Q: What improves digestion?

A: The complaints of digestive problems such as abdominal bloating, diarrhea, constipation, pain or colic are common in the medical practice and are a big obstacle in the daily activities of the patients. Giving up sugar and refined carbohydrates sometimes is enough to feel better. Sugar and refined carbohydrates have the ability to cause abdominal bloating, as they stimulate the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut. Moreover, the surplus sugar may be a serious factor of weight gain, mood swings, and also contributes to the development of diabetes. Gluten restriction from the daily menu significantly improves digestion. This is true especially for people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The removal of gluten also has a very good effect on symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal bloating and constipation. Gluten is found in the grains of wheat, rye and barley – they can be replaced with products from brown rice, quinoa and corn.

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Eating probiotic foods that contain healthy bacteria may help in the treatment and prevention of diarrhea, constipation, flatulence and bloating.

It is also very important to avoid overeating. The main digestive complaints in overeating are heartburn and the feeling that the stomach is uncomfortably full. Overeating may lead to bloating, diarrhea and constipation, not to mention weight gain as health and aesthetic problem.

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Q: How should we combine the foods to achieve optimal absorption of the nutrients?

A: Different substances enter the body with the food. Several digestive enzymes are needed for their absorption: protease breaks down proteins, amylase – starch, lipase – fat, and lactase – milk sugar. Part of them is synthesized in the organism, using its own chemical and energy resources. Another part is obtained from certain foods – fresh raw fruits and vegetables, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented foods, bee honey, raw milk and others. Cooked foods cannot serve for this purpose – enzymes are destroyed by heat. Well before the boiling point, still at 54oC, any enzyme activity is suspended. Canning, baking, steaming, frying, pasteurizing of milk, microwave – all this kills the enzymes. The digestive enzymes are released in strictly fixed amounts and at a certain time. The different foods require different digestive secretions. Carbohydrates need enzymes that break them down, while proteins – enzymes that break down proteins and so on.

Knowing the digestive process has led the health specialists to recommend proper combination of the foods, which rules in brief are:

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  • Do not consume concentrated protein and concentrated carbohydrate food at the same meal. This means not to eat nuts, meat, eggs, cheese and other protein foods together with bread, cereals, potatoes, sweet fruits, cakes etc. Sugar prevents gastric juice secretion to a large extend, and if it is consumed in large amounts, it may suppress gastric activity.
  • Do not combine fat and protein. This means not to use cream, butter, oil with meat, eggs, cheese, nuts etc. Fats inhibit the action of gastric glands and slow down the release of the proper gastric juices for meat, nuts, eggs and other proteins. Fats may completely reduce the gastric tone with more than 50%.
  • Do not eat sour fruits with proteins. This means that oranges, tomatoes, lemons, pineapples should not be consumed with meat, eggs, cheese or nuts. Sour fruits seriously impair protein digestion and decay occurs. Although they don’t represent an indigestible combination, milk and orange juice are far from the best combination of foods. Orange juice and eggs is even more unsuitable combination.
  • Do not consume carbohydrates and sour foods in one meal. Do not eat bread, rice or potatoes with lemons, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes or others sour fruits. This is due to the fact that the enzyme ptyalin is active only in alkaline medium; it is destroyed even by weak acids! Fruit acids not only interfere with the digestion of carbohydrates but also cause fermentation. Oxalic acid for example, diluted one to ten thousand, completely blocks ptyalin and there is enough acetic acid in one teaspoon of vinegar to impede the digestion in the mouth. The famous nutritionist Dr. Pierre Dukan says: “Many people, who cannot eat oranges during meal, derive great benefit from their consumption 15 to 30 minutes before eating.”
  • Do not combine tomatoes with starchy foods. Tomatoes also should never be combined with starchy foods, as the combination of the different acids in the tomato which are enhanced by cooking, strongly counteracts the alkaline digestion of starch. Tomatoes may be eaten with green leafy vegetables and fatty foods. All this confirms people’s statement that they cannot eat oranges and grapefruits which cause the release of pancreatic juice and digestive enzyme for their break-down. When there is hyperacidity of the stomach, major difficulties in the break-down of starch arise. Fermentation and organism’s poisoning occur, followed by great discomfort. This is due to the fact that the digestion of carbohydrates (starch and sugars) and proteins is so different that when they are mixed in the stomach, they stand in one another’s way for digestion. The acidic and alkaline processes cannot be implemented simultaneously in the stomach. They cannot continue at all shortly, as the increasing acidity in the stomach completely stops carbohydrate digestion. For the most efficient digestion it is necessary to eat so that to hinder digestion the least.
  • Do not consume milk with other products in one meal. It is best milk to be taken alone or its use to be avoided. It is a natural food for all mammals, as every species produces milk which is specially adapted for the needs of the young ones. In general, they should intake milk alone, and not in combination with other food. Milk is not digested in the stomach, but in the duodenum, as the stomach doesn’t produce secretions. The use of acidic fruits and milk doesn’t cause problems and doesn’t interfere with digestion.

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Q: How is metabolism speeded up?

A: There are several basic rules for speeding up metabolism. First – don’t miss breakfast. During the night the body has been at rest and in the morning it needs fresh forces for a start of the day and for enhancement of the processes in it.

  • Do not starve! The improper diet and starvation can bring you only problems. Eat healthy, in small amounts but frequently, instead of subjecting your organism to starvation. Eat more food before noon. When it’s time for bed, the organism starts to work at lower speeds.
  • Drink cold beverages – water, tea, coffee. By adding ice to the water, you make your body work harder to heat the liquid. This in turn increases metabolism. Caffeinated drinks and tea also work in this direction.
  • Movement, of course, is very important for the proper functioning of metabolism. It is not compulsory to get sweat 5 hours a day in the gym to say you have exercised. Even a single walk every day will guarantee good metabolism.

Q: Other causes of constipation?

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A: Constipation may be caused by:

  • Physiological factors such as advanced age and lack of physical activity; hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause; significant lack of movement, especially in elderly, severe dehydration; and psychological factors such as stress or anxiety; ignoring the urgent need to go to the toilet.
  • Some drugs, such as analgesics, antacids, antidepressants and drugs for treatment of high blood pressure may also lead to constipation.
  • Some diseases, such as hypothyroidism (a condition in which there is decreased thyroid function and the gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones), diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.
  • Women suffer from constipation more frequently than men, as well as the older people suffer more often than the younger. The problems associated with constipation worsen with age and during different life stages in many women. Female sex hormones have been proven to possess effect upon colon motility. Although women often say about changes in digestion during the menstrual cycle, recently it was found that the role of sex hormones in regard to a change in the intestinal function during the cycle is minimal. The only exception is during pregnancy, when it is clearly proven that there is a link between sex hormones and constipation.

Q: Overeating is quite often in modern society, especially during the holidays. Could you give some practical advice for dealing with it as well as for its prevention?

A: The tables are full of tempting foods and beverages during the holidays. Try to eat slowly and less, to chew every bite and even if you try all dishes on the table, not to go too far with their amounts. If you start the evening with a starter at 9 PM and finish at 5 AM in the morning, then undoubtedly you’ll feel bad in the morning. The stomach cannot process the food because its biological clock is reversed. Then, it digests the food slowly and slows down metabolism. The adherence to the rules of healthy nutrition in the festive evening is rather difficult and it is something you learn with time – holiday after holiday. The festive supper is a feast for the soul, not for the stomach. If you fail, do not take it to heart – make a relieving day and try again on the next holiday.

Q: In your opinion, what is the optimal time interval between the meals and why?

A: According to the rules of healthy nutrition it is good to have a four hour interval between the meals. This is the necessary time for the food to be evacuated from the stomach and to feel hunger again without being furious. Thus, constant blood glucose levels are maintained without any major ups and downs.

Q: What do you think are the most frequent and most significant mistakes in nutrition which the patients make?
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A: One of the most common mistakes that people who want to get slim are making, is fasting and following drastic mono diets which exhaust metabolism, lead to yo-yo effect and in the end don’t achieve the desired goal at all. This mistake, repeated many times, impedes my eventual intervention. Another common wrong behavior is the refusal of searching the cause of weight gain in more depth. Patient often resist and believe that the visit at “nutritionist” is associated only with making a magical dietary regime. On the contrary, numerous tests, cooperation from the patient and sometime drug intervention are needed to influence the cause and the slimming to occur physiologically.

Q: What digestive disorders should indicate to the patients that medical help is needed?

A: All digestive disorders are good to be consulted and treated promptly. Bloating, discomfort feeling, heartburn, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea, etc. can be either temporary digestive disorders or indications of more serious problems.

Q: What should be the normal daily physical activity for optimal digestion?

A: The optimal daily physical activity is individual, i.e. different for everyone. It depends on age, sex, weight, profession, etc. In summary, it can be said that 10 000 steps per day are the necessary minimum. The average adult passes about 5-6000 steps a day, Increasing the everyday activity with additional 30 minutes of brisk walk will give you the equivalent of 7-8000 more steps, which is enough to experience the benefits of walking.

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