Digestive problems such as constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are one of the most common reasons for visiting a doctor. By following the guidelines below you may be able to improve your digestive problems.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you've managed to incorporate all of these ideas in to your diet and there are still problems then it may be worth investigating your digestive function with a comprehensive stool analysis.
Constipation is a very common problem which most people suffer with at some point in their life. It is defined as less than 3 bowel movements per week, but it's also useful to see how long your transit time is, using foods such as beetroot or sweetcorn which generally don't fully digest and can therefore be identified and timed going through your digestive tract. Healthy transit time is about 1-2 days, any longer may bring with it risks from food putrefying in your intestines.
The good news is that constipation can nearly always be improved with diet and lifestyle changes. The following tips to ease constipation may help:
1. Drink at least 8 glasses (2 litres) water to help prevent hard stools that are difficult to pass. Herbal or fruit teas can also count towards this.
2.Increase your fibre intake. The recommended amount is 25g per day, from both soluble and insoluble fibre. Foods to include in your diet on a daily basis include:
porridge oats - apples - pears - wholemeal bread - ryvita - brussels sprouts - asparagus - prunes - nuts - dried fruit - beans - brocolli - celeriac - leeks - lentils - wheatgerm - peas - spinach - sweetcorn - ground flaxseed - berries
3.Increase your vitamin-C containing foods (most fruits and vegetables… think rainbow colours). Vitamin C can help soften stools making them easier to pass. Good sources: broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries.
4.Ensure you are eating magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium helps muscles to work and promotes peristalsis – the muscular action which moves waste through the body. Good sources – wheatgerm in wholegrain bread, almonds, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, sunflower seeds.
5.Don’t ignore the urge to go to the toilet – it can stretch the rectum, making it more difficult to go in the future. It’s only natural, just ensure you have privacy and aren’t rushed.
6.Do what you can to minimise stress, which can cause constipation. Find some time each day for some ‘me’ time. Eating in a relaxed manner is also important to ensure that you are allowing the digestive system time to function properly,
7.Exercise, even gentle exercise like walking, is beneficial as it can help massage the intestines and get waste moving through the system. Aim to exercise for 30 mins, five times a week.
8.If you suspect that some foods may cause constipation (wheat and dairy can be common allergens), cut them out of your diet for at least 2 weeks and see if symptoms improve. Watch out for hidden sources of these foods as they often have alternative names. Food intolerance tests can be used to help pinpoint specific foods further.
The causes of IBS are not fully understood but it's thought that stress and food intolerances play a part in the condition.
•Reduce intake of possible triggers such as wheat and dairy products
•Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice, pasta, sweets and cakes as they can contribute to symptoms and can also cause an imbalance in gut bacteria
•Increase complex carbohydrates with such as whole grains, vegetables and pulses
•Slowly increasing soluble fibre from oats, apples, pulses and beans may help to relieve constipation and regulate bowel movements.
•Avoid insoluble fibre, such as wheat & bran as this is harder to digest
•Eat regularly with three small meals a day and include healthy snacks
•Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day
•Avoid rich & oily foods as they are known to aggravate the condition
•Restrict intake of caffeine, spicy foods, citrus fruits and artificial sweeteners
•Try to reduce stress, take time out to relax
•Incorporate gentle exercise such as walking, pilates or swimming to enhance bowel function
•Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
•Try going wheat free and experiment with new grains such as rye, spelt, quinoa and buckwheat.
•Experiment with dairy alternatives such as soy, oat or rice milk
•Drink peppermint tea to ease digestion
•Add ginger to your food to sooth the gut and protect against parasitic infections