Top 5 ways to protect your digestive system and stay healthy

True prevention is not waiting for bad things to happen, it’s preventing things from happening in the first place

Don McPherson

Are you already on the journey to protect your health and well being? Are you a runner? What are you preparing for? a 5k or a 10k race? marathon? or ultramarathon? or even triathlon? Regardless of which sport you play or how you are planning to improve your overall health and athletic performance, your eating habits are going to affect your long term health and wellness or even sports performance.

Mindful eating [1]Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat advocates when you eat, how you eat & where you eat followed by what you eat, how much you eat, and asking a tough question where the energy from the food will be utilized.

Our digestive tract is a complex long hollow tube that begins in the mouth and ends at the anus [2]Understanding our digestive system. As the food travels through the long digestive system the nutrients contained in the food are extracted in the digestive system.

How can you safeguard and protect this complex system, prevent health issues?

  1. Mouth: We chew food in the mouth to grind the food into tiny pieces and increase the surface area. The chemicals in our saliva further break down the food and the digestive process begins right at our mouth. Healthy teeth & gums are vital for this purpose. Tooth decay and gum erosion are common problems that we face if they are not taken care of.
    • Protect your mouth: Gently brush & floss the teeth regularly, stay away from chewing tobacco or smoking, eat a balanced diet, and visit a dentist for oral hygiene maintenance at least once a year.
  2. Food pipe: Once the food is ground by our mouth (also called the mechanical grinding) the food travels to the stomach through a long pipe in the digestive tract. Some experience an odd problem of the contents of the stomach coming back in the food pipe causing heartburn [3]Acid reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) . The backward movement can cause a lot of irritation in the food pipe, and can also affect the vocal cords. Changes in the food pipe lining can increase the chance of cancer [4]Esophageal Cancer Risk Factors
    • Protect your food pipe Always sit while eating and wait for an hour before lying down.
  3. Stomach: Our stomach receives the food from the mouth and churns it. The stomach secretes digestive juices, a mixture of acids and enzymes enhancing the process of digestion. Food generally stays here for 2 hrs.
    • Protect your stomach: Protecting your stomach starts from the mouth. Chew the food thoroughly and making it a complete paste before pushing it down the throat. Keep your mind calm & listen to soft music and sit in a calm and relaxing environment. Postpone eating if you do not have time or if you are in a hurry to go somewhere. Follow a strict eating discipline, time to eat the food, and eat a clean diet with high-fiber food including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes [5]5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion. Minimize or avoid consumption of fried and fatty food and, adding probiotics helps in increasing the healthy bacteria count in our stomach aiding the digestion. Regular exercise ensures the food is properly moving through your digestive tract.
  4. Small Intestine or gut: Once the food leaves the stomach, it entered the small intestine or gut, which is the primary site of digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body. The health of the gut determines the level of nutrients absorption. Since the gut has several living organisms the immune system must be protected.
    • Protect your small intestine: Eat food rich in a high fiber, low sugar and in general eat all naturally available food (avoid food processed factories). Control the medication intake and consult with your doctor to understand the side effects of the medication on your digestive system. Lead a stress-free life since stress can affect your gut. [6]Stress effects on the body
  5. Large intestine or colon: All the nutrients that are not broken down in the gut now enter the large intestine (also called the colon). The large intestine contains microflora bacteria that help keep the colon healthy. The colon absorbs vitamins and also compacts the fecal matter in the rectum.
    • Protect your large intestine: Improve your bathroom habits by eating food high in soluble (beans, oats, brown rice, whole fruits, sweet potatoes) and insoluble fibers (wheat bran, whole grains, seeds, skins of many vegetable and fruits). Start your day with fiber, eat fruits instead of a sugary dessert or fruit juice, replace white rice, bread, pasta with brown rice, and whole-grain products, and flaxseed [7]High Fiber Foods and their benefits

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