Breaking Bad Habits to Improve Your Health
The digestive system consists of a multitude of organs within the body. The organs include the mouth and salivary glands and stomach. The digestive system also includes the small and large intestines, liver, pancreas, and finally, the gall bladder. The function of the gastrointestinal tract is to process food and fluids and distribute them throughout the body’s system. When a person develops bad habits which can affect the GIT, these bad habits can cause severe issues.
Why are bad habits harmful to the gastrointestinal tract?
Bad habits are harmful because these habits can affect the way the digestive system functions. For example, there is a sweetener called Sorbitol in sugar free chewing gum. In some people, who chew gum excessively, the sweetener may trigger diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and severe weight loss. The consumption of Sorbitol is also associated with irritable bowel syndrome, moreover, this chemical is used in laxatives.
So, let's take a look at the effects some bad habits have on human body.
- Smoking can harm all the parts of the body’s digestive system. Smoking may increase the risk of Crohn’s disease. It can contribute to heartburn and the development of peptic ulcers. Smoking may cause gallstones as well as some liver problems. Smoking affects the liver by changing the way it deals with drugs and alcohol.
- Energy drinks can also be harmful to the GIT if drank in excess. One of the main ingredients in energy drinks is caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine. These are stress hormones which can activate the “flight or fight” response in the body. When these reactions are activated, it causes the blood supply to be redirected from the digestive system to the body’s muscles. This causes the slowing down of food absorption and may lead to indigestion. Because of the additional distribution of gastric acid, it also causes acidic chyme to be released into the small intestine. This can cause intestinal injury and abdominal pain.
- Alcohol can contribute to the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Alcohol increases the levels of gastrin and acid secretion. It also contributes to the development of oropharyngeal, esophageal, gastric and colon cancer. Alcohol can also affect the way the liver functions.
What are the long term effects of the misuse of these substances?
The long term effects of chewing gum with Sorbitol can be constant unexplained abdominal pain and diarrhea. This can cause weight loss and chronic intestinal related problems. One of the long term effects of smoking is the changes in the liver function. There can also be inflammation of the lining of the intestine, otherwise known as Crohn’s disease, which causes diarrhea and pain usually in the small intestine. Smoking may cause a peptic ulcer in the lining of the stomach as well.
The caffeine in energy drinks may increase hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. If energy drinks are being consumed on a regular basis, then the stomach may have difficulty producing enough acid when it’s mealtime. This will cause undigested food which in turn may lead to diverticulitis, IBS, or even cancer.
How can these bad habits be broken?
In terms of breaking bad habits, first of all, it is essential to realize that it is really a bad habit. When the awareness has risen, then a strategy needs to be developed and put in place to counteract the habits. For instance, don’t buy chewing gum by avoiding vending machines or stores, substitute it with something healthy, perhaps a serving of fresh raw vegetables like baby carrots or celery.
- If your bad habit is smoking, then avoid those places where you used to smoke or had coffee-breaks. Another suggestion is to write out a list of reasons why quitting will not be easy. Then next to each reason why it won’t be easy provide an option for overcoming that reason. Also a week before quitting smoking write down when the urge to smoke strikes you. Write down what you were doing at that time, and how bad the actual craving was. Figure out what the trigger for wanting to smoke is and then find alternate activities for such cases. Another idea is to do breathing exercises instead of smoking.
- If the bad habit is energy drinks, find a more healthy alternative. If you stop drinking energy drinks suddenly, then nausea, severe headaches, and vomiting could occur. Some products that may help withdraw from energy drinks are coffee, flavored yogurt and white tea. The next step is to switch to green tea, which contains only small amounts of caffeine. Increase the consumption of water to ward off dehydration. Set aside the money spent normally on energy drinks and spend it as a reward when the addiction is totally controlled.
- If it’s alcohol, avoid people and places which bring on the urge to drink. If alcohol is a severe problem, then professional help may be needed to handle the withdrawal symptoms. If it is manageable, using exercises as a replacement for a bad habit is an excellent alternative. Also avoid frequenting bars and people who would cause a triggering action.
It takes persistence to change the trigger points and the surrounding environment to break a bad habit; however, the benefits of changing bad habits are many. Quit smoking and drinking alcohol and it will remove the harmful effects on the liver, for example. The level of acid in the stomach decreases if you reduce the consumption of energy drinks. There will be fewer headaches and depression. If you quit the habits that are harmful there will be less constipation, insomnia and irritability. Work performance and memory will improve. The cycle which follows bad habits, such as hyperactivity from too much caffeine and the unhealthy effects of smoking on the body, will be reversed.
There will also be financial gain when bad habits are broken.
When the bad habits affecting GIT are broken, it will help to prevent the development of GIT diseases. Replacing bad habits with better habits all the way around will insure a healthier GIT. Also, by quitting the harmful habits which are wreaking havoc on the GIT, a better outcome will be ensured as well as a healthier life.