By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
On the second day of Eid, almost 800 people in Qatar were admitted to hospital for stomach and digestion related issues. It’s a similar story across the Gulf: “We also see an increase in digestive-related complaints,” admits Rabee Harb, a doctor at Kuwait’s Royale Hayat Hospital, who explained that in the days following the end of Ramadan, there would be a sharp increase in cases of severe indigestion, gastroenteritis and stomach ulcer disease.
A combination of overeating, reduced immunity due to dehydration and bad sleeping patterns, and the inability to properly digest food is proving to be a crisis of itself here in the Middle East – and with the world’s attention turned to Covid-19, it’s important that we don’t forget the real dangers to health that are occurring in so many homes around this region.
We’ve been hearing all the time about protecting our immune system to ensure we are as fit and healthy as possible in a time of pandemic, but what we’re not hearing enough of is how 70% of the body’s immune system lives in the digestive tract, meaning keeping digestive health is absolutely crucial to your overall well-being.
Digestion is the process by which our food is broken down into a form that can be absorbed into the blood system and carried to cells throughout the body to provide nourishment and energy.
All other health functions can be undermined if you do not digest, absorb and eliminate your food. Poor digestion has the capacity to trigger everything from autoimmune diseases, mood swings, to tiredness, nausea — the list is endless. A lack of a healthy digestive system can significantly weaken your immune system which leaves you at risk of bacterial overgrowth, colds, flus, cancer, allergies, and many other conditions. It’s even possible that, while you may have a range of healthy food on the plate to eat and therefore assume it’s a healthy decision for your body, this food might not mix well together once it gets in your stomach, causing problems. However, with the right combinations (known as ‘Food Combining’ or ‘Food Pairings’) some food helps you digest easily while also packing in a powerful nutritional benefit.
Firstly, you should limit the amount of water/beverages you drink with your meal because it actively washes away digestive enzymes. In addition, having the least amount of different food on your plate will help towards the best digestion, as the body is not designed to digest more than one type of food in the stomach at a time, nor can it manufacture all the necessary enzymes simultaneously.
Foods like spinach, kale, and other leafy green superfoods can be consumed with anything because they will not interfere with the digestion
Starches (like brown rice and quinoa), along with starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and squash), need an alkaline environment for digestion. For this reason, starches combine best when eaten together – for example, brown rice or quinoa and sweet potatoes. Since non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens are considered neutral, they can also combine well with starches.
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, along with and citrus fruits such as lemon and lime – are all considered neutral. They form proper food combinations when paired with a protein, fruit, starch or healthy fat.
It can be easy to forget the specifics of these food combining rules, but remembering that meals with fewer ingredients digest the best because they require fewer enzymes is the key here.
Aside from food pairings, another simple way to increase your digestive health is to consume more raw fruits and vegetables – a great way to get natural enzymes and nutrients that might otherwise be denatured by heat through cooking.
For better immunity, improved digestion and a better state of mind, putting your focus on rebuilding your gastrointestinal health is going to be vital.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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