Improve your digestion
* Fight infection

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Good digestion makes you look younger

DigestionDigestion is simple and it is complex. It is as simple as the first step, when saliva coats the food in your mouth. It gets a little complex after that.

The mouthful you popped in, chewed on and swallowed, makes its journey to the esophagus and there on, to the stomach. There, it is churned and pummeled further while the acids get to work on it. Some amount is absorbed while the rest passes to the small intestines. Here, a second chemical laboratory begins to buzz. Bile from the liver, acid from the stomach and digestive juices that contain enzymes from the pancreas digest and absorb more. What is left passes on as waste to the large intestines.

A normal digestive system results in a normal appetite and a feeling of well-being. But if you have overdone that spicy fast food, you may upset the balance in the stomach. The result: irregular bowel movements, indigestion, hyperacidity, ‘gas’ or bloating.

Poor digestion can lead to poor health

The digestive tract affects us in many more ways than you’d imagine. A problem here can pop up elsewhere. These include:

* Chronic fatigue. If digestion is poor, you are starved of iron that the body fails to absorb from food.

* Lowered immunity. Since the body cannot extract and process all the nutrients it needs, it cannot shore up on the power to beat the bacteria.

DigestionA light lemony drink after a heavy meal helps digest food * Ulcers. If the pH balance of the stomach acids is disturbed and the contents are more acidic, it can cause ulcers in the stomach and mouth.

* Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or food flowing back into the esophagus. This can keep the throat lining moist and encourage bacteria to thrive, so the sore throat you blamed on the ice cream could actually be from your last meal!

* Poor skin. The body cannot eliminate the toxins as a normal digestive system would. This shows up in lackluster skin.

* Poor digestion has been linked to migraine, poor eye health and water retention!

Digestive disorders? Follow these healthy habits:

* Begin your day with a healthy, low fat, high-fiber breakfast (with at least 4 gm fiber/serving). Dr Peter from PSRI notes that most people with digestion problems are those who skip breakfast.

* Choose 100% whole wheat or wholegrain. Insoluble fiber from whole grains helps food go through the intestinal tract faster. It provides roughage that softens stools and helps in treating constipation.

* Eat a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Our bodies produce only a quarter of the digestive enzymes required. The rest comes from food. Fruits and vegetables have phyto-nutrients and stocks of natural enzymes that aid digestion. Unpeeled fruit is best since the skin contains most of the fiber and Digestionnutrients. Wash off impurities and pesticides.

Hot tip frequent indigestion? Supplement your diet with papaya that has a natural digestive enzyme, papain, or pineapple, that has the digestive enzyme bromelain.

Good Home cures

1. Add lemon to pulses or veggies, or squeeze lemon in water and sip after meals.

2. Curd, specially the probiotic variety, contains digestion friendly bacteria.

3. Take green coconut water 2 to 3 times a day for a few days to neutralize hyperacidity.

4. Mint and black pepper are effective digestive aids. Add a few mint leaves to curd or to drinking water.

* Have small meals, frequently.

Bonus Frequent meals keep your LDL or bad cholesterol in check by approx 5%, according to a Cambridge University study published in the British Medical Journal.

Very useful Have at least 8-10 glasses of water, or healthy beverages.

All about your digestion * Avoid too many spices.

* Limit fats and concentrated sweets. Meals high on calories take longer to be metabolized. This makes food sit in your stomach longer, making you feel lethargic.

* Limit alcohol. The liver can process only a certain amount of alcohol, irrespective of how much you drink. Too much alcohol can pressurize the liver into acting over its capacity and damage it.

* Avoid foods that are too hot or too cold: digestive enzymes work optimally at specific temperatures and pH balance.

Experts suggest you keep meals slightly warmer than room temperature. A quick test is to touch the food with your fingers before eating. If it is comfortably warm go ahead. Otherwise, let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Lifestyle habits and digestion

* How you eat is as important as what you eat. Eat slowly; chew your food thoroughly sitting in a quiet or cheerful setting. Stop eating when you feel full, and don't eat just before bedtime.

* Carry good-for-you snacks if you're on the go. Include fresh fruit, whole wheat cereal mixed with nuts and dried fruits such as figs or almonds. * Remain active. Walk, take the stairs, and try aerobics or strength-building activities.

* Manage stress. Tension can re-direct blood from the stomach to vital organs and interrupt smooth digestion.

* Sleep right. Avoid disturbing the body's rhythm of staying awake in the day and sleeping at night.

* Go easy on medication. Antibiotics can kill friendly flora in the stomach, making digestion difficult.