All of us know that feeling of discomfort when we’ve overindulged or eaten the wrong type of foods. Constipation and diarrhoea are sometimes our tummy’s way of telling us that it doesn’t think much of recent food or lifestyle choices. A happy tummy makes for a far happier life in general!
To mark World Digestive Health Day (29 May), we have put together a round up of tummy-friendly foods and supplements that can keep your digestive system functioning at optimum levels.
The best way to avoid constipation is to eat plenty of fibre. The recommended daily intake is 30g a day.
You can find fibre in:
- Wholemeal bread
- Brown rice
- Lentils and grains
- Fruit and vegetables, specifically high in fibre include:
- Raspberries & Blackberries
Fibre acts like a sponge, absorbing water so it is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation.
Keeping well-hydrated helps to keep your poo soft and helps food to pass smoothly throughout your digestive system. Aim for six to eight glasses a day including water and sugar-free drinks.
Avoid too much caffeine which boosts acid in the stomach and can cause acid reflux (heartburn). Fizzy drinks can cause bloating so stick to still drinks if you are prone to digestive problems.
Too much fat – fried foods, fast food, fatty foods including dairy products – is hard for your system to digest and can cause stomach ache and acid reflux.
Eating a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish is better for your digestive system. Try grilling rather than frying food and choose reduced fat options wherever possible.
Probiotics – so called “friendly bacteria” – occur naturally in the gut and are a key component of digestive health. The balance of bacteria in our gut can be upset by a range of factors, including stress and antibiotics. Eating live yoghurt which contains probiotics or taking supplements can help.
High dose probiotics have been shown to be particularly effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. They may also reduce the risk of C.difficile, which are potentially dangerous bacteria that can infect the gut if the balance of gut bacteria is affected by antibiotics.
Some foods can trigger digestive discomfort. If you are experiencing digestive problems, try keeping a food diary for a month, noting down what you are eating and doing and keeping a record of when symptoms occur. See if you can identify any links between digestive problems and diet.
If particular foods seem to be causing problems, try cutting them out of your diet to see if that makes a difference. For some people, the inability to digest lactose can lead to problems after eating dairy products. Other people find that acidic foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes, vinegar) can cause problems. Spicy foods can cause heartburn for some people. Try to pay attention to what your tummy is telling you and avoid “problem” foods.
Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system. When we are stressed our nervous system shuts down the blood flow to the digestive system causing it to become sluggish.
Inflammation of the gastrointestinal system can occur, the oesophagus can go into spasm and you may develop diarrhoea or constipation.
Moderate exercise has been shown to help maintain a healthy digestive system as it causes a release of endorphins which help to combat stress. Relaxation therapies including yoga and meditation can also help.