Tag Archives: Nutrition

Nutrients affecting Digestive Health

digestive systemWe need a healthy digestive system to assimilate the food we eat; but little do we know that these nutrients are also needed to keep the digestive system healthy. From A to D, essential vitamins play key roles in maintaining digestive health. In most cases you can get these nutrients from the daily diet; but those with certain gastrointestinal diseases may need supplements, however always consult a doctor first. Read on to learn which vitamins are the most important for healthy digestion and how to incorporate them into your eating habits.

B Vitamins

These vitamins are found in proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, and dairy products, whole grain cereals, pulses, fruits like bananas, green vegetables and eggs. B vitamins are water-soluble, thus you cannot store them to use later; they need to be a regular part of your diet.

Essential B vitamins for the digestive system include:

  • B1: helps the body change the carbohydrates in diet into energy.
  • B3: is important for many digestive tract functions, including the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and alcohol.
  • B6: is very important in helping digestive system process the protein in the diet.
  • Biotin:This B vitamin helps the digestive system produce cholesterol and process proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids.
  • B12: plays a role in the nervous system, the production of blood cells, and the body’s use of folic acid and carbohydrates.

Vitamin C

Because it is an antioxidant, many people associate vitamin C with the immune system and preventing colds, but it also aids in digestion by supporting healthy teeth and gums and helping the body absorb iron. Food sources include: Citrus fruits (oranges, lemon, mausmi), berries (e.g. amla), tomatoes, peppers, broccoli.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body in absorbing calcium and plays a key role in how the nerves, muscles, and immune system function. Also healthy levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk for colon cancer. There are three ways you can get vitamin D: Sun exposure, Vitamin D-rich foods, such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk and cereal and supplements.

If you are not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and food, talk to your doctor about a supplement. Keep in mind that you may already be taking a supplement that contains vitamin D. e.g. many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is involved primarily in boosting vision, bone, and reproductive health, as well as helping the immune system. Sources of vitamin A include liver, whole milk and its products, cod liver oil, kidney, egg, fish, meat and some fortified food products; colourful fruits and vegetables (yellow, orange and dark green leafy ones like carrot, papaya, tomato, capsicum, mango, apricot, spinach, fenugreek, etc. Although vitamin A is not directly involved in digestion, some gastrointestinal diseases can leave you vulnerable to a vitamin A deficiency.

So follow the mantra: Eat healthy to keep your digestive system healthy.

Who Needs Supplementation?

Who Needs SupplementationYou feel tired most of the time and the Doctor suggests a multivitamin. Now you are in a fix. Should I? Do I really need to take dietary supplements? A supplement literally means something added to complete a thing or make up for a deficiency. Dietary supplement thus means a substance which when added to diet helps in making up deficiency in the diet. A supplement provides added insurance that you are getting adequate intake of necessary vitamins and other micro-nutrients.

Health care providers have had mixed views on the inclusion of dietary supplements in the daily diet. Yes we do compensate usage and losses of nutrients through diet but there are certain ages and physiological conditions which sincerely get benefited by including dietary supplements in their diet.

Who all need dietary supplements?

1. Women may need extra calcium all through their life and especially post menopause. Calcium can be added in diet using milk and milk products, ragi, sesame, and from over-the-counter calcium in the form of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium supplements are best absorbed when taken with meals, at a dose of 500 mg once or two times a day depending on the requirement.

2. Women who bleed excessively during menstruation may need to take iron or iron and folic acid supplements to meet the daily recommendation. Pregnant and lactating women are usually given supplements by their doctors to meet their increased needs for iron, calcium and other nutrients.

3. Women planning pregnancy should take a folic acid supplement prior to conception. A recent study led by Radek Bukowski, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas, suggests that women who took folic acid for one year prior to pregnancy reduced their risk of delivering a premature baby by 50 to 70 percent apart from preventing the occurrence of other congenital (present from birth) malformations. Because pregnancy is often unplanned, ideally a female should start taking folic acid when she becomes sexually active. A standard folic acid supplement contains a sufficient amount of folic acid i.e., 400 micrograms.

4. Teenagers often have irregular eating habits and may not eat a balanced diet. A multivitamin with minerals can help fill in the nutritional gaps. Some teenage girls also need daily calcium and iron supplement.

5. Strict Vegetarians (people who abstain from milk and dairy products apart from egg and flesh foods) are advised to take iron and B12 daily. Iron and B12 deficiency occurs frequently in strict vegetarians. Vegetarian sources of iron have low absorption rate as compared to non-veg sources whereas Vitamin B12 is not found in foods of plant origin which might lead to their deficiencies.

6. Dieters and people who avoid entire food groups (like milk, fat, etc.) are more likely to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A daily multivitamin with minerals can be taken in consultation with a physician.

7. People with deficiency diseases or malabsorption disorders due to some allergies or intolerances (e.g. people allergic to wheat or gluten or intolerant to lactose) may need multivitamins. Similarly people taking prescription medications that interfere with the absorption of nutrients may also need higher dose supplements.

The kind of diet we are into nowadays (packaged, ready to eat, convenience foods) is seriously deficient in micronutrients. But the author doesn’t encourage people to make dietary supplement their way of life. Ask yourself a question am I taking 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily? If yes no need to go for supplements. If no try to include fruits and veggies in your daily diet. Not possible? Ask a doctor and only then go for dietary supplements.

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