The key to digestive health

World Digestive Health Day was celebrated on May 29, a date chosen by the World Gastroenterology Organization. The aim is to make the population aware of the importance of early diagnosis in the treatment of diseases of the digestive system, in addition to strengthening the importance of the necessary care to avoid these problems.

Digestion is important because the body needs nutrients from food and drink to function properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are nutrients. During digestion, the digestive system breaks down nutrients into small enough parts for the body to absorb and use for energy, growth and cell repair.

According to the organization, 20% of the global population suffers from some form of intestinal problem, and 90% of people do not seek medical attention, resort to self-medication or do nothing to solve the problem. In Brazil, the estimate from the National Cancer Institute (INCA) for biennials 2020-2022 is almost 41 thousand new cases of diseases related to the digestive system per year.

The path of digestion begins in the mouth, with chewing, it begins immediately after consuming a food, passes through the intestine, with the absorption of nutrients present in the food, and ends in their elimination through the feces. In this way, the digestive process goes from the mouth, through the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, to the large intestine.

When something does not go well in this process, some symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, reflux, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea occur, causing a lot of discomfort. And while some of these symptoms may seem common, some of them may be signs of serious ailments like stomach ulcers and even cancer.

To avoid these problems, it is important to chew the food well, not to drink during meals, as well as to drink at least 2 liters of water a day and maintain healthy eating habits. With a balanced diet, it is possible to reduce symptoms of dyspepsia, feeling indigestion and improve the digestive process.

Ingestion of chamomile, mint, fennel and lemon balm stimulates the digestive process. Pineapple, when not consumed in excess, has an enzyme called bromelain that helps in the process of digesting meat. Turmeric has bioactive compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is important for the proper functioning of intestinal transit and in the formation of stool. Finally, probiotics are some species of bacteria that can work to eliminate agents that cause gastritis.

However, there are some components in the diet that can worsen the digestive process or act as aggressors of the gastric mucosa. As is the case with coffee, sodas, alcoholic beverages, red peppers, chocolate and high-fat foods, which are foods that should be cut out of the meal plan.

* Aline Corado Gomes is a nutrition professor at Estácio and a doctor of health sciences.

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