” Diseases of the digestive system , excluding tumors, are the second leading cause of hospitalization in Spain,” says Dr. María José Crispín, nutritionist at Clínica Menorca . You only have to take a look around to detect that more and more people are talking about openly about problems related to the stomach, from the abdominal inflammation that is exhibited on social networks as a vindication against the reign of the flat stomach, to terms such as microbiota or SIBO – acronym for bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine –, which have already been established in the vocabulary as usual.
This new conversation connects with the tendency to make visible issues that previously produced a certain modesty, driven by the improvement in detection systems for this class of pathologies, as well as greater awareness on the part of citizens. In addition, it goes hand in hand with a change in thinking, where the goal of healthy eating is to feel good on the inside, and not just look good on the outside .
As Dr. Ana Mayor, an internal physician at SHA Wellness Clinic and a specialist in digestive health, points out, “the reason why there seems to be an increase in these pathologies lies in a greater knowledge of the disease by the general population, in fact, it is estimated that functional intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome account for about 30% of the reasons for consultation in primary care”. What before was perhaps dismissed as a minor and punctual ailment, now acquires the relevance it deserves.
But while diagnostic capabilities and concern for the well-being of the organ known as the second brain have improved, there is no doubt that bad habits are largely to blame for this increase . As the dietitian-nutritionist Mireia Cabrera Cárdenas , founder of the Digestive Health Center De Tripas Corazón, explains, “the lifestyle we lead has a great influence on our digestive system. For example, we know the importance of the axis between the microbiota, the intestine and the brain and its role in the development of certain diseases, although much remains to be investigated”.
What is clear, and what the three specialists agree on, is that the impoverishment of the diet in recent years is key: “The fact of having a diet that is increasingly far from the Mediterranean diet could predispose us to suffer more digestive problems” , confirms Cabrera. Along these lines, he emphasizes that the current Western diet “is characterized by a high content of protein derived from fatty and processed meats, a high consumption of saturated fats, refined grains, sugar, alcohol and salt, and a low consumption of fruits and vegetables. ”.
This type of diet directly harms the intestine, which increases its permeability: “When its cells are damaged, they allow potentially toxic substances (for example, bacteria or viruses) to pass into the bloodstream.” On the contrary, a balanced diet would not only help prevent later complications, but, as Dr. Mayor points out, “celiac disease, reflux disease and dyspepsia are three clear examples of digestive pathologies that could be treated from nutrition”if there was more awareness about it. However, there are other factors that play a key role. “It is important to keep moving to promote intestinal rhythm. In addition, the practice of physical exercise makes us release endorphins and feel better, an aspect that will promote well-being”, emphasizes Mireia Cabrera. As Dr. Crispín sums up about the prevailing sedentary lifestyle in today’s society, “we are overfeeding an organism that does not spend.”
Added to this is another of the great evils of the 21st century: stress. “Emotions are intimately linked to the stomach; the central nervous system and the digestive apparatus are connected by the vagus nerve, therefore, stress favors digestive disorders ” , emphasizes the expert from Clínica Menorca. Taking this set of elements into account is essential to, now, learn to think by, for and with the stomach.
think with your stomach
- “Follow a diet based on plant-based foods , and avoid those rich in saturated fats, salt, sugar and, in addition to alcohol, and reduce red and processed meats,” advises Cabrera.
- Prebiotic foods are great allies. According to Dr. Mayor, “kefir, kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut will help create more good bacteria.”
- Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle , leading an active life and avoiding, as far as possible, stress and nervousness are some of the basic recommendations of Dr. Crispín.
- To prevent harmful bacteria from entering the body,