Stomach: The Unsung Hero

How many times have we treated our stomach as a mere storage container where we can dump any stuff we feel like, yet we are surprised when it rebels because it can’t handle some of the stuff we’ve put in?Because we are so far from our food supplies, sometimes it is difficult to  know the processing stages, chemicals used for preserving or even the ingredients deliberately chosen by the manufacturers in order to please our palates.

Quite often our body rebels and rejects food that are difficult to digest or harmful, as a way of protecting our bodies.No one can deny the fact that since most people live a fast paced life, sometimes it is easy to indulge in bad habits. These include not chewing food properly, speed eating or gorging and bingeing on food.Not wanting to exclude myself from the guilty party, I sometime find myself telling my children to finish quickly what is on their plates so that they can catch the bus to school, start doing their homework or simply so that the eating process doesn’t take longer than necessary.
Currently, statistics show a sharp increase in digestive related health problems among teenagers. These problems range from irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers and obesity. Before running to the doctor, maybe we need to learn and understand how best we can establish a healthy relationship with our guts.Knowing the right food to eat and understanding what you are eating is the most important way to nurture your digestive system.Be curious. Be your own researcher . After all, if you treat your stomach well, it will serve you well. Your stomach calls all the shots whether you like it or not.
The first port of call is inside your mouth. The slower you chew, the lesser you eat. Have you ever experienced watching a horror or action film while eating? I can guarantee you that your hand-to-mouth action will suddenly increase to keep up with the film’s pace. This is definitely not good and seriously unhealthy.When you chew thoroughly the digestive system prepares for the incoming food thus producing digestive enzymes which help the body absorb nutrients. When food is not chewed properly, the enzymes can’t break down carbohydrates or digest fats hence make you feel sluggish and experience loss of energy. Food properly chewed food also doesn’t allow the gut to work efficiently because the valuable nutrients locked inside the food lumps may not be absorbed into the bloodstream. This can cause bloating, flatulence, constipation, stomach ache and cramps.Gulping down food also doesn’t give brain enough time to register and relay the message to your body when the stomach is full up.
The stomach function is often likened to a washing machine.Rolling over and mixing its contents. Overeating is like putting too many clothes in it.If you overfill the washing machine, how is it going to mix and distribute the washing powder evenly? How are the clothes going to get separated and cleaned thoroughly? The inside of the stomach is about the size of two hands cupped together.This is roughly a suggested amount of food which should be eaten .Filling it to the maximum unnecessarily stresses its functionality.
Next time your teen displays a sign of digestive disorder, let’s not be quick in letting them pop into their mouth the over the counter pills. Instead, we should encourage them to first listen to what their body is trying to communicate. Is the problem due to not chewing food properly? Have they been gulping the food down because they were busy watching an action film or playing games consoles? Have they been eating too much junk food and not including enough fibre in their diet?
As Rousseau famously said,”The weaker the body, the more imperious its demands; the stronger it is, the better it obeys”Our teens’ full potential in life can be achieved if proper stomach care is included in their small list of their normal daily routine. Remember, our stomach calls all the shots whether you like it or not.We can ignore it at our own peril.
Below is an educative video kindly permitted to use, by Dr J. McDougall (thank you Dr) :

Sleeping beauty

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holding his head

As the exam period is looming (GCSE, AS and A levels), most teens rush to do last minute revision and some who left it too late end up giving themselves few hours’ sleep at night. Research suggests that sleep is very crucial for human body just like eating or breathing.

Now, what does this so called sleep do to our bodies?

  • It boosts our memory.Our bodies consolidates what we have learnt during the day and reboots the brain to make it work again. Sleep seems to be a time when the mind can catch up on processing and organising things that have been stacked up while revising. Lack of sleep causes headaches, makes the head feel heavy and unable to recall what has been studied previously
  • Regulates hormones by stabilising body metabolism, hence control mood swings, cravings for junk food and decreased rational eating. Sleep deprivation messes up the hormones and make a person see life as doom and bleak. This explains why at this stage most teens feel stressed out, not capable of doing anything, starts self harming themselves and develop erratic behaviours
  • Keeps our immune system healthy enough to overcome infections such as colds and flu. Lack of sleep can cause other health related problems such as Type 2 diabetes and irregular heart rhythm (which explains why most teens get panic attacks and feel extremely anxious during exam period)
  • Sleep increases efficiency by improving our cognitive performances such as reaction time on handling different situations. This is very crucial because passing exams  requires nor only accuracy but also speed ( i.e the ability to finish the exams in a set time). Lack of sleep lowers general alertness and attention to detail – making a person prone to doing silly mistakes

What can we do help our bodies sleep better?

  • By eating healthy. Food which helps induce sleep include milk, turkey, bananas, avocados, pumpkin seeds and unprocessed wholemeal food such as brown bread

eating an apple girl eating a banana

 

  • By doing regular physical exercises. This helps in inducing sleep at night

group exercise
  Jogging

 

  • By avoiding heavy meal before going to bed as it puts a lot of pressure on digestive system by making the stomach rumble uncomfortably therefore keeping us awake
  • Switching off mobile phones or keeping them in another room before going to bed. This reduces the disruptions due to the incoming text messages(and the temptation to reply to them), non stop email alerts and also from the social media keen to keep our teens electronically engaged at night. Here parents can advice their teens  to leave the mobile phones downstairs or to the other rooms (i.e not bedrooms)

Any teen’s exam experience you would like to share with me? Please leave a comment below.