The festive season particularly can play havoc with your digestion. If you’re having troubles, try these lifestyle tweaks. What’s going on in your stomach reflects the state of your general health. If your gut isn’t working properly, it can affect the level of nutrients in your body.
Stress, poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles are all contributing to a rise in stomach disorders, from constipation, diarrhoea and bloating to IBS, coeliac and Crohn’s disease. Plus, cases of bowel cancer have increased in the UK since the 1970s — it’s now the second-biggest cancer killer, with over 41,500 people diagnosed and 16,000 dying every year.
A healthy digestive system is the basis for your overall health, say Gastroenterologists. Keep it functioning well with healthy food, regular exercise and a good work/life balance.
Eat more fibre
It adds bulk to your stools and makes it easier for them to travel through the bowel. Aim for at least 30g of fibre a day. Try wholegrains, such as brown rice and wheat, nuts, seeds, oats, barley, beans, peas, chickpeas, apples, carrots and potatoes in their skins. Vegetables and fruit may also protect against bowel cancer, as they contain fibre and antioxidants which help to delay or prevent cell damage. Aim for at least five portions a day. If you find that too much fibre causes pain, wind or bloating, reduce it until your body adjusts. It may be worth taking a prebiotic supplement, say nutritionist experts. Try a high-fibre prebiotic. Prebiotics are fibres that can’t be broken down by the body and they support the growth of gut-friendly bacteria.
Cut back on red and processed meat
There’s strong evidence that eating a lot of red and processed meat (bacon, ham, sausages) increases your risk of bowel cancer. You don’t need to stop, but limit the amount you eat to 500g or less (cooked weight) per week. For more advice on gut-friendly foods and recipes, read facts and advice about your digestive system, as well as plenty of recipes.
Go low fat
To reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, which can drastically affect the way the gut works, choose low-fat options. Fat can also stimulate nausea, indigestion, gut spasms, gallstones and diarrhoea.
We need to drink about two litres of fluids (six to eight cups) every day to prevent dehydration. Water, low-fat milk and herbal teas are healthy choices. Having enough fluid with your food
helps digestion, keeps you hydrated and may help to prevent constipation. Listen to your body. Don’t ignore a feeling of thirst.
Be wary of having dairy
Yes, it’s a great source of calcium and essential vitamins, but it can also contain huge amounts of fat and milk sugar (lactose), which can cause irritation. Drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and if you’re intolerant of milk sugar, try lactose-free milks or plant alternatives, such as soya, rice or nut milks.
Slow down on alcohol
An occasional glass of wine can relax you and aid peaceful digestion, but don’t drink on an empty stomach or have too much. Alcohol dehydrates and can irritate the lining of the stomach and too much can lead to serious gastrointestinal and liver disease. Have a minimum of two alcohol-free days a week and drink no more than two to three units a day.
Get your omega 3s
They help to combat inflammation in the gut, however, government datas show that we don’t get enough omega 3s through our diet. It’s worth considering taking an omega-3 supplement and a
Don’t rush it
You need to relax when you eat your meals for optimum digestion. Make yourself eat slowly, chewing every mouthful thoroughly and say no to food on the go. For indigestion, try the natural remedies.
Go to bed!
Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your bowel function, appetite and body weight. Aim for eight hours a night.
Exercise helps to move food through your gut, so it aids digestion, preventing bloating and constipation. Research shows it may even affect the balance of bacteria in your gut, helping to boost your immune system. Also, people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer, say Bowel Cancer experts.
It’s no coincidence that we get an upset tummy when we’re stressed. Adrenaline pumps around your body, speeding everything up, including the rate food is passing through it. This can trigger
diarrhoea or more frequent bowel movements. Try mindfulness and deep-breathing techniques before stressful situations and make time to relax.
Smoking can cause many changes in the digestive system and it can trigger heartburn, peptic ulcers and increase the risk of Crohn’s disease and gallstones.
See your GP
If your gut is telling you something, please don’t ignore it, say Gastroenterologists. Gut symptoms often pass very quickly within a short time and no specific treatment, but if they persist, become progressive or wake you in the night at odd times, then get a check-up.
What about taking probiotics?
These live bacteria, often added to foods such as yogurts or taken as a food supplement, are good for the digestive system, say doctors. They can also reduce some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and pouchitis — when a surgically created loop of bowel becomes inflamed in people with ulcerative colitis.
E250 – Happy Tummy Tricks and Tweaks for Diabetic Digestion – www.diabetic.today