The digestive system plays a big role in keeping us in good health, both physical and mental. Our gut acts as a “second brain” that is responsible for balancing our mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and keeping our overall mental health.
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World Digestive Health Day: Tips to strengthen your gut
(Philstar.com) - May 29, 2020 - 2:38pm

MANILA, Philippines (As released) — Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. For some, the overwhelming fear and anxiety have affected their mental health and their general well-being.

Coping with the stress and getting used to the “new normal” will surely impact your digestive health and how you feel overall. 

Since today, May 29, has been designated as World Digestive Health Day by international gastroenterology federation World Gastroenterology Organisation, top pharmaceutical company Sanofi Philippines and dietitian-nutritionist Cheshire Que shared some tips on how to take care of one’s digestive system, especially in a crucial time like the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Related: Nature’s way vs infection: 5 health basics to fight COVID-19 

Que, in a statement released by sanitary napkin and liners brand Jeunesse Anion, said: “Immune system is our first line of defense against infection. It is composed of a network of cells and proteins, much like the different units of a military system that works synergistically to kill pathogens in the form of viruses and bacteria. Left with a weak immune system, our body is open to diseases."

Take immunity boosters

The digestive system plays a big role in keeping us in good health, both physical and mental. Our gut acts as a “second brain” that is responsible for balancing our mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and keeping our overall mental health.

With quarantine in place, it’s possible that a lot of people are adapting activities that might have adverse effects on the digestive system such as unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and irregular sleep schedule.

Do you feel bloated and heavy lately? Haven’t pooped in the past two days? You may be suffering from constipation. 

Constipation has many causes - dehydration, poor diet, lack of exercise, thyroid issues, and even stress. Constipation is one of the leading digestive health problems that affect 23% of the world’s population. About 70% of those who have experienced it say that it has a high impact on their quality of life, as it can cause mood and anxiety disorders.

To fight constipation, make sure that you drink enough water and include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Reduce intake of processed foods and move to more whole foods that are easier to digest. 

Plan your meals to include functional foods in your diet. These are food items that offer health benefits beyond nutrition. 

Related: Bored with usual lockdown fare? Try these immune system-boosting recipes

The Philippines boasts an array of choices, including brown rice and several other rice varieties that are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber components. Mungbean, on the other hand, is not only affordable and easy to find. It’s also a great source of zinc which is an immunity enhancer.
 
Have your daily dose of phytonutrients from veggies and fruits in season, beginning with malunggay that reigns supreme in vitamins A, B, C. Bitter gourd is another affordable, antioxidant-rich staple with anti-diabetes potential that will work well in a variety of recipes from sauté, stews, to soups.

Tubers or starchy vegetables are natural sources of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, they tend to have a lower glycemic index load, and cause less digestive or inflammatory reactions than wheat. Potato, taro, yam, and cassava are abundant year-round and available wherever vegetables are sold.

Related: LIST: Home remedies to boost your immune system vs COVID-19

When shopping for fruits, choosing what’s in season and available locally will increase your spending power. Since they’re usually cheaper and easier to find, make mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and papayas a regular part of your staple. They’re filled with highly-nutritious vitamins and fiber, which are all beneficial for our immune health. Coconut water is also a great soda replacement that’s low-calorie, low-sugar, and a rich source of potassium.

If budget and availability permit, take it up a notch with fiber and omega-3 rich chia seeds, which you can liberally sprinkle on salads and smoothies. Add as well the probiotics-packed kimchi and superfood wheatgrass that is both helpful in maintaining a good balance of microbiome in your gut.  Honey, onions, and garlic are also the three superfoods that will greatly benefit the immune system.

Related: Fight COVID-19: Nutrient-rich food that should be on your grocery list

Quarantine has drastically changed grocery shopping, but realize it’s important to choose fresh over minimally processed, frozen fruits and veggies over fast food, and anything canned or boxed should be avoided. But since this situation calls for stocking up some canned goods, choose healthier options like sardines, tuna, and pork and beans.

Digestive self-care also means getting treatment as soon as your body starts sending signals of discomfort. Laxatives, such as (Bisacodyl) Dulcolax, offer constipation relief through gently softening the stool and stimulating bowel movement. Apart from Dulcolax, Sanofi offers a wide range of digestive healthcare solutions such as (Hyoscine N-Butylbromide) Buscopan for stomach aches and abdominal cramps, (Phospholipids) Essential Forte P for liver protection and Erceflora Probibears for children’s overall digestion. 

Stay active while practicing social distancing

Being stuck at home is not an excuse to resist movement. This is the most ideal time of the year to be more physically active sans fancy equipment, gym membership, or even a big space. 

In these stressful times, respecting meal and sleep times as well as regular exercise can help you cope with stress and alleviate symptoms of digestive diseases and prevent constipation.

“Schedule your exercise daily. Choose an activity that you enjoy so it won’t feel like a chore. There are so many exercise videos available on the internet but caution must be taken if you have a health condition. It’s best to get your doctor’s approval if you plan to get serious in starting a program. Otherwise, house cleaning, dancing, brisk walking, and walking will be a good start. Don’t forget to pace while talking on the phone. Just keep moving! Remember to dress the part including wearing the proper footwear. This alone will keep you motivated to quit being a couch potato in a lockdown.” Que reminded.

Related: Be 'quaran-fit': Stars share workout hacks to keep you active during lockdown

Adopt new wellness habits

If you’ve been a restless sleeper, now is the time to take back that much-needed quality slumber. According to Que, “lack of sleep depresses the immune system and impacts your rate of recovery from infection.” 

As such, sleep hygiene is just as vital as exercise and nutrition! Meditation and prayer have been essential aspects of wellness, but today science backs its effects in improving our overall health.  

Related: Don’t forgo fitness: Creative ways to exercise at home

Dealing with worry and anxiety lately? “Do not discount the power of a 15-minute pause to reduce stress, anxiety, and lack of mental alertness. Take advantage of this time as well to find spiritual healing as it’s one of the areas that will help us realign with our purpose and meaning that’s greater than ourselves. Read the Bible, find a group that can help you reinforce your connection with God and others,” said Que. 

“Stay away from anything that disturbs your inner peace, gossips, toxic social media posts, or opinions of people that do not matter.” — As released

RELATED: How to stay healthy during quarantine: Makati Med doctor gives tips

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