Friday 30 September 2016

Pat Henry: Keep your gut happy

Published 10/05/2016 | 02:30

Pat Henry: keep mealtimes simple.
Pat Henry: keep mealtimes simple.

Just imagine for a moment sitting down to dinner at your favourite restaurant or at home. Let's just say for starters you have prawn cocktail, followed by steak, vegetables, potatoes, sauce, dessert, apple tart and cheese, all washed down by a few glasses of wine.

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Now if you put all these foods into a blender and turned it on, this is exactly what happens in your tummy after eating such a meal. Your system is trying to digest all the different combinations of foods you have ingested. This is not an easy task because protein, such as meat, chicken, fish etc takes about four to five hours to digest. Vegetables take three hours, and if you drink liquid with your meal, it may take longer as the hydrochloric acid, which breaks down your food and helps absorption and elimination, is diluted.

This would also include enzymes in your mouth, which starts the process. This is why health practitioners often recommend a more balanced diet and to keep meals simple, not combining protein and carbs and liquid at the same meal. The intestine is 30-feet long, so food has a long way to travel before being eliminated. However before elimination takes place we shove in more food, thereby not giving the digestive system a chance to do its job. The result can be a build up of unfriendly bacteria in your gut, which leads to many intestinal problems, irritable bowel, cramps, diarrhoea and bad breath, to name but a few.

Also the increase in prescribed antibiotics can kill off the friendly bacteria that protects the intestines from harmful infection. Medics often recommend taking supplements of probiotics, particularly acidophilus, which is a strain of lactic acid bacteria that occurs naturally in many dairy foods or grains.

We were all born with millions of good bacteria and this is increased by breastfeeding, particularly when the mother eats healthy friendly bacteria which continue to grow and protect the body. But medicines don't discriminate between good and bad bacteria and they can all be destroyed.

Years of research of remote tribes such as the Hunza people from The Himalayas, found that they never suffer intestinal problems and rates of colon and bowel cancer were non-existent. Their diet was found to be very high in fermented foods which were very high in acidophilus.

Over time as we pollute our bodies with junk foods, sugar, too much alcohol, we end up fighting against all our defence systems. The body is trying to protect itself by constantly trying to replenish and build up our immunity.

So if you are taking any form of antibiotics or medicines, insist on a good brand of acidophilus supplement from your chemist or health store, or eat foods that have active probiotics such as yoghurts with no sugar or additives, kefir milk or infused acidophilus milk which will taste sweet.

Here are my top tips for obtaining good bacteria:

1. To continue the growth of friendly bacteria try to avoid overloading your system with too many combinations and variations of foods. Keep it as simple as possible and also avoid drinking with meals. Let your body do the work.

2. Natural sources of acidophilus are all whole wheat foods, barley, onions, tomatoes, bananas, garlic and some live honeys, yoghurts and other dairy products.

3. While the above foods may contain traces of acidophilus it could be minute levels so supplementing your diet with just one tablet will provide you with all you need to aid digestion. Always buying the best quality supplement. One tablet would be the equivalent to 20 pots of yoghurt without sugar.

4. Exercise enhances the growth of good bacteria by aiding elimination and improving circulation and increasing aerobic and cardiovascular breathing.

5. The increase in reflux and indigestion symptoms are on the rise, with sales of liquid and tablet antacids going through the roof. This is a sign that internally all is not well.

6. Real Indian food is actually good for your body as many of the natural spices and other ingredients have a very beneficial reaction. But only when made fresh.

7. Fresh juices can also be helpful, again if made fresh and used within a maximum of 15 minutes after juicing, as enzymes are only alive for a very short period of time. Use wheatgrass, spinach, celery, beetroot -more veg than fruit.

8. If you have intestinal problems or have had surgery always consult your doctor before taking any probiotic just in case it may be interfering with the natural healing process.

9. Fermented drinks have been used for thousands of years. The Egyptians and many religions used infused milk products in ceremonies to cleanse the body. Now it's in fashion again. It's only taken a couple of thousand years!

We often give our tummies a hard time and this can lead to a build up of unfriendly bacteria. It's time to keep mealtimes simple, says Pat Henry

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