According to a recent survey of 500 people, one in 10 Britons suffer from heartburn, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea or abdominal pains almost every day.
Let us look at a few areas of digestive health and highlight how certain dietary changes and supplements can help.
Flatulence and Bloating – Excess gases building up in the digestive tract and on being expelled cause flatulence. And whilst it is not a major health threat, it can be extremely embarrassing. It is generally caused by chemical reactions that occur after eating certain foods such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks and sprouts. They often arrive into the large intestine incompletely digested and are subsequently broken down by bacteria and it is the bacterial action that produces certain gases causing flatulence and bloating.
So to help alleviate the symptoms try the following:
• Eat slowly – chew foods at least 20 times.
• Do not drink fluid with food as this can dilute the digestive enzymes and make it harder to break down the food.
• Consider taking a’ Pro-Biotic supplement’ which will support the bacteria in the body when breaking down food. These are available from any Health food shop. There are also yogurt drinks containing pro biotic strains but these should really be avoided as they often also contain excess sugar which can make the bloating worse.
• A ‘Ginger capsule’ can also help with these symptoms – available from a Health food shop.
Fullness or heaviness after meals – This is a common complaint and can occur even if an excessively large meal has not been consumed. Often a sensation of general discomfort as opposed to pain is also experienced. It is caused by the stomach’s natural movement slowing down, leaving food churning in the stomach for too long – i.e. slow digestion. Again it is very important to eat slowly and to chew food thoroughly. ‘Digestive enzymes’ taken at the beginning of the meal will also help with this complaint as they supplement the body’s own enzymes in breaking down food – again from any Health food shop.
Gut Spasms – Food is propelled through the digestive tract by a wavelike movement called peristalsis. This can often be interrupted, as in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, when the contractions become uncoordinated and the muscles go into spasm. ‘Peppermint oil’ taken after meals is very good at relieving this. Also get into the habit of drinking peppermint tea regularly to aid digestion.
Finally Get your bowels moving regularly by:
• Eating lots of fibre every day from fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
• Drink at least 1 litre of water per day.
• Take regular daily exercise to help propel waste through the system
Alyson Carter is a Nutritional Therapist having graduated from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London. She is registered with the Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC) and is a member of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CHNC) and the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).