• Caroline O'Hagan

5 Ways to Improve your Digestion, and start feeling better!

I am endlessly amazed when Patients have been to Doctors, Specialists, had all the tests and cameras and scans, and still have pain and discomfort in their digestive system. They are never asked what they eat and drink, and yet it seems fairly obvious that what you put in, drastically effects the outcome at the other end (and everything in between!).

Rarely are people asked if they drink water, or go to bed on an empty stomach, it is just assumed that there is a mechanical issue rather than possibly user error! (By user error, I mean that your diet and lifestyle choices could be affecting your health, as opposed to just something not working right inside!).

So lets assume that you do eat carefully, you do include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, wholegrains, lean meats and healthy fats each day, you avoid foods high in saturated trans fats, you avoid highly processed and sugary foods, you avoid soft drink and don't consume much alcohol or caffeine, but you still have tummy pains or constipation.

You eat and drink all the right things, and leave out most of the bad stuff, but you still suffer. What else can you do? If you still have discomfort, bloating, reflux, diarrhoea or constipation, or a whole host of other digestive complaints, you can try one or all of these things too!

1. Drink more water. If you're not drinking 2 Litres of water each day (at least, in winter), you're not drinking enough water. In summer, you need to aim for 3L or more. I have written other articles on water intake and how to get enough, so have a scroll down my blog page for those and have a read. Water hydrates everywhere in your body. It absorbs into your tissues and travels all over, hydrating the cells that need it most. When you are dehydrated, fluids contained in your stool get reabsorbed back into your system, which can cause constipation and make stool difficult to pass. This can also cause abdominal pain. If you're not drinking enough, increase your water intake and see what happens!

2. Try Bitters before food. If you find yourself suffering from indigestion pain, reflux, or bloating, you could have low stomach acid, or not have enough digestive enzymes working in there. Your liver and gallbladder could also be struggling, and they are pretty crucial in the digestive process. You can supplement their contribution with a Digestive Enzymes product (I can help with that!), or you can try taking bitters before you eat. If you don't happen to have dandelion greens handy (I do, and they're so bitter!), you could squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lemon into a tall glass of water and drink it 15-20 minutes before food (especially your main meal of the day). Apple Cider Vinegar also has this effect - you can add that to a glass of water and drink it before meals (it can be quite hard to stomach though - pardon the pun!).

Bitter tastes send a signal to the Liver to produce bile salts and digestive enzymes into the stomach in readiness for the food it is about to receive. This speeds up the process that takes place in your stomach and gets the digestive system working well to continue the job of clearing your stomach.

3. Get up and move. I know many of us like to retire to the couch or even bed after dinner and relax after a long day, but if you have a full stomach and you suffer with discomfort after eating (especially if you go off to bed straight after) then you probably need to move around a bit before you settle down.

Perhaps taking an evening stroll may help you to feel better. This isn't an option for everyone, but it is worth noting that if your stomach is not empty before you retire for the night, you may find it difficult to sleep. It's called gastric clearance, and it can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable, as well as keep you awake!

4. Get plenty of fibre. I know at the beginning of this article, I said that you, dear reader are doing everything right when it comes to your diet, and yet still experience pain... but I thought I should reiterate why vegetables and fruit are so important.

There are so many reasons why you need to eat fruits and vegetables every single day, but one of the main ones is for their fibre content. Fibre works in 2 different ways in the body. One is that it binds and ferments the stomach contents. So if you have a digestive system that seems to generate diarrhoea, gas and discomfort a lot, which is probably due to high sugar and fat intake, Soluble fibre such as Bananas, Pears, Sweet Potato, Flaxseeds and Psyllium Husks attract water and slows down the transit time in your bowel, allowing for better absorption of the minerals and nutrients you need, from the food you have eaten.

Insoluble fibres bulk and prevent. If you have constipation or diarrhoea, insoluble fibres such as Celery, Cauliflower, Avocado and Zuchini will either bulk up or soften hard or loose stool, speeding up transit time and making passing stool much easier.

Fruits and Vegetables are Natures super foods - all of them. Make sure you have 5 serves of veg and 2 of fruit each day, and you will have a healthier digestive system for it!

5. Pre and Probiotics. Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, fermented foods and drinks like kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi, kefir and yoghurt all help to promote a healthy gut microbiome. By including those things as often as you can, you are doing your part to improve your digestive health. Adding in a probiotic supplement is a great way to set the balance straight inside. There are dozens of Probiotic products available, but they aren't all the same. There are many different strains of bacteria, and after decades of studies, Naturopaths have a better idea of what strains are better for what ailments. I can help you to work out what would be the best for you, so Book an appointment and we can talk about it!

There are other things you can do to improve your digestive health, and depending on what your personal set of symptoms are, as to what the best course of action for you to take, is. I can work with you to help you feel better. If you have tried all of the above things for a few weeks and are still finding that you are not feeling great, get in touch.

You don't have to live with pain and discomfort. There are always other things you haven't tried yet. To make an appointment with me, Click here!

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