Sometimes we can get so focused on pinpointing a certain trigger food to our bloating, the simpler stuff gets overlooked. Incorporate these simple steps into your day to reduce your risk of bloating, gas and uncomfortable cramping.
Eat in a 10-Hour Window
To help your digestion you should really avoid lying down soon after eating. Fasting for 12-14 hours overnight can make a huge difference to your risk of bloating. For example, have an earlier dinner with the kids at 6pm and then fast until breakfast the next morning, between 6-8am. Or, if you get home late, eat dinner at say 8pm and then wait until 8-10am to eat breakfast. It will minimise your risk of bloating and the mindless grazing we are all tempted by late at night. This tip also works wonders for acid indigestion, heartburn and slow metabolisms. Give yourself that window to allow your gut microbes to flourish.
How many hours a day are you seated for? Honestly, so many of us are sat for 8-10 hours per day without even realising! The drive to work - often in stressful situations where we tense up. Then at our desk for 8 hours under pressure and dealing with demanding situations. Take mini breaks and move more. It releases gas and aids digestion. Plus, when you are moving your gut bacteria improve and you produce short chain fatty acids which help with the health of the gut lining and repair. Try walking up and down the stairs in your building for five minutes or walk to a different floor to refill your water bottle.
Have Wheat-Free Days
Wheat is hard to digest and a common food allergen. Wheat is found in breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, biscuits and beer, to name a few. Start by having wheat-free days and see how it impacts your bloating. There are far more gentler sources of fibre we can use instead that will alleviate the pressure on our gut. Sweet potato, brown rice and oats are all gentler sources of fibre that are naturally wheat-free.
Alcohol is a major gut irritant and damages the lining of the gut. Sorry, I know! Even if you only drink in small amounts, if you have excessive bloating, gas or loose stools, I recommend going alcohol-free for one month and track the changes in your bloating.
Rest and Digest
When we are eating we want to be producing saliva and enzymes, not stress hormones. Go sit somewhere more mellow where there aren’t distractions like email, an angry boss, or a nail-biting episode of your favourite TV show. Breathe in the lovely aromas, chew slowly, savour the flavours and the wonderful textures. And remember, digestion starts in our mouth, our stomach does not have teeth.
Also, when we eat too quickly, we tend to swallow big gulps of air which can increase risk of bloating and cramps. Sit down, rest and digest, maybe with a friend, or family.
If you experience chronic bloating and you have been given the all-clear by your GP and you are still struggling, it might be time to consider Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or “SIBO”. Find out more here.
Do Probiotics reach the gut alive?
Good quality probiotic supplements will have in vitro (test tube) studies available to prove their product survives stomach acid and reaches the desired area alive (e.g. gut, bladder, vagina). These are helpful as they give us an indication of stability.
Ideally, the studies we really want are the human clinical trials as these rank higher in evidence and we can more easily see how the probiotic effects the human body. So far human clinical trials on probiotics have been small as they lack funding.
Here's what to look for when you are choosing a probiotic supplement
Check that it is proven to survive at room temperature until the expiry date and survive stomach acid.
Look at the strength.
Ideally you want a probiotic in the millions to billions but more doesn’t always mean better. Check the scientific evidence and use this as a guide. Or preferably, check-in with a nutritional therapist as we are trained in supplementation and can do all this ground work for you.
Be Strain Specific.
Look at the species and the strain.
For example, Rhamnosus Rosell 11 is a common probiotic found in supplements. “Rhamnosus” is the species and “Rosell 11” is the strain.
Rhamnosus Rosell 11 – shown to stabilise gut health during antibiotics. Rhamnosus GR1 – shown to help vaginal health.
Both are from the same species (Rhamnosus) but have different characteristics.
The strain helps to inform what that particular probiotic can do. Probiotics are not all the same!
If you've tried probiotics alongside dietary changes and you feel they have made no difference then in some circumstances it may be helpful to try a different species and strain. Speak to a nutritional therapist before starting supplementation, especially if you are on medication.
This morning I appeared on the Kaye Adams Show on BBC Radio Scotland along with the Food Medic to discuss the possible health benefits of probiotics and if we need to take them. Here is a summary of our conversation in case you missed it! You can listen back here on the BBC iPlayer
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that support our gut health (digestive system) and help our natural bacteria flourish. They also support a healthy balance of bacteria in our vagina, on our skin and in our bladder.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics help to do the following:
How effective are probiotics?
To really understand how effective probiotics are, it’s helpful to look at all the data (meta-analysis*) and ask ourselves is there a trend in the data? It is clear there are benefits to probiotics but we must be careful not to make overreaching claims. They can be useful in context! For example, to improve mood. But is it a standalone treatment for depression? Absolutely not.
*Meta-analysis (weighs all the evidence from all the small individual studies, and calculates whether or not the evidence is actually relevant).
What happens when we take a probiotic?
When we take probiotics, we are providing a barrier along the gut cells. This helps prevent pathogens damaging the gut lining and entering the bloodstream and setting off an inflammatory cascade (also known as leaky gut).
Should I take a daily probiotic supplement to maintain general health?
There is not enough evidence to advise taking a probiotic supplement daily but if you have digestive disturbances, or chronic inflammation it may be helpful along with other dietary adjustments to rebalance your gut. Taking a probiotic daily is considered safe but not always essential. Consult a nutritional therapist first.
What about eating fermented foods daily?
Probiotic rich foods such as raw kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi can be eaten daily to support general health, gut health, immunity, skin health and mood.
Living with Cancer
Specifically, dairy has shown to be protective to the gut in colorectal cancer. One of the best studies to support this is the EPIC study. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study looks at the relationships between diet and cancer, across Europe.
The study shows lower colorectal cancer risks have been associated with higher intakes of total dairy products, total milk and dietary calcium. Adding natural yoghurt (a cultured dairy product) is a simple cost-effective way to incorporate probiotics to your diet safely and naturally without the need for supplements, which are often contraindicated during cancer therapy. Interestingly, it points to the calcium content specifically in dairy produce that is linked to reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
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