To mark Nutrition and Hydration Week, from 12 to 18 March, we’re inviting you to pause and take a look at what you’re eating and drinking and, in particular, it’s impact on your digestive health.
Many of us tend not to give much thought to what we are eating and drinking. We might grab a sandwich on our way to work, or gobble down our dinner while watching TV, or alongside a glass or two of wine in the evening.
8 Simple Ways to Improve Digestive Health
Here are some simple ways that you could improve your digestive health today:
1) Don’t eat while stressed
Eating while stressed can lead to bloating. A way of combating this is to pause and calm down before starting to eat your meal. This helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is essential for proper digestive function.
2) Drink more water
Drinking more water improves gut health because it keeps our intestines slippery and performing well. Avoid drinking sugary drinks though, as these can feed unhelpful gut bacteria and cause them to proliferate.
3) Listen to your body
If you are experiencing digestive problems, it is your body trying to tell you that something is not right. If you listen, you might be able to make some simple changes that will alleviate the problem, or at least lessen it.
For example, your body may not tolerate gluten well – a condition known as Coeliac Disease – and by cutting it out of your diet, you may feel a whole lot better. This condition needs to be properly diagnosed through. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people have Coeliac Disease, but under 25% of people have been properly diagnosed.
4) The truth about poo
There is a misconception that you need to poo daily to have a healthy digestive system. Normal bowel activity is classed as anything more than three times a week and less than three times a day.
As long as you pass them easily, there is no right or wrong consistency for your poo. As humans, our bodies are designed to poo in a squatting position. If you struggle, try raising your knees higher than your hips, which will stretch your colon and reduce pressure.
5) Avoid over processed foods
Protecting your gut bacteria is the key to good health. Processed food often contains high levels of sugar, fat and preservatives which can adversely affect gut bacteria.
It is better to limit your intake of processed foods, or to avoid them altogether.
6) A little salt is good
Many digestive problems are linked to low levels of stomach acid. You can boost your production of stomach acid by adding some high quality unprocessed sea salt, such as Himalayan salt, to your diet. This will give your body the chloride it needs to create hydrochloric acid. Alternatively, try eating sauerkraut which is the highly effective stimulant for your body to produce stomach acid.
However, it is important to not exceed the recommended levels of salt per day on a regular basis, as this can lead to a number of other health issues, and can cause your body to be dehydrated.
7) Limit medications
Some types of medication, particularly antibiotics, but also blood pressure drugs, pain relievers and some anxiety drugs, interfere with the digestive process and can affect gut bacteria.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid taking necessary medication but talk to your GP about alternatives that might have less of an impact on your gut, or discuss ways of preventing stomach problems with a specialist gastroenterologist.
8) Chew your food
In today’s fast-paced world, many of us are failing to chew our food properly. This can lead to our digestive system having to work harder. Try taking smaller mouthfuls and chewing your food thoroughly.