I had so many topics to write about this week I just didn’t know where to start! When this happens I look back on the week and some of the conversations or questions that have surfaced as a potential issue for many of us, and digestion came up as the winner!
Everyone at some time or other has suffered from digestive complaints, and experts suggest that the high standards of hygiene have contributed to more of us experiencing longer term issues with our digestive health. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know how important a thriving gut flora (intestinal bacteria) is to our overall health. Here are some specific issues and top tips to overcoming and supporting a healthy digestive system.
Constipation – be gone!
We all have an awareness that moving our bowels at least once every day is healthy. Of course, every person is unique and so what is normal for you is not always for someone else. However, regular bowel movements do indicate a healthy digestive system. Traditionally, we have been advised to eat more fibre to alleviate being ‘bunged up’ but think about it adding more fibre to bulk up our stools may not be the answer!
1. Drink at least 8 average glasses of water a day – One of the most common causes of constipation is actually dehydration. So many of us do not drink enough water because let’s face it we have so much going on it can be a challenge to remember to stop and take a drink at regular points in the day. This is when forming habits help, to do this, set reminders during the day for when you will drink water e.g. first thing, mid-morning, midday, whilst cooking dinner, evening and make this a 30-day focus/challenge.
2. Exercise regularly – being on the move helps the motility of your digestive system, take regular walks, especially after meals. Incorporating movement as a new habit will support your digestion.
3. Avoid coffee or chocolate after a meal as they can trigger stomach cramps and bloating due to the digestive hormone being released before food has been digested properly.
4. Eat foods high in magnesium – low magnesium levels can contribute to constipation and is a common deficiency in the western diet. Good sources of magnesium include almonds, spinach and cacao nibs or powder.
No more wind and bloating!
There are many schools of thought to an excess of gas, some experts say that some wind is good and just a product of the fermentation that is happening as we feed our good bacteria. However, much of the time wind and bloating is due to undigested food and eating too quickly, eating on the run or being stressed can all disrupt the digestive system. Also, low stomach acid and ineffective digestive enzymes, especially as we age will cause a problem. Lastly, certain foods will affect each of us differently and you may want to try a low-FODMAP plan (read on). Here are some tips to get rid of the pain of wind and bloating.
1.Probiotics – a high-quality probiotic and incorporating probiotic food sources such as Tamari and miso will add good bacteria into your gut
2. Chew well – take your time over meals, sit down and chew slowly
3. Relax – do something each day to relieve stress e.g. meditation, mindfully walk, soak in the bath, art therapy etc.
4. digestive enzymes – taking a natural plant digestive enzyme supplement will support you if your enzymes are inefficiently working
5. minimise fizzy drinks, lactose, beans, lentils, cabbage, artificial sweeteners, high-fat animal products such as butter and ghee
If your digestive complaints are more than a rare occurrence and are affecting your joy of life it may be time to set up a nutritional investigation for yourself. A low FODMAP diet is a good way to investigate which foods may be triggering your irritable bowel symptoms.
FODMAPS short for ‘Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols’ are sugars found in food products that many of us find difficult to digest when we eat them in excess.
It is a case of finding which ones are an issue for you and reducing them. Some of the FODMAPS have lots of health benefits and therefore it is much better to not take them out of your diet completely in the long term.
How to get started on a 30 day FODMAP investigation
1. Firstly, eliminate all of the following foods* from your diet for 30 days.
2. Next, choose to include one of the food products you have eliminated back in for 7 days and observe any changes in your digestion. If there are no effects do the same with the next food product. You will now have a clear picture of which foods you must reduce as problem foods.
3. Always work on strengthening your gut health by consuming foods high in probiotics (include a supplement) and prebiotics which does not cause an issue, these would include: quinoa, potatoes, bananas and blueberries.
*Foods high in FODMAPS
- High lactose dairy – ice cream, buttermilk, chocolate, cheesy sauces, custard, milk, soft cheeses and sour cream
- cashew nuts, beans, black-eyed peas, bulgur, lentils, soy miso, pistachios, soybeans and soy milk
- honey, agave or sweeteners including sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol
- products made with wheat, barley or rye, spelt, chicory root and inulin
- apples, applesauce, apricots, blackberries, dates, dried fruits, figs, guava, mango, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, prunes and watermelon
- artichokes, cauliflower, mushrooms and peas
- garlic, hummus, onions, leeks, shallots, tomato puree
Low ‘fodmap’ snack ideas:
- eggs scrambled with spinach, roasted peppers and cheddar cheese
- porridge oats made with water or almond milk – with sliced banana and almond nut butter
- rice pasta with chicken, tomatoes and spinach, pasta and a sprinkle of parmesan
For more information on how to follow a FODMAP short-term plan:
Tips for the week:
This week I have been using green tea for my morning smoothie base. Just in case you didn’t know green tea is extremely high in antioxidants, which support the prevention of age-related illness. It is also known to boost your metabolic rate, helpful in fat burning!
Green tea smoothies
Just one serving suggestion:
- 1 banana
- a few spinach leaves
- thumb sized piece of ginger
- half a tbsp of Ceylon cinnamon
- tbsp of flaxseeds and a sprinkle of pumpkin and poppy seeds
- tbsp of pea protein
- tsp of cacao nibs
- tsp of spirulina
- and a cup of warm (cooled for about 10 mins)green tea
Have a wonderful week and if there is anything I can help you with please get in touch,
lots of love and health,