We’ve all had those days, times when it all just seems a bit ‘off’. Indeed, YouGov reported that 43% of the UK suffers from a digestive complaint and 1 in 5 of us has to deal with IBS at some point in our life. However, all that pain doesn’t have to be accepted without hope.
Up to 80% of our immunity is in our gut microbiome, where around 10,000 species of microbe live. Ideally, we should be eating approximately 50 different types of food each week – no mean feat! Nonetheless, there are some ways to help digestive discomfort if you fall a little short of such variety. The important thing is to learn from your body and know what brings you health and what really isn’t worth the momentary taste if the aftereffects are negative and much, much longer.
Be Sure to Eat Enough Fibre
The RDA is 30g a day. Think wholegrains and oats, fruits and vegetables a plenty, beans and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. If you need an added boost, try psyllium husk for a little while. However, for those with IBS the predominant portion of your fibre will need to come from fruit and veg, as cereals and grains can aggravate symptoms.
Soluble fibre needs water, so be sure to drink enough. Steer clear of caffeine if you suffer from heartburn and avoid fizzy drinks where you can, as these unnecessarily bloat the stomach with excess gas, which in turn can exacerbate heartburn as well.
Trim the Fat
Heartburn and stomach pain can also occur when too much fat is in the diet, as it makes digestion much harder. Junk food and lots of fried food are big no-nos. Think rather grilled or steamed foods, and avoid fatty cuts of meat if you’re an omnivore. Opt for fresh and lean where you can.
Spice Isn’t Always Nice
Some people can wolf down a vindaloo and have very little ill effect; others will be unwell for a week after a dish too heavy on garlic. Listen to your body and adapt your diet to suit. IBS sufferers in particular should avoid too much spice.
Know Your Trigger(s)
Whether you’re someone who withers with wheat or nauseates at the very thought of milk, if you live simply with a sensitive stomach or sufferer from flare ups of IBS and other digestive disorders, the key to manging symptoms is to know what to avoid as best you can. Keeping a food diary is very useful. And don’t feel hard done by: there are so many alternatives out there – from oat drink to gluten free pasta – that you really won’t be missing out (and you certainly won’t miss the discomfort!).
Trust in the Ferment: Prebiotics and Probiotics
Although most IBS sufferers should follow a FODMAPs diet, for other digestive complaints fermentation can help. While prebiotics are natural, non-digestible carbohydrates (or oligosaccharides) that fuel probiotics when fermented – creating butyric acid – consuming already fermented foods and drinks can assist this process even more. Fermented products have been preserved by lactic acid, created in the anaerobic conversion of sugar. Top choices include kombucha and kefir, miso and tempeh, as well as sauerkraut and kimchi.
Take Up Yoga
Not only does yoga help to keep stress levels at a manageable level, the postures can help move things along in our gut as well, many poses specifically designed with intestinal peristaltic movement in mind.