The main function of the digestive system is to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. The body will use vitamins, proteins, fats in order to carry out various jobs around the body. A ‘digestive problem’ is a change or abnormality in the natural functioning of this process and these are extremely common – Up to 40% of the UK population suffer from at least one symptom of a ‘digestive problem’ at any one time.
Now, there is a lot of conflicting data in the media regarding what foods to eat and diets to follow. This can be confusing and frustrating for people experiencing digestive problems because they know that a single meal choice can completely ruin their day. Below are a few tips i personally feel are beneficial towards maintaining/improving gut health:
Find the issue: While there can be many causes of gut troubles, there is always a cause. Be it stress or an intolerance, Identify it before you mask symptoms with medications.
Elimination diet: If you are unsure what is causing your symptoms, this is a great way root out the issue. Do this on your own, or set up a consultation with a dietitian or coach.
Bacteria: Beneficial bacteria, (or ‘good’ bacteria as is it often called) strengthen the intestinal barrier. Choose pro/prebiotic rich foods and consume them regularly, or use a pro/prebiotic supplement if need be.
Slow down: The process of slowing down and chewing your food is important for enzyme release and breaking food down so it is manageable for the gut. Take your time!
L-glutamine: Glutamine can act as fuel for intestinal cells, and might reduce the allergic response.
Digestive enzymes: Look for a broad-based multi-enzyme formula. Many of us produce less hydrochloric acid as we age making it more difficult to digest food.
Other supplements: There are LOTS of other supplements that might help gut health including – melatonin, turmeric , peppermint, licorice root, CoQ10, aloe vera and psyllium. But ideally, solve the underlying problem first.
Flavonoids: Fruits and vegetables are the major sources of flavonoids in our diet. Foods in the cabbage family and vegetable broths can also help here. Although, if FODMAPs are a problem for you (which can be the case with IBS sufferers), choose carefully, as some of these foods may cause more trouble.
Rest: Sleep and stress management are necessary for renewal of the body and controlling inflammation. Improving these areas may improve gut health.
Fibre: Eat your veggies! Try beans, peas, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and whole grains, they are all great fibre sources. However, if your diet is pretty low on fibre at the moment, make sure you make small steady increases as a large jump can just cause more issues.
Fixing your digestion may take some time, but it can be done. Good luck!
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