More and more of us seem to be suffering from digestive problems.
Whether it’s cramping, bloating, stomach pains or simply discomfort, around 40% of us in the UK have at least one digestive complaint at any one time, according to Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital in London.
We asked some experts for their tips on how to keep our tummies healthy and happy.
1. Feed it properly
First things first, you need to fuel your stomach in the right way and treat it like the finely-tuned machine it is, says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com.
“Your digestive system is like a piece of fine machinery. Many different parts work together to process food. In order to get the maximum benefit from your food, make sure the type of food you put into it is the best quality. We want the best digestive system, so use the best fuel,” she advises.
“To improve digestive health and maintain it, it is important to eat a balanced and varied diet.
“Eat vegetables and protein with every meal - vegetables are packed full of nutrients like beta carotene which help your digestive system function properly. Beta carotene gets turned into vitamin A in the body which is an essential nutrient for mucus membranes - like the gastrointestinal tract.
“Good sources of protein are unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, dairy and beans. Protein supports our digestive system by providing amino acids as building blocks for the regeneration of the gastrointestinal tract. Meat also contains zinc which helps in normal protein synthesis making it helpful in gut repair, if you do not eat meat look for vegetarian sources, like pumpkin seeds.”
2. Know your fibres
Not only should you eat more, you need to know your fibres too.
Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and helps to relieve constipation by softening stools. Good sources are oats, barley, fruit, rye, root vegetables and golden linseed.
Insoluble fibre can’t be digested but helps to clear waste through the digestive system. Shona suggests eating bran, cereals, nuts and seeds if you need more insoluble fibre.
3. Headaches and mood swings could signal a food allergy
Suffering from headaches, a sore throat, mood swings or runny eyes? They could all be symptoms of a food sensitivity says Shona.
“Food sensitivities are behind many digestive disorders and you may want to find out if you are reacting to certain foods, as if you are it can place a stress on the digestive system.
“A simple way to try to work out what foods you are reacting to is to keep a food diary, making a note of any symptoms you have experienced. If you notice a pattern associated to a certain type of food you may want to remove it from your diet.”
4. Cut out the gas
We’re not just talking fizzy drinks here but foods like beans, pulses and root vegetables that are notorious for causing bloating.
“Although these foods are good for you and are low in fat, try and choose salad vegetables such as salad leaves, and tomatoes, which will not make you so bloated,’ explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
5. Consider magnesium
Dubbed nature’s tranquiliser, magnesium is said to help relax muscles and nerves which can help combat cramping and constipation.
“Magnesium increases the water in your intestines, helping to initiate a wave like motion to move faecal matter through the intestines, therefore aiding digestion.
“Many of us live hectic, stressful lives, and are more exposed to environmental and food toxins, which can make us more prone to a magnesium deficiency.
Try to include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains and bananas in your diet, which are all rich in magnesium.” explains nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
6. Up your dose of sunshine
“Vitamin D, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, has been shown to help stabilise bowel movements and ease symptoms of IBS,” explains Cassandra.
“Research suggests that IBS sufferers can be deficient in this vitamin. IBS sufferers can have intolerance to fatty substances so often avoid these types of foods, which vitamin D is often found in.
“If you are concerned that you’re not getting enough Vitamin D, especially if you do not have the chance to get out in the little bit of sunshine we get each year, then I would suggest taking a supplement.”
Like this story? Why not share it with your friends by clicking the orange plus sign?