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Whether one is prone to illnesses or builds good immunity to fight them depends a lot on one’s gut health. Sounds strange? It is scientifically proven that a healthy intestinal tract can rein in diseases. Being alive and kicking, totally free from anxiety and depression, also hinges on good gut health.

So how does one maintain the health of the intestines or bowels?

The main functions of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) or digestive system are to digest food and absorb nutrients. Our gastrointestinal tract has trillions of bacteria, good and bad alike. When the equilibrium of the bacteria is disturbed, gut health takes a beating.

The gastrointestinal tract is also known as the ‘second brain.’ For good reason, of course. As the intestinal architecture contains over 100 million nerve cells, when gut health is affected, mental health bears the brunt. This means that patients who have poor gut health are consequently prone to depression and anxiety.

What are the symptoms of unhealthy gut structure? Insomnia, weariness, gastric problems, digestive disorder and chronic fever are some of the symptoms of poor gut health.

Insomnia, weariness, gastric problems, digestive disorder and chronic fever are some of the symptoms of poor gut health

Some foods can help maintain gut health. Foods rich in fibre, such as cereals, lentils (dals), fruits and veggies are vital to gut health.

Besides, fibre-rich foods are prebiotics that encourage the free growth of good microbes in the intestines. Ideally one should include 30 to 40 grams of fibre-rich food daily in their diet to maintain a healthy gut.

Also Read: Honey, it’s all you need…for health and beauty, but did you know of the poisonous kind?

Fermented foods are also key to good gut health. Having curd or yoghurt would feed the good bacteria in the gut. People who fear that their kids might catch a cold if they consume curd can avoid storing it in refrigerators.

Drinking a little water often helps regulate digestion and discharge toxic substances from the body.

Brown rice (‘kaikuthal arisi’ in Tamil) is rich in nutrients such as Vitamin B and fibre and good for gut health. While including nutrient-rich and fibre-rich foods, one must also reduce the number of cups of coffee and tea one has, as caffeine tends to affect gut health.  Likewise, white sugar and liquor must be kept at bay for they dent the growth of the benevolent microorganisms.

Frequent use of antibiotics kills the body’s own immune response and makes it susceptible to more infections, in addition to ruining gut health

Similarly, processed foods must be avoided as they affect the growth of bacteria that is good for the intestines. Avoid fast foods such as pizza, burger, fries, pasta and noodles among others. Although children love to eat these foods, it will help them avoid frequent illnesses if fast food is avoided and instead more fruits, nuts and veggies are included in their diet.

One thing most people don’t realise is that antibiotics that stop infections caused by bacteria, don’t distinguish between the good bacteria that helps digestion and the bad bacteria that causes illness. They indiscriminately kill all kinds of bacteria. This affects the gut a lot. Therefore, it is best to prevent infections as much as possible by following a healthy diet and lifestyle and avoid antibiotics unless prescribed by a doctor to recover from severe illnesses.

Also Read: Makhana – The guilt-free, healthy snack

Do not self-medicate. Frequent use of antibiotics kills the body’s own immune response and makes it susceptible to more infections, in addition to ruining the gut.

Along with maintaining good gut health, getting eight hours of sound sleep will also help keep depression away. Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming and breath control have a significant positive effect on mental health, and combined with eating fermented and fibre-rich foods, they maintain the balance of gut microbes. A happy gut leads to a happy mind.

Even simple exercises like walking for 20 to 30 minutes every day regulates your digestive system and improves gut health. What’s more, nutrition-rich and fibre-rich home-made food — rather than restaurant food, packaged food or processed food from supermarkets — is vital to a good gut and a sound body and mind overall.


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