We all suffer digestive issues from time to time, with the odd stomach upset, gas and heartburn being normal. However if these symptoms or others (such as nausea, constipation and diarrhoea) occur regularly, they can cause major disruptions to your life and be a sign that your gut needs a helping hand.
Making small changes to our lifestyles can have a big impact on our digestive health, and it’s not all to do with what we eat. Read on to learn more about what you can do to help your gut.
Include healthy fats in your diet
Not all fat is bad, in fact, it is often needed for proper nutrient absorption. As well as this, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases. Try including flaxseeds, chia seeds and nuts in your diet to increase your healthy fats intake.
Chew your food
Digestion isn’t just about what you eat, it’s also how you eat it. Chewing your food properly helps to break it into smaller pieces, which can then be better broken down by the enzymes in your digestive tract. The stomach has to do less work when food is properly chewed, as not only is it broken down into smaller pieces, chewing also creates more saliva which helps start the digestive process in the mouth and acts as a fluid that helps the food pass smoothly through the intestines.
Eat plenty of fibre
Most of us know that fibre is good for digestion. There are two types of fibre that work in different way, soluble fibre absorbs water and helps to bulk up your stool, whereas insoluble fibre helps the digestive tract keep everything moving as it should. Sources of soluble fibre include oat bran, legumes, nuts and seeds, and insoluble fibre sources are foods such as vegetables, whole grains and wheat bran.
Don’t forget your water
Constipation is often caused by not drinking enough fluid. It is suggested that we should drink between 1.5-2 litres of fluid a day, with this level increasing in warmer climates or during/after exercise. If you struggle to keep up your water intake, eating fruit and vegetables with a high water percentage can also help. Try eating foods like cucumber, celery, tomatoes and melon to increase how much fluid you consume.
Not many people know that stress can directly affect the digestive system. The reason for this is that if your body is in fight-or-flight mode, blood and energy are diverted away from the digestive system and the bod thinks there isn’t time to rest and digest food.
Managing stress with activities such as meditation, acupuncture and yoga has been shown to improve digestive symptoms.