CHENNAI: It’s 1 pm. After thulping a scrumptious three-course meal, you take a relaxing shower and make your way to the hall in a post-meal daze and collapse on the couch for a power nap. As enticing as this might sound, doctors suggest that these lifestyle practices could potentially hinder the digestion process and lead to gastrointestinal diseases.
Our elders have often advised us to not take a shower immediately after eating. Experts tell us that this is not just a myth. Taking a shower after eating, in several cases, is proven to interfere with the digestion process. How? Digestion requires a lot of energy and an adequate amount of blood flow to the stomach. Taking a bath decreases our body temperature.
So, when taking a shower right after a meal, the body immediately redirects the blood flow to the skin and other parts of the body to maintain the temperature. This hinders the blood flow and slows down the process of digestion. In 2018, Abbott, a healthcare company, conducted a nationwide Gut Health Survey to assess the condition of those with digestive issues in the country.
The findings suggested that 22 per cent of the adult Indian population suffered from constipation, with 13 per cent complaining of severe constipation while six per cent of the people suffered from constipation associated with certain comorbidities. The survey also highlighted the predicament of these silent sufferers and the problems associated with it. While the food we eat is vital in shaping our wellbeing, before and after-meal practices, which are often overlooked, are equally important in determining our digestive health. Dr Muralidharan, senior consultant surgeon, Kauvery Hospital, shares tips to keep one’s gastrointestinal health in check.
AVOID TAKING A SHOWER
After consuming food, the stomach and the intestine require a lot of time to break down the food and process. It happens in multiple stages, and it is imperative that we not just give it the required time but also build a conducive environment for it to take place. When a person takes a bath right after consuming food, the blood supply around the stomach used to aid digestion reduces, slowing the process. This can lead to a
feeling of uneasiness, poor digestion, discomfort in the abdomen area and so on. It is advisable to take bath either a few hours before the meal or wait for a minimum of two hours before showering after a meal.
DO NOT SMOKE
Smoking before and after a meal is not advisable. Smoking interferes with the stomach’s capacity and destroys its protective layer.This causes inflammation of the stomach. Consumption of alcohol and smoking are detrimental to a person’s gastrointestinal health.
DO NOT SLEEP
When one ingests food, especially a diet that is rich in fat, the digestive system needs a lot of acids to break it down. If one decides to lie down, or takes a nap right after a meal, the acid goes up to the esophagus leading to reflux esophagitis, an esophageal mucosal injury. This results in discomfort in the abdomen, induces burping, causes chest pain, especially behind the breastbone, while eating; heartburn, and acid regurgitation. This, when combined with a history of alcohol intake and/or smoking can affect the system. It is advisable for people to eat four-five smaller meals a day instead of three big portions to contain such cases. Avoid lying down after a meal, at least for a few hours. Instead of going to the bed right after a meal, one can sit and read a book, go for a leisurely walk.
With the pandemic forcing people to work from home, several IT professionals and students have been struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow a balanced food regime. This has to be brought under control by consuming only home-cooked food. This can keep indigestion and acidity at bay.
OPTIMAL MEAL TIME
It is important to maintain an optimal time to consume meals in a day to avoid any digestive problems. It is also necessary to have a balanced diet, consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.
AVOID HEAVY EXERCISE
Exercising and staying fit will build a healthy appetite. A healthy body and mind will help keep any health ailments at bay. However, one should avoid rigorous exercises after meals as it tends to raise the body temperature and could increase the chance of getting stomach aches and cramps.