Dr. Willie Ong (Internist and Cardiologist)
Eating and digesting food are major functions of the human body. We eat to obtain energy to do our work. Our stomach and bowels need to properly digest and absorb the nutrients we eat. Here are 14 stomach-friendly tips to help your digestion:
- Eat six small meals a day.
Most nutritionists recommend that we eat five to six small meals a day. Why so? First, this schedule will help reduce sudden surges in your blood sugar. Second, it prevents you from overeating because of hunger. Third, the smaller food intake is easier for the stomach to digest. And fourth, frequent meals help prevent hyperacidity and ulcers. Eat several times a day, but just a little. A banana or an apple can be considered a snack already.
- Two bananas a day will keep the doctor away.
For me, bananas are the healthiest fruits because it can help treat diarrhea, fatigue, heartburn, insomnia, menstrual problems and kidney problems. A six-inch banana contains 16% of the dietary fiber, 15% of the vitamin C, 11% of the potassium and 20% of the vitamin B6 recommended each day. Based on these nutritional values, we could make a case for the banana as a natural multivitamin. Between banana varieties, the lakatan type (yellowish and tastier) has a higher vitamin C content compared to the latundan (white with thinner skin) variety.
- Avoid the “working lunch.”
Lunch is meant for eating only. If you combine eating and mental work, this can lead to indigestion. Your body will be confused on what you want it to do. Do you want it to digest your food or to think? A possible consequence: stomach upset and hyperacidity.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
Drinking water is good for the bowels. Water helps wash off the acid in the stomach. It can also help cure kidney diseases, urinary tract infection and migraine headaches. The best way to drink water is to sip it little by little throughout the day rather than to gulp down two glasses at once. Doing so will lessen the stress on your heart.
- Wash your hands properly.
According to infectious disease expert, Dr. Mediadora Saniel, washing hands is the single most effective technique to prevent infections. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after eating. You prevent diseases like typhoid, gastroenteritis and cholera.
- Choose “stomach-friendly” foods.
Try keeping a food diary and list down which foods are gentle to your stomach (you feel good and calm afterwards) and which foods wreck havoc to your stomach (you get gurgling and discomfort after eating). Generally, we can avoid too much spicy foods, like chili and hot sauce. Consume in moderation sour foods like vinegar, calamansi and pineapple juice, as these can cause hyperacidity, too. Some foods, like yogurt, contain healthy lactobacilli bacteria, which are good for the stomach.
- Choose hot, instead of cold foods.
Studies show that Chinese people have fewer cases of stomach disorders as compared to the Japanese. Experts think this is because Chinese people like their tea, rice and food piping hot, unlike the Japanese with their cold sushi and sashimi diet. Hot chicken soup, tea, milk or plain hot water are excellent foods because they can warm and relax the stomach muscles. Avoid very cold drinks that “jar” and upset your stomach.
- Choose soft, instead of hard foods.
Soft foods like congee, rice, noodles, papaya and boiled fish are easier to digest as compared to hard foods like a 12-inch steak, crispy pata and dry meat. These hard foods make the job of your stomach doubly hard. When eating these foods, you can use a sharp knife to cut your food into little pieces, and chew thoroughly. Just be careful in chewing meat because bony meat fragments can chip your teeth.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits.
Vegetables and fruits contain healthy fiber, which are good for the digestion. Fiber promotes bowel movement and helps prevent bowel cancer. A common bowel disease called diverticulosis results from eating too little fiber. Vegetables like okra, kangkong and cabbage are rich in fiber. Fruits rich in fiber are apples with the skin, and oranges with the membrane in-between.
- “No” to santol seeds.
To all santol-loving Filipinos: Never, never swallow a santol seed. It could be your last. There are hundreds of reported deaths already from swallowing santol seeds. Santol seeds have sharp pointy edges that can perforate the intestines. Smaller seeds, however, like those found in tomatoes and okra are safe and won’t cause appendicitis.
- Wear loose pants.
If you are prone to heartburn, avoid wearing tight jeans. The tightness of the pants constricts and adds pressure to your abdominal cavity, thereby causing your food to back up. Some people also have a stomach hernia which means that the closing valve between the stomach and the esophagus is loose. This makes them prone to heartburn. My favorite haberdashery store, King Philip, can make specially designed adjustable pants with garter. These are stomach-friendly pants that stretch when you sit or eat a lot.
- Eat slowly.
Eating slowly gives your stomach time to digest the food, thus causing less stomach upset. Just relax and eat well.
- Walk after eating.
After a full meal, take a 15-minute leisurely walk. By staying upright and helping gravity push the food down, you are helping in your digestion. You’ll also avoid becoming a victim of “bangungot syndrome,” which is probably due to acute pancreatitis. So take our advice: Don’t go to sleep right after eating a heavy meal. Take a stroll.
- Pray before meals.
“What does prayer got to do with it,” you might ask? Well, it’s nice to say grace before eating and give thanks to the people who prepared the food. We can also pray for those who have less food to eat. And once the food is blessed and you’re all relaxed, you can now enjoy your meal. Take care.