Digestion issues? Beat the bloat in 8 simple steps

Want to slide back into those skinny jeans but feeling bloated and sluggish? You’re not alone.

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Over 50 per cent of Brits suffer from a chronic or persistent gut problem, and nearly a third of us have only spoken to a health professional about this, according to Love Your Gut. With so many of us struggling from digestion issues, we spoke to the experts for advice on how to soothe the gut on a daily basis…

How do we know if our gut is unhealthy?

“Many health issues have been linked to problems in the gut – ranging from digestive issues such as bloating, gas and diarrhoea, to food allergies or sensitivities, depression, anxiety and other mood issues, skin issues such as eczema and more serious health issues such as diabetes and autoimmune disease,” says Adrienne Benjamin, nutritionist at provenprobiotics.co.uk.

“The health of your digestive system is generally controlled by the amount and types of bacteria it contains, and an overgrowth of bad bacteria leads to an imbalance. This is known as gut dysbiosis”.

Top tips for a happy tum…

1 Kickstart the day by feeding your gut properly

“Eat vegetables and protein with every meal – vegetables are packed full of nutrients like beta carotene, which help your digestive system function properly,” explains Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at superfooduk.com. “Beta carotene gets turned into vitamin A in the body, which is an essential nutrient for mucus membranes – like the gastrointestinal tract.

“Good sources of protein are unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, dairy and beans. Protein supports our digestive system by providing amino acids as building blocks for the regeneration of the gastrointestinal tract. Meat also contains zinc, which helps in normal protein synthesis making it helpful in gut repair. If you do not eat meat look for vegetarian sources such as pumpkin seeds.”

2 Boost your good bacteria on a daily basis

“Over 70 per cent of the body’s immune system is concentrated in the gut, which engages most intimately with the external environment,” explains nutritionist Cassandra Barns. “It is the portal to the body, processing an enormous variety of food and absorbing nutrients, as well as being exposed to a myriad of infectious agents and toxic substances. Therefore, it’s important to maintain optimal gut health for an overall healthy body.

“The bacteria in our guts outnumber our cells by about ten to one and take residence in our bodies from the day we are born, remaining with us throughout our lives. Stress, diet, illness, exercise, medications, even getting older can affect the gut by upsetting the natural balance of bacteria. So, sometimes it needs a helping hand. One way to give your gut some TLC is by providing it with ‘friendly bacteria’, also known as probiotics.

“You could try Pro-Ven Adult Probiotic 25 Billion (£13.95, Boots), which contains Lab4, the most comprehensively studied group of friendly bacteria of any product in the UK. This provides real benefits in supporting digestive and immune health.”

3 With every meal make sure you chew properly

“Try to chew each mouthful until the food turns to liquid, this will help to make sure the food is properly digested and will encourage you to eat slower,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar. “Also, when you take more time to thoroughly chew and taste your food, your snack or meal becomes more satisfying and so will help to prevent you from overeating.”

4 Feeling puffy? Drink more

“If you’re feeling bloated you might think it is best not to drink, but not drinking actually makes fluid retention worse in the same way crash dieting makes the body hang on to fat because it thinks it’s starving,” explains Marilyn. “I’d recommend herbal tea, such as Dandelion tea, as this contains a natural diuretic that helps you restore a healthy fluid balance. I’d recommend that you avoid gas-making fizzy drinks.”

5 Soothe your tummy with sunshine

“Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has been shown to help stabilise bowel movements and ease symptoms of IBS,” explains Cassandra. “Research suggests that IBS sufferers can be deficient in this vitamin. It is possible that IBS sufferers are low in vitamin D as they may avoid fatty substances due to intolerances, but these are the types of foods which are often high in Vitamin D.

“If you are concerned you’re not getting enough vitamin D – especially if you don’t have the chance to get out in the little bit of sunshine we get each year – then I would suggest taking a supplement such as Quest Vitamins Once A Day Sunshine D (£5.22, qnutrapharma.com).”

6 Keep it calm

“Magnesium has been known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it helps to relax our muscles and nerves, which can help combat against cramping and constipation,” says Cassandra. “Magnesium increases the water in your intestines, helping to initiate a wave-like motion to move faecal matter through the intestines, therefore aiding digestion. Many of us live hectic, stressful lives, and are more exposed to environmental and food toxins, which can make us more prone to a magnesium deficiency.

“Try to include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, wholegrains and bananas in your diet, which are all rich in magnesium. Alternatively, to make sure you’re getting your daily dose I would recommend Natures Plus KalmAssure Magnesium Capsules (£11.75, naturesplus.co.uk), which are very easy to absorb and easily delivered to the tissues.”

7 Fibre is your friend

“Fibre helps your digestive system function properly by adding bulk to your stools and helping to remove toxins,” explains Shona. “There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and helps relieve constipation by softening stools, making them easier to pass. Good sources of soluble fibre are: oats, barley, rye, fruit, golden linseed and root vegetables.

“Insoluble fibre cannot be digested and so passes through the digestive tract, helping to clear waste and other foods through the digestive system. This helps keep the bowel healthy and prevents digestion problems. Good sources of insoluble fibre are: bran, cereals, nuts and seeds.”

8 Seek out what you are sensitive to

“Food sensitivities are behind many digestive disorders and you may want to find out if you are reacting to certain foods, as if you are it can place a stress on the digestive system,” says Shona.

“A simple way to try to work out what foods you are reacting to is to keep a food diary, making a note of any symptoms you have experienced. If you notice a pattern associated to a certain type of food you may want to remove it from your diet.”

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