It also helps to break down dietary fibre, which is important for maintaining healthy bowel movements.
Furthermore, recent research has highlighted the gut-brain axis, which refers to the communication between the gut and the brain. This communication helps regulate moods, appetite, and even cognitive functions. In fact, the gut is often referred to as the “second brain” due to its ability to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which improve moods.
On the other hand, an unhealthy gut can lead to various health problems, including chronic inflammation, obesity, and even mental health issues. Various factors, such as an unbalanced diet, stress and lack of exercise, can cause poor gut health.
What Are Common Digestive Issues I Should Be Aware Of?
There are several common digestive issues that you should be on the lookout for, including:
Indigestion: This is a feeling of discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen after eating. It can be caused by overeating, eating too quickly, or consuming spicy or fatty foods.
Constipation: This is a condition where bowel movements become less frequent, and stools become hard and difficult to pass. It can be caused by a lack of fibre in the diet, dehydration, or certain medications.
Bloating: Feeling fullness or tightness in the abdomen. It can be caused by overeating, gas, or certain medical conditions.
GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, causing heartburn, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. It can be caused by a weakened lower oesophagal sphincter, obesity, or pregnancy.
Diarrhoea: This is a condition where bowel movements become loose and watery. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, food intolerances, or certain medications.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This chronic condition affects the large intestine and can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements. It is often triggered by stress or certain foods.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Chronic conditions that cause inflammation in the digestive tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and weight loss.
Other less common digestive issues include celiac disease and diverticulitis. Consult a doctor if you experience persistent digestive issues, as they can indicate a more serious underlying condition.
How Can I Nurture A Healthy Gut?
Start improving your gut health with the following tips:
Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fibre and nutrients is essential for a healthy gut. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in your diet.
Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water improves digestion and gut health.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise helps to promote healthy digestion and can reduce stress, which is a common trigger for digestive issues.
Reduce stress: Chronic stress can lead to inflammation in the gut, which can cause digestive issues. Finding ways to manage stress, such as meditation or yoga, can help to promote a healthy gut.
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the gut lining and lead to inflammation.
Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and can help to reduce stress and promote healthy digestion.
Take probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for gut health. They can be found in foods like yoghurt and tempeh or taken as supplements.
Limit processed foods and sugar: Processed foods and foods high in sugar can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to inflammation.
Consider food intolerances: If you have digestive issues, consider whether you have any food intolerances or sensitivities. Common intolerances include lactose and gluten.
What Are Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut?
Symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, or changes in bowel habits may be signs of an unhealthy gut. Other symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, and skin problems.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, consult a specialist or a gastrointestinal doctor for advice.
Taking care of your gut is crucial for your overall health and well-being. It is important to be aware of common digestive issues, make lifestyle changes to promote gut health and seek medical attention if necessary.
At G&L Clinic, Dr Ganesh specialises in diagnosing and treating various gastro conditions, including acid reflux, IBS, and IBD. He can perform tests such as Upper GI Endoscopy (Gastroscopy), colonoscopy, and breath tests to identify the root cause of your digestive issues.
Contact our clinic for advice if you suspect or are experiencing digestive problems.