New Delhi: “Good gut health will result in good physical health,” says Dr Nageshwar Reddy who is recognised globally for innovations in Gastro intestinal endoscopy. Born on March 18, 1956, in Vishakapatnam, Dr Reddy has been bestowed with various awards including B C Roy Award from the Indian Medical Council in 1995, Padma Shri in 2002 and Padma Bhushan in 2016. Dr Reddy’s main area of clinical and basic research interest has been in G.I. Endoscopy. Currently working as the Chairman of the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology and AIG Hospitals in Hyderabad, Dr Reddy believes “good health resides in the gut and the bacteria in the gut”.
On the season finale of NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India, Dr Reddy talked about the role of hygiene in gut health and gastro infections. He said,
90 per cent of us is bacteria and only 10 per cent are human cells. 90 per cent of bacteria controls everything – your sugar status, cardiac status and mental status. In human beings, we have a large diversity of these bacteria – good and bad. Whenever the balance between bad and good bacteria changes, our health is affected. Only in recent years, we have come to know this because we have the technology to check all the millions of bacteria that are present in the gut.
Upon examination, some startling examples of what happens in our body came to the front, said Dr Reddy and added,
Diabetes is produced because of bacteria. Cardiac disease is because of bacteria. So, you can imagine, when the bacterial diversity comes down because of infection, we suffer from ill health. This bacterial diversity varies from different regions; it is best in certain regions where people are following hygiene, proper diet and so on. In fact, if you take frequent antibiotics for Diarrhoea and other illnesses, your bacterial diversity goes down and you suffer all the ill health.
Dr Reddy and his team conducted an experiment to understand the link between hygiene and gut health. Under the experiment, around 20 villages were adopted and individuals were provided safe water, educated about toilet hygiene and changed their food habits to more fibre-rich food. In the last 10 years, all the cases of infective diarrhoea have disappeared from the region. The overall metabolic health of the people has improved; they no longer have cardio-metabolic problems.
Concluding the findings of the experiment, Dr Reddy said,
This was a very clear demonstration that our gut is central. The bacteria and the gut control all our metabolic processes and therefore, gut hygiene, which means washing hands, is important. Our campaign has done a lot in terms of changing the gut hygiene of people by telling people to keep their hands clean and then actually implementing it at the grassroot level. It has made a lot of difference. Simple interventions are sufficient to change gut hygiene, gut bacteria and health.
Further interacting with Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan on the role of gut health in overall well-being, Dr Reddy said,
It is written in our ancient texts, ‘everything comes from the gut’ and that’s true because of the bacteria present in the gut. Bacteria send all these chemicals to the body which control every activity. The heart rate, blood pressure, and mental health – everything is controlled, and any changes in the lifestyle – decreased exercise, abnormal food habits, smoking, and alcohol consumption, everything affects the gut microbiome causing dysbiosis in the gut.
The gut and liver interact in several ways and the impact of poor gut health is being seen in the form of fatty liver disease. Dr Reddy said, fatty liver disease affects 30 per cent of the Indians – regardless of the region they reside in. He added,
We think fast foods have calories that cause the problem. But, no, fast foods have additives and preservatives, which are causing the problem. These fast foods will change the bacteria, will cause damage to the gut and liver. Unfortunately, India is not only becoming the diabetic capital, we are becoming the capital for fatty liver disease as well and this fatty liver disease leads to Cirrhosis of liver and liver cancers. The highest number of liver cancers in the world are in India, and we are genetically prone to fatty liver.
Importantly, the seed of good gut health is sown at the time of birth. Dr Reddy said,
There are three things that determine the gut health in a child – vaginal delivery, breastfeeding and no use of antibiotics. If we follow these three, our children will start having a healthy gut.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toiletsare used and open defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.