Maintaining Bowel Health: Tips for Health-Conscious Singaporeans
Eating isn’t just a delightful experience that tantalizes our taste buds; it’s a cornerstone of well-being, providing essential nutrients that fuel our bodies and invigorate our vital organs. The profound connection between what we consume and how our bodies thrive makes nurturing a healthy digestive system a top priority, accomplished through mindful food choices and sensible eating practices.
Simple Strategies for Wellness
A few fundamental principles can make a difference when embracing a lifestyle that supports optimal digestive health. Here’s how you can take charge of your digestive well-being:
- Embrace the Fibre Revolution: Fuel your body with the goodness of high-fibre foods – a cornerstone of digestive health. Incorporating various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your diet ensures a seamless digestion process. Fibre not only prevents constipation but also bolsters a healthy weight. Furthermore, it protects against diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and haemorrhoids.
- The Fibre Symphony (Soluble and Insoluble): Dive into the world of fibre’s dual prowess – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre in vegetables and whole grains adds bulk to your stools, facilitating smooth movement through your digestive tract. On the other hand, soluble fibre, found in foods like oat bran, nuts, and legumes, attracts water and prevents overly liquid stools.
- Balance Fat Intake: While fat plays a role in your diet, opt for moderation and balance. High-fat foods can slow down digestion, potentially leading to discomfort. Pairing fats with high-fibre counterparts can aid in smoother digestion. Lean meat, such as skinless poultry and pork loin, provides essential protein without overburdening your digestive system.
- Cultivate a Probiotic Haven: Unlock the potential of probiotics, the tiny warriors that mirror the healthy bacteria residing in your gut. Probiotics are guardians of your overall well-being in a world of dietary challenges, antibiotics, and stressors. These microorganisms can enhance nutrient absorption, tackle lactose breakdown, shield against IBS, and fortify immune defences. Nourish your gut with probiotic-rich foods like low-fat yoghurt and kefir, integrated seamlessly into your daily routine.
- Harmonise with Regular Eating Patterns: Sync your meals with the rhythm of your body. Your digestive system operates optimally by following a consistent eating schedule, avoiding unnecessary strain. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks regularly create a harmonious environment, reducing the likelihood of bloating and indigestion. Aim for meals every 3 to 4 hours to facilitate effective digestion.
- Hydration: Hydration isn’t solely about quenching your thirst; it’s a key player in digestive well-being. Adequate water intake facilitates fibre movement through your colon, culminating in softer stools that pass quickly. Sip water throughout the day to maintain a well-hydrated digestive system.
Physical activity emerges as a stalwart ally when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that those who embrace an active lifestyle are more likely to keep their weight stable, whereas a sedentary existence often paves the way for incremental weight gain. However, the amount of activity required to prevent weight gain remains a subject of ongoing debate. Recent research suggests that the recommended two-and-a-half hours of weekly training must be revised.
Intriguingly, the Women’s Health Study followed 34,000 middle-aged women over 13 years to discern the optimal activity level for weight maintenance. The findings underscored that women in the normal weight range required an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily to retain their weight within a 2-3kg range.
Vigorous Activity vs. Walking
Unveiling the nuances of activity intensity, the research emphasizes the effectiveness of vigorous activities over leisurely walks in weight control. The Nurses’ Health Study II, tracking over 18,000 women for 16 years, revealed that incorporating 30 minutes of additional daily physical activity led to less weight gain. Vigorous pursuits like bicycling and brisk walking emerged as practical strategies, while slow walking failed to yield comparable results.
Activity and Weight Loss
While exercise undoubtedly contributes to weight loss, it synergizes most effectively with a reduced-calorie diet. Studies indicate that in the absence of calorie moderation, extended periods of exercise or high-intensity workouts become essential for weight loss success. Research on overweight, inactive adults showcased that high-intensity exercise resulted in abdominal fat loss, whereas low- and medium-intensity routines elicited no significant change.
A parallel trial on post-menopausal women engaging in moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity for 45 minutes five days a week unveiled notable reductions in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat over a year.
How Activity Fights Obesity?
The mechanisms by which physical activity counters obesity are multifaceted:
- Enhanced Energy Expenditure: Physical activity increases overall energy expenditure, enabling weight maintenance or loss, as long as calorie intake isn’t escalated to counteract the extra burned calories.
- Fat Reduction: Activity targets total body and waistline fat, retarding the onset of abdominal obesity.
- Muscle Power: Muscle-strengthening endeavours, from weight lifting to push-ups, augment muscle mass, elevating resting energy expenditure and supporting weight management.
- Mood Uplift: Physical activity alleviates depression and anxiety, fostering commitment to exercise regimens over time.
The Optimal Daily Activity Quota
Aspiring to do at least an hour of activity daily for effective weight control proves pivotal. While 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days can lower the risk of chronic disease, a more active lifestyle is essential to counterbalance sedentary habits and societal influences that fuel overeating.
Recognise that fostering an active lifestyle is not solely an individual endeavour as our environment significantly influences our activity levels. Factors such as accessible parks, sidewalks, and bike paths play a role.
Common Digestive Disorders
From time to time, many of us encounter stomach issues that range from minor discomfort to more severe disturbances. These concerns stem from our eating habits, stress, or digestive disorders. Symptoms like cramps, vomiting, and changes in stool consistency can signal something amiss in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This complex system involves various organs working together to nourish our bodies and eliminate waste.
Digestive disorders manifest when the intricate balance of the digestive system falters. Experts categorize these disorders into two main types: organic and functional GI disorders.
Organic GI Disorders: These disorders arise from structural abnormalities in the digestive system that impede proper function.
Functional GI Disorders: Despite appearing structurally normal, the GI tract doesn’t perform as it should in these disorders.
Common Digestive Disorders and Their Symptoms
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A prevailing symptom of IBS is abdominal pain, which can occur before or after bowel movements. Diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both are also characteristics. Other signs include bloating, white mucus in stools, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements. Traumatic life events, mental health conditions, infections, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can also contribute to IBS.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO): SIBO arises when bacteria from the large intestine invade the small intestine. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation. Treatment often involves antibiotics and medications to address digestion and underlying causes.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
For those experiencing the disorders above, knowing when to contact a doctor is vital.
- IBS: Seek medical advice if severe abdominal pain, cramps, or other IBS symptoms disrupt daily life or worsen suddenly.
- SIBO: If you’re facing SIBO symptoms for the first time, immediately contact a doctor. Consultation is crucial if you have a prior diagnosis and your symptoms worsen, or treatment proves ineffective.
Navigating Digestive Wellness
Understanding digestive disorders empowers you to identify symptoms, seek proper treatment, and enhance your overall well-being. Whether you’re dealing with the everyday challenges of IBS or facing rarer conditions, such as Hirschsprung’s disease or achalasia, timely medical intervention can make a difference. Remember, your digestive health is a fundamental aspect of your overall health, and seeking professional guidance ensures you can face any challenges that arise on this journey to well-being.
At MHC, we recognize the power of early diagnosis, enabling timely intervention and improving disease management outcomes. From the initial consultation to follow-ups, our program will continue to help patients control and manage weight, a great way to avoid colorectal cancer.
You may book an appointment in Amara Clinic or contact our Corporate HQ for questions and enquiries about personal and corporate healthcare programmes, including Executive Health Screenings, GP services, or weight management programmes. Staying healthy and active helps promote a healthy colon. Please chat with us through Whatsapp for more information.
- World Health Organization. Global recommendations on physical activity for health; 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.