Bloated stomach becoming an unwanted daily trend? For World Digestive Health Day (29th May) Healthista Collective Expert and Nutritionist Rick Hay reveals five ways to help improve your digestion
It’s happened again. You’ve eaten a meal you think you will digest with no problem, when all of a sudden you feel like you’ve swallowed a whole watermelon.
Your belly is straining at the waist, your clothes are digging in and you look five months pregnant.
A big swollen belly can be uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassing when it’s accompanied by other gut issues such as stomach cramps and flatulence.
healthy digestion starts with a good diet
A healthy microbiome (gut), will lead to better digestion, less flatulence and bloating, it may even increase your mood because the gut is where most of your serotonin, a brain transmitter that influences good mood) is made.
Here’s the not-so-secretive secret – a healthy digestion starts with a good diet.
Eating the right foods improves your digestive function and affects the way you feel. If your food is not digested properly your body won’t get what it needs to function properly.
Here’s what you need know about how to improve digestive function and say goodbye to your bloated tummy woes.
5 ways to help improve digestive function
#1 Start adding fermented foods to your diet
Fermenting makes food more digestible. It’s a form of ‘predigestion’ that also increases absorption of the other nutrients in the food.
Fermented food is hugely beneficial to gut health. Technically, it means the conversion of sugars and starches to acids, using a salt solution.
This process encourages good bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli to thrive, creating a great source of natural probiotics for the intestinal tract.
Fermented foods such as kefir (fermented milk now available at most health food stores) and saurkraut are most popular but there are others that can be easily store-bought or made at home, such as kimchi (Korean fermented pickle that is super-tasty), live yogurt and sourdough bread.
Sauerkraut, Kefir, Miso, or tempeh can help your digestive system thrive.
#2 Up your fibre intake
What are the first foods that come to mind when you hear the word fibre? For many it’s beans, lentils veggies and fruit (skin included of course).
Fruits, vegetables, or legumes are indeed great sources of healthy fibre and foods high in fibre help to protect the body from diseases such as colon cancer.
Fibre keeps things moving through the digestive tract. If foods get stuck in the colon toxins can build up and the body then begins reabsorbing these into the system.
According to the NHS, fibre can help prevent constipation (another big problem for Brits and one we rarely talk about), bloating and even weight gain, as fibre helps digestion, allowing nutrients to be absorbed better by the body and also allows you to feel fuller for longer between meals.
only 4 percent of women aged between 19 and 64 are getting their 30 grams daily
The NHS website also asserts there is strong evidence that eating plenty of fibre (commonly referred to as roughage) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
Especially high fibre choices in vegetables include peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and artichokes and yes, most beans and lentils.
But cold hard reality shows that Brits are living in a serious fibre crisis. We’re getting much less fibre than we need daily and we’re flatulent, constipated and bloated as a result. Plus, it’s having a devastating impact on our health long term.
In fact, while adults need about 30 grams of fibre a day, and children need about 15 grams, only 4 percent of women aged between 19 and 64 are getting their 30 grams daily, according to figures from last year’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
#3 Eat more yogurt or take a probiotic supplement
The intestinal flora is made up of trillions of good bacteria. These bacteria help the digestion and promote a healthy immune system.
There are numerous probiotic foods, one of the easiest to find is yogurt. It contains live cultures such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, that aid digestion.
Avoid yogurts with added sugar as it feeds the bad bacteria in your gut.
#4 Prebiotics help too
Prebiotics can help the good bacteria thrive, in a way they serve as food for probiotics. Onions, garlic, leeks, lentils and asparagus are great sources of prebiotics.
#5 Take a digestive enzyme supplement
Digestive enzymes are substances produced by our bodies that help us digest and break down the foods we eat. Without sufficient digestive enzymes, your body is unable to break down food properly, which can lead to digestive issues.
As food travels through your digestive system, different enzymes break down specific food types. For example, lipase (produced by the gut) supports the conversion of fat into fatty acids and cholesterol, and amylase (also in the gut) is used in transforming carbohydrates into simple sugars.
If your body has a hard time producing any of these enzymes, nutrients may not be absorbed as efficiently, which may impair digestion and lead to bloating.
The body creates digestive enzymes in the saliva, pancreas and gut small intestine, but they can also be found in different foods and supplements which can be a big help moving the process of digestion along much faster.
they can also be found in different foods and supplements
Indeed, a 2018 study found that deficiency in digestive enzymes is believed to be one of the contributing factors for those who suffer from functional dyspepsia (a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal tract, including stomach discomfort, nausea, bloating and belching).
Foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, honey, unripe bananas, or avocados.
Or you can take a digestive enzyme supplement with your lunch and dinner. It can help move the process of digestion along much faster. They support your body’s own digestive enzymes and help you to efficiently break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Digest Spectrum contains 13 vegan enzymes and will provide an additional boost of enzymes to help digest your meals.
They need to be taken just before you eat in order to work optimally.
Rick Hay is an Anti-Ageing and Fitness Nutritionist with many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy, botanical medicine and iridology.
He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. He writes a regular Natural Health and Fitness Blog for Healthista.
Find out more at rickhay.co.uk
Follow Rick on Twitter @rickhayuk