You've probably heard the adage “you are what you eat” though it's probably more accurate to say “you are what you digest.” If your digestive system is below par you're less likely to be able to assimilate nutrients and therefore reap the benefits of eating a balanced diet.
The first step to improving your digestion is to become aware of how you are feeling at different times of the day, perhaps after eating different foods. Do you have symptoms of IBS? Does bloating, heartburn or gas bother you? Take note of what throws your body out of sync, grab yourself a journal and note down what you're finding out about yourself.
Here's some suggestions to consider:
- Try food combining. If you're feeling bloated or suffering cramps after eating it could be a sign your stomach is struggling to digest different types of foods together. Experts have recommended only eating proteins such as meat and fish with vegetables and keeping starchy foods such as potatoes, breads and pasta for a separate meal entirely, without the proteins. This method recommends eating fruit before your lunch and consuming nuts on their own for optimal digestion.
- Look into supplementing with digestive enzymes. You can take these for a temporary amount of time to give your stomach a bit of support to create the enzymes it needs. Ones with peppermint oil are often recommended for their soothing and calming effect on IBS sufferers.
- Stock yourself up with probiotics. Friendly bacteria otherwise known as probiotics are essential for gut health. Stress, taking antibiotics or suffering infections can really knock off these good guys and leave the bad bacteria to run rampage which isn't good news for our digestion. Luckily you can supplement these either in tablet form or with yoghurts and probiotic drinks that you can pick up on the high street.
- Get yourself checked out for intolerances. Food allergies are serious and life threatening and usually diagnosed at a young age. Intolerances, however, are when the immune system sees a particular food as a threat and reacts either with digestive complaints or more vague signs such as fatigue, low mood and muscular aches and pains. Therefore if you've been feeling under the weather despite eating well, it may be worth investigating whether you have an intolerance of any kind. Fortunately there seems to be plenty of alternatives on offer if you do suffer with an intolerance, dairypure lactose free milk is just one example.
- Monitor your stress levels. If you've ever tried to eat a meal after an argument or receiving bad news you'll know that stress immediately affects our digestion. Whether it's from living a high paced life, juggling demands of work, children or simply life's challenges, it's worth addressing your stress in order to keep your digestive system working ship shape. Try deep breathing exercises before sitting down to eat and switching off all devices when you're at the dining table.
Feeling focused? Remember nobody knows your digestion like you do, so here's to a healthy and digestible 2017!