Good Gut: Happy Gut

Gut health is important, for the health of the body starts with the gut to help reduce the risk of conditions like bowel cancer, constipation. The food you consume is broken down to fats, proteins, and simple carbohydrates in the gut and it is obvious that gut should always be in good condition to function efficiently to process the food that is consumed.

The problems in the digestive tract could be the one that affects the rest of your body and indirectly contributing to the symptoms like, a feeling of unwell, bloating, wind, pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite.

Dieting, avoiding entire food groups in the name of weight reduction will sabotage your gut health. Human gut often referred to as the “Second Brain.” When your gut is upset, your brain struggles, naturally!

When the gut health is affected, for example when the gut is unable to produce sufficient enzyme, the food will not be digested completely. The undigested food particles will then reach the bloodstream that causes inflammation.  Environmental toxins consumed through food will damage the villi, specialized for the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Craving for sweets can mean you have an imbalance of gut bacteria. Overgrowth of yeast in the system results when good bacteria are wiped of the intestine especially after a course or two of antibiotics.

When your gut is healthy, the rest of your organs will come into alignment better. So eating right will make sure that your gut is getting what it needs and function efficiently. It is true that the quality of food you eat affects your quality of life and energy production.

Tips to improve gut health

  • Healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients always begins with a simple act of chewing the food. Chewing is the preliminary process of proper digestion. If food is not chewed properly, the digestion process is going to be much harder, later in the gut.
  • A mix of raw and cooked vegetables will enhance the digestive health. Enzymes in the raw food plays major role in digestion of food and healing & detoxing of the intestine as well. Balanced food along with physical activity will help eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Drink enough water, which is essential for a normal bowel function. Think twice before grabbing fizzy drink or juice. Soda and too much coffee too, will lead to dehydration and sap out your energy, as well.
  • Fiber-rich foods keeps you full for longer and also help in digestion. Soluble fiber slows digestion and help absorb the nutrients efficiently. Cereal fibers resist digestion and retain water which act as highly effective laxative.
  • Gut microbiota contains trillion of microorganisms, both good and bad. Consuming foods with probiotic strains (lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) will help maintain a healthy gut.

Can you believe that gut imbalance of the microbiota triggers depressive symptom! You should always see that your gut eco system is in a balanced state because the harmful bacteria in the intestine will produce toxic by-products that lowers serotonin levels, causing depression. Serotonin, an important chemical neurotransmitter is produced in the brain and gut. About 80-90% of the serotonin is produced in the gut and it is the chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance.  The friendly bacteria will block the harmful microbes from setting up camp in the gut.

Gut- friendly bacteria regulates digestion and metabolism. They extract and produce vitamins and other nutrients through the food we eat, every day.  When you take probiotic, the amount of friendly bacteria increases in the intestine that help in boosting the body’s immune system. 

To balance the good and bad bacteria in the intestine it is crucial that you consume probiotic rich food every day. Fermented food like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, naturally contain probiotics that help maintain a healthy gut.

Pistachios, bananas, plantain, onions, garlic, oats, quinoa, millet and chia seeds are prebiotic foods that help increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Swap out refined foods for whole grains, plants, fruits, seeds and nuts for a good gut health.

 

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Burn excess calories: Avoid heart burn!

An occasional acid reflux is common and everyone of us experience it from time to time!

But frequent acid reflux that is involved with large amount of acid becomes a problem. GERD,  Gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a more severe form of acid reflux.  

No worries……… Lifestyle changes help control GERD.

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Eating smaller meals and identifying and avoiding the foods that causes heart burns like: tomato sauce, alcohol, fatty or fried foods, chocolates, garlic, mint, onion and caffeine, will help prevent acid reflux and live symptoms free!

To curb the heartburn, it is wise to design your meals with naturally low- stomach acid producing food, that is, the food that prevents the excess stomach acid secretion and the splash up of the same into the esophagus!

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Banana & Apples are very effective in controlling the acid reflux. If taken along with the meal the soluble fiber and vitamins & minerals help digest the food and absorb the nutrients effectively. Honey dew, berries, peaches and cantaloupe are also aids in stomach-acid, that help control the heart burn.

Banana is kids friendly. You can make a healthy, delicious banana and egg pancakes in few minutes.

Mash a banana with dinner fork. Whisk an egg and add it to the mashed banana. Mix well until the banana and egg is completely combined. The batter has no flour, so it will be very loose and liquid. Drop roughly 2-3 tablespoon of the batter to a hot non-stick pan and cook well on both sides until it is done. Top the pancakes with a honey!

Yogurt

Bacterial overgrowth, a major factor in heartburn. Probiotics are effective in reducing the harmful bacteria in the gut. Restoring a healthy balance of intestinal flora is an important aspect of GERD prevention cum treatment. Yogurt, a natural buffer! It contains milk proteins and collidal salts which prossess both acid and base properties that act as buffering agents!

How about a salad with yogurt for lunch? Mix cubed chicken, cubed honeydew melon cubes in a bowl and yogurt with a pinch of salt and pepper. Enjoy this colorful and nutrients densed salad with brown rice and green bean for lunch!

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Fruits

All kind of fruits, esp. apples, berries, bananas, peaches, pears, papaya, pineapple will help during treatment and of course for the prevention of GERD

Peach almond smoothie is more refreshing and packed with nutrients.

Just whirl 2½ cup of peaches with 2 cups of soymilk and a handful of soaked almonds with a tablespoon of honey. Enjoy with your partner as a summer refresh!

Vegetables

All kinds of dark green vegetables, roots (except onions) and greens are good sources of vitamins & minerals and fibers that help control acid reflux. Steaming and baking are highly recommended to reap the benefits of these vegetables. The fibers will help you keep full for longer time and will keep your intestines less irritant. Vegetables can be enjoyed both in raw and cooked forms. If suffering from heart burns or GERD, avoid tomatoes, onions and lemon dressings.

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Whole grains

Whole grains are rich in both macro & micro nutrients and fibers. They help control the insulin spike with the slow release of sugar into the blood. The fibers keeps you full for a longer time. See that the food is not cooked with more fat because fats tend to increase the acid reflux.

Oatmeal, a soft start in the morning doesn’t cause reflux. It is more filling and the soluble fiber in the oats help control the cholesterol absorption too! How about whipped banana with oats for morining breakfast. Puree half a banana in the food processer until soft, creamy and fluffy, stir it to the cooked oats and top it with baked almonds. Thats’ it! The non-dairy but healthy breakfast is ready!

Other best breakfast options are whole meal bread egg sandwich, chappati with dhal or vegetable sabji, Seashell pasta and bean (black bean, corn kernel) soup, noodle soup with vegetable and egg or fish.

Fish

Fish is an excellent source of protein, that help prevent acid reflux. Baked or steamed fish or sliced fish soup with just pepper with less spices will help avoid acid reflux. If you are already suffering from GERD, it is wise to  avoid spices that supports the reflux and say a “NO” to smoked fish for it delivers a hefty dose of sodium and a possible growth-site of Listeria bacteria, too! Excess harmful bacteria in the gut will increase the acid reflux. Why take risk? Just enjoy the steamed or baked fish with pan roasted vegetables like asparagus, mushrooms , peas and bell peppers.

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Chicken

Skinless chicken especially the breast with less fat when compared to the other parts of the bird will help reduce the heart burn. Lesser the spices lower the acid effects!

Greesy fried foods, succulent rib-eye steak, yummy chicken wings, and cheese will worsen the acid reflux symptoms. So, be on guard….

Camomile tea and  Green tea

Caffeine rich coffee, tea and sodas will aggravate the acid reflux condition. It doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up coffee. It is as simple as watching the portion size. Guzzling the coffee or tea all day long will result in severe heart burn. Rather, switching to non-caffeine tea like camomile or green tea, will help you to avoid acid reflux and feel more relaxed.

green tea HTN

Maintain your weight

Obesity will lead to increased reflux! Wondering what is the connection between obesity and GERD? Studies have shown that excess body weight and increased belly size may cause heartburn, for the excess belly fat causes pressure on the stomach. Sounds logic!

Watch out! Greezy fried foods, succulent rib-eye steak, yummy chicken wings, cheese will worsen the acid reflux symptoms. So, eat the right food for your body to work properly and help burn the fat efficiently.

Stop using the tobacco, no matter what form it is in, for nicotine weakens the lower esophageal muscle.

Recommendations on how to manage GERD

  • Decrease total fat intake
  • Eat frequent small meals
  • Identify the irritants and avoid them
  • Limit the spices
  • Decrease caloric intake if weight loss is required.

References:

http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/gerd_diet.html

http://gicare.com/diets/gerd/

El-Serag, H. (2008). The Association Between Obesity and GERD: A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence. Digestive Diseases and Sciences53(9), 2307–2312. doi:10.1007/s10620-008-0413-9

Rescue from Lactose Intolerance

There are various intolerances in existence like gluten, lactose, yeast, and fructose intolerance.

Many of us suffer from some form of these intolerances, but very few of us are aware of the intolerance to specific foods and carry on as normal.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Though it is common in adults, it is not dangerous.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance often occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking milk products.   Abdominal bloating & cramps, diarrhea, nausea are common symptoms of Lactose intolerance.

Dairy modification

Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in the diet. Therefore, decreasing the dairy products from the diet, usually improves the symptoms.

Some dairy products that are easier to digest:

  • Butter milk, yogurt, aged & hard cheese (are lower in lactose than milk)
  • Milk shakes
  • Lactose – free milk /products

Milk and milk products are an easy source of calcium and other nutrients. Not having milk in the diet, can lead to a shortage of Calcium, Vitamin-D, Riboflavin and protein.

Calcium is essential for the growth and repair of bones at all ages. A shortage of calcium intake in children and adults may lead to fragile bones that can easily fracture, a condition called osteoporosis, later in life.

Calcium is absorbed and used in the body only when enough vitamin-D is present. Egg, liver and yogurt are some of the good sources of Vitamin-D. Regular exposure to sunlight helps the body to naturally absorb Vitamin-D.

Non dairy sources of calcium

 

Those who are intolerance to lactose, should find new ways to get calcium into their diet. Leafy greens, oysters, sardines, salmon, shrimp, broccoli, bok choy, almonds, sesame seeds are some of the non dairy choices that are rich in calcium.

Fortified milks such as rice, soy and almond milk are other better alternatives.

Probiotics rescue:

Probiotics, the active good bacterial culture, can be a wise investment especially for those who have been on frequent antibiotics or under significant stress. They help to restore the natural gut flora, the main key in improving the absorption of nutrients in the bowel and blocking the toxins too!

Some of those flora, the term dairymen use to refer the bacteria cultures, aids in digestion.

Yogurt made with active bacterial cultures, is a good source of calcium for those who cannot tolerate lactose. Yogurt has low lactose content as the process of fermentation breaks down lactose. The bacterial cultures converts lactose to lactic acid making yogurt a better choice for lactose intolerants.

We should keep in mind that frozen yogurt does not contain live bacterial cultures and so it may not be able to protect the colon from harmful pathogens.

Why read food labels?

Milk and milk products are often added to processed foods. Checking the ingredients on food labels is helpful in finding possible sources of lactose in products. For example; if milk, lactose, whey, milk by-products, casein, curds, dry milk solids, non-fat dairy milk powder are listed on the food labels, it is obvious that the product contains lactose.

Craving a yogurt smoothie?

Blend fruit (berries are great) and yogurt in the evening, store in the refrigerator and have an instant smoothie the very next day morning.

Increased number of probiotics in the intestinal tract might contribute to the reduction of lactose intolerance symptoms.

Milk allergy ?

It is common to confuse lactose intolerance with cow’s milk allergy.

Problem with digesting a sugar in the milk is lactose intolerance. Being intolerant to the cow’s milk is an allergic reaction to proteins in the milk”.

Milk allergy usually happens in minutes to hours after taking milk products. Rash, eczema, nasal stuffiness,vomiting abdominal pain are the symptoms of milk allergy. Some may experience constipation if they are sensitive to the protein component of milk. Those who are allergic to milk protein should seek doctor for an immediate recovery.

Label ingredients that indicate presence of milk proteins: butter, casein, caseinate, cream, cheese, curds, lactose, lactalbumin, milk solid, whey, yogurt.

Every single food we eat has influence on overall nutrition and our wellness. Reading labels will help make a wise choice. The key to healthy balanced diet is to balance what we eat by consuming a variety of foods from each food group in right proportions along with a sustained and energetic exercise regime that helps us to maintain our body weight by balancing the energy intake with energy output.

Our Health is Ultimately Our Responsibility”!

Kohila Govindaraju, Nutritionist