Do you suffer from excessive gas, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation? If you think you have “just” a digestive problem you might want to think again.
The health of your digestion determines which nutrients are absorbed and which toxins, allergens, and microbes are expelled. As a result, your digestion is central to your overall health and it is connected to everything that happens in your body.
Keeping your digestive system healthy is critical because ultimately you are not what you eat but what you absorb!
Here are a five simple ways to tune up your digestion:
1. Eat more gentle fibre
It's common for many people to reach for bran and wheat when things get sluggish on the inside. Wheat bran is the opposite of gentle fibre. It is often processed (think crunchy (i.e. sugary) Bran Flakes and All Bran). It is a common food allergen and may promote bloating, sluggishness and indigestion, making it the worst choice for someone with constipation or other digestion problems.
Switch to a gentle source of fibre such as pysllium husks and/or ground flaxseeds. Eat them daily for best results, starting slowly. Make sure you drink a minimum of 1-1.5 litres of water each day.
Leave the sugary, processed ‘breakfast cereals’ where they belong: ON THE SHELVES (or give them away if you've already bought them). This one simple swap could keep things moving more regularly for you!
2. Eat more vegetables
Eating fibrous plant foods is a very important step in supporting your gut bacteria and digestion. The diversity and number of vegetables you eat will be reflected in the diversity and number of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut; the more the better. Aim for two to three servings of fruit, and six to eight vegetables daily. Eat the rainbow!
3. Make friends with fermented foods
Fermented foods provide a great natural source of probiotics and prebiotics (see below). Probiotics support the balance of good bacteria (flora) in your gut. Try water kefir or milk kefir, a tangy, slightly fizzy drink that’s packed with healthy bugs. I’m hoping to post a video soon on how to make your own. It’s a really easy and cheap source of probiotics.
Other probiotic powerhouses include naturally fermented sauerkraut and kimchi; they contain both live bacteria and prebiotics that nourish your gut bacteria and support gut healing. The best way is to make your own but if you decide to buy sauerkraut make sure it is raw. The stuff in the supermarket won't do because it is pasteurised. Look for products that say “live and active cultures” on the label.
Organic tofu and tempeh are also good choices. They are made from fermented soya beans.
4. Include prebiotic foods
Prebiotics are a type of soluble fibre found in certain plant foods that act as “food” for probiotics. They are like fertilizer helping probiotics grow and flourish in your gut. Prebiotic-containing foods include Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, and shallots. Eat some type of prebiotic food every day.
5. Eat bitter foods
Bitter foods such as watercress, rocket and apple cider vinegar stimulate digestive enzyme production and aid digestion. Stomach acidity shortfalls, and enzyme deficiency could be a root cause of digestive disturbance and is easily supported through supplementation and dietary improvements. Sometimes this is all it takes to see improvements in digestion.
Still having problems with your digestion?
If you have already tried these steps and you are still experiencing an irritable digestive system, contact me for a personalised plan. You have many options for supporting digestion so don't give up! Contact me here
If you suffer from diarrhoea read my blog post natural way to support diarrhoea >>
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Loose stools (AKA diarrhoea)! Not the most glamorous of topics but something most of us experience at some point or other. Most people recover with no ill effects within a few days. But how can you minimise the misery?
What causes diarrhoea to occur?
Diarrhoea may be caused by bacterial, viral, yeast or protozoon infections, irritable bowel syndrome, overuse of laxatives, anxiety, antibiotics or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
What is diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is a loose consistency stool plus increased frequency of bowel motions. It occurs when the bowel secretes increased amounts of fluid and the speed at which contents pass through the intestines increases. The problem is usually intermittent and associated with other classic symptoms such as distention, bloating, and excess wind.
Five natural ways to support diarrhoea and digestive complaints
Replace lost fluids and minerals with water and an electrolyte solution.The focus should be on water, or herbal teas if you can stomach them. Avoid fruit juices and prunes, milk and dairy products as sometimes temporary lactose intolerance (to milk sugar) can occur.
Diarrhoea causes large amounts of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium as well as water to be washed out through the bowels, causing dehydration and low blood pressure.
Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes including sodium and potassium. Coconut water is the liquid in the cavity of the coconut when you crack it open. Luckily for us, brands such as Vita Coco and Biona do this for us, (Cocoface even allows you to drink straight from the nut itself) so you don’t have to be lounging by a beach somewhere exotic to enjoy the health benefits. A trip to your local health food store will suffice.
Over the counter electrolyte mixes (example Dioralyte) contain saccharin – a synthetic chemical sweetener, so look for one without.
2. Avoid caffeine
When you have gastric irritation it's best to eliminate caffeine (tea and coffee) as it is highly acidic and will irritate your stomach. Switch to herbal teas or water.
Mint contains an essential oil that has antiseptic and painkilling properties. It aids digestion by increasing gastric emptying stimulating secretion of digestive juices and bile and also relaxes excessive spasm of the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract.
Drink mint tea to relieve indigestion, intestinal cramps and spasms, flatulence and mild IBS and to aid rehydration.
3. Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm, the inner bark of the slippery elm tree, holds amazing soothing properties, thanks to its ability to form a ‘slippery’ lining of the gut.
Slippery elm forms a gummy, mucilage substance when it comes in contact with water and coats and soothes the stomach and intestines, reducing inflammation and irritation, when taken internally, either as a drink or in capsule form.
This curious brown powder is soothing to stomach ulcers, gastritis, acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhoea, IBS or any inflammation of the bowel.
4. Saccharomyces Boulardii
Saccharomyces Boulardii (S. Boulardii) is a natural yeast, extracted from the lychee fruit. S. Boulardii has undergone years of clinical research, demonstrating its ability to bind to and flush out pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella; thereby naturally supporting your gut health in the case of diarrhoea.
S. Boulardii has also been shown to have considerable anti-inflammatory properties, helping to maintain gut health in those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Due to its immense popularity among scientific communities, it is in fact registered as a medicine in over 100 countries. A supplement cupboard essential for episodes of embarrassing tummy troubles. Studies show Saccharomyces Boulardii may shorten the duration of diarrhoea. Read more about Saccharomyces Boulardii here
5. Probiotic supplements
Probiotic supplements containing healthy, digestive bacteria (e.g. Lactobacilli Acidophilus and bifidobacteria) help to keep the digestive system in balance and keep harmful bacteria at bay through a number of mechanisms, including the production of natural antibiotics (bacteriocins). Look for products containing a million to billions of bacteria per capsule (popular, big brand 'yoghurt drinks' do not qualify).
If you need digestive support please contact me for personalised advice.
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It is always recommended to consult with your GP if you experience ill health and before supplementation in case of drug/nutrient interaction.
A question I get asked a lot recently is: how can you stay healthy while you travel especially if you have food intolerances?
There is really nothing worse than being hungry and tired and not being able to find anything suitable to eat. The answer to this question of staying healthy while you’re travelling is to be super organised. I have a number of essentials that I take absolutely everywhere with me to stay energised and happy!
Before I go:
Make trail mix – I combine my favourite nuts, seeds, sultanas, goji berries, coconut flakes or cacao nibs and dried cranberries together and then take it with me in little sealable bags. I also leave some in my car. Happy snacking!
Homemade energy balls are also wonderful, but if I don’t have time to make my own I love Bounce Balls (healthfood stores) and they travel really well. Protein rich snacks such as these are the best for sustained energy levels and avoiding cravings.
The next thing I always take with me on holiday is a couple of packets of healthy, ‘free from’ bread so that I can buy some avocados and enjoy mashed avocado or banana on toast when I arrive. Biona do a really good millet bread that comes sliced and travels really well as it is small and compact. You’ll get this in the ‘Free From’ aisle in the supermarket or healthfood store.
On the plane, train or automobile:
I make sure I drink plenty water throughout the day and avoid drinks which dehydrate such as coffee, tea and alcohol.
Don’t rely on the tiny cups of water you get inflight. It’s never enough. I buy bottled mineral water once I’m through security to take with me on the plane. One 750ml bottle for short haul flights and two 1 Litre bottles for long haul flights.
I always bring some snacks for the journey. Everyone loves a freebie but the complementary snacks available on board are never healthy: high salt and totally refined. Instead reach for really portable and handbag friendly Nakd bars (supermarkets), oatcakes or Trek bars (Boots). Again these are protein rich, wholefood snacks to keep my blood sugar levels and energy balanced.
When I arrive:
When I arrive at my destination I buy some nuts, bananas and a selection of seasonal fruit from a local market or supermarket, natural plain yoghurt and where possible oat flakes. This combo makes a quick and delicious breakfast muesli or mid afternoon snack.
If you are dairy intolerant skip the muesli and just have the nuts and fruit.
This is when avocados, bananas and the millet bread come in really handy!
I love knowing I have something tasty to eat back in the hotel or apartment if I can’t find anything that works for me while I’m out.
Avoid sunburn and tummy troubles this summer holiday with my summer essentials here>>
These tiny flaxseeds (AKA linseed) appear rather unassuming but these powerful little seeds provide 3 incredible benefits to your diet.
Buy them ground or ideally grind them yourself before serving (unground will pass straight through you and you'll miss out on the benefits).
How to serve flaxseeds:
Sprinkle on muesli, porridge, yoghurt, soups, casseroles (once cooked) or bake them in your bread. Try adding them to your smoothie. You’ll love their nutty flavour! Start slowly with 1 teaspoon and build up to 1-2 tablespoons a day.
Organic, cold pressed flaxseed oil is a good source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 but to benefit from the fibre and the lignans you need to eat the ground seeds.
It's definitely worthwhile making flaxseed part of your Stellar eating plan.
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