At some point in our life we all may suffer with some abdominal cramps or constipation unrelated to our menstrual period. Others unfortunately may suffer much worse symptoms and on a regular basis. Symptoms such as bloating, constipation, cramping, diarrheoa and the list goes on. This can impact ones life in many different ways. For those of you who experience any of the above symptoms without a medical diagnosis for coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome here are some tips you can use to try and improve your digestive health.
1) Increase Your Vegetable Intake
Vegetables don’t only supply an abundant amount of vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health but they also provide fibre and bulk to support a healthy digestive tract. Only 8% of the Australian population eats the recommended five servings of vegetables a day (if you don’t include potatoes). As a rule, try to increase your vegetable intake simply by adding a vegetable (Green Juice) smoothie to your daily diet.
Probiotics can be found in foods such as yogurt or it can be consumed as a supplement. Probiotics provide healthy bacteria to the large intestine to breakdown and ferment food to produce short chain fatty acids and certain vitamins (B and K). Healthy gut micro-flora maintains the mucosal lining of the intestines, supports immune function and aids digestion by breaking down food that the stomach and small intestine were unable to breakdown.
3) Drink Water
Water is vital to ensure there is enough fluid in the digestive tract to support the cells lining the mucosa and also to help aid in the transport of nutrients and bulk through the digestive alimentary. Dehydration can easily lead to constipation; especially if you exercise, live in a warm climate, drink coffee an/or eat a lot of processed foods high in salt (such as breads, fried food, ham etc).
4) Exercise Daily
Digestion relies on involuntary smooth muscle contractions to move the bulk of food and nutrients through the digestive tract. A sedentary life can impact and slow down this process (leading to constipation). Exercise on the other hand can support digestion by increasing the activity of these muscles, increasing the speed of digestion and reducing the risk of bloating and constipation.
5) Maintain A Healthy Weight
Studies have shown that even a slight reduction in weight in an over-weight person can reduce the symptoms of Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease (GORD). Symptoms such as heartburn and bloating can be better managed with weight loss and trying to maintain a healthy weight. Remember to also eat your food slowly and properly chew before swallowing.
FOODS TO SUPPORT YOUR DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Oily Fish– increased omega 3 to help reduce inflammation and support immune function.
Ginger– used to treat nausea during pregnancy.
Peppermint – a natural antispasmodic that can relax the bowel and smooth muscle.
Fibre rich foods- A high fibre diet has been linked with reducing bowel cancer. Eating the recommended five servings of vegetables a day and eating whole-grains over heavily processed foods is a wise choice!
By Vanessa Thomson-Pride
Nutrition Advisor and Public Health Speaker.