There’s increasing evidence about the importance of gut health for our overall health and wellbeing. After all, it’s not much help eating the perfect healthy diet if we are not digesting our food properly. What’s more, digestive problems can make us feel unwell and in some people can impact their day-to-day activities and quality of life.
Symptoms of an unhappy gut include wind and bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, indigestion, reflux, and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms it’s important to see your doctor to rule out any serious health problems that might be causing them.
However, there are also some things you can do yourself which can help to keep your digestive system happy and healthy:
- Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods including vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes, but increase your intake gradually to give your digestive system time to adjust. If you find some of these foods make your symptoms worse, you may have a FODMAP intolerance and could benefit from seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian, who can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and which foods to avoid and which to include in your diet.
- Drink plenty of fluid, particularly water. Increasing fibre without adequate fluid can cause constipation.
- Exercise regularly – this can help to keep your bowel habits regular.
- Avoid overeating – eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied (but not overly full).
- Relax at mealtimes – don’t eat when stressed or upset and avoid eating on the run or while involved in other activities.
- Eat slowly and chew foods well.
- Avoid carbonated drinks, which can cause wind and bloating in some people.
- Limit alcohol intake and don’t drink on an empty stomach.
- If you have reflux, avoid foods which make your symptoms worse – common culprits are fatty foods, spicy foods, onion and garlic.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, particularly sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol, which can cause wind, bloating and diarrhoea in some people, especially if eaten in large quantities.
- Avoid eating a large meal right before bed or strenuous exercise.
- If you smoke, get help to quit
For more information:
Visit the Gut Foundation
Get a copy of the Good Gut Cookbook
Find a dietitian in your area