Mornings are a tough time for marketing executive Nitin Soni. It isn’t the waking up that’s the problem. It’s the daily visit to the loo.
No, Nitin doesn’t suffer from serious constipation. Nor does he have a chronic lifestyle disease. He’s just one of many people whose digestion doesn’t seem to function as smoothly as it should, leaving him uncomfortable and ill at ease. “Perhaps I don’t eat the right things,” he says. “Or don’t exercise enough. I don’t really know.”
It’s a common problem, says Dr Meenakshi Jain, senior consulting physician, Max Healthcare, Delhi. And it could be caused by anything. “From an improper diet to lack of mental peace, anything could affect the functioning of your digestive system,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean the problem can’t be eased. Here are some diet essentials suggested by experts, that will keep your stomach healthy and you happy.
Whole grain wheat: Abandon maida and instead stick to atta, bread, noodles or even pasta made of whole grain wheat. The fibre available in whole grain atta helps your digestive system stay in shape.
Daliya (cracked wheat): Easily available, easy to cook and very effective, daliya can easily (and healthily) replace chapattis and rice in your diet. Eat it as porridge, pulao or khichdi, complete with green veggies, says naturopath Mallika B Gupta.
Green leafy vegetables: These are high fibre vegetables and are great for the digestive system, whether cooked or eaten as a salad. Veggies like carrots, cucumber and radishes are helpful too. Sprouts can also make a clear difference.
Fruits: Apples with their peel, oranges, papaya, pomegranate, ripe bananas and pineapple are just some of the fruits that are good for digestion. They cool the stomach and their fibre content activates the digestion process.
Ginger: Traditionally, ginger has been known to be a ‘heating’ food that stimulates the gastrointestinal tract. Add it to all meals, says Gupta.
Aloe: A bitter herb, aloe is a powerful laxative when used internally and so is occasionally prescribed for stubborn constipation, says Gupta. Because the plant takes between 10 to 15 hours to work, aloe is best given in the early evening to assure early morning elimination. It can be taken as a juice.
Mint: In contrast to ginger, peppermint is cooling and relaxing. Peppermint has three principal activities. (a) It anaesthetises the mucous membranes, reducing nausea and vomiting. (b) It encourages the liver and gallbladder to produce and release bile. (c) It disinfects the stomach in cases of improper or imbalanced flora. Peppermint taken after a rich meal reduces gas and indigestion.
Ghee: This might be a no-no for the fat conscious, but ghee is a great laxative. Add about half a teaspoon’s worth to your meals.