Top tips for tummy troubles

This one covers digestion from mouth to, well, bottom. So, if you’re munching on your muesli, maybe give this a read later!

Having problems with our gut such as bloating, wind and constipation can be fairly common, but there are some tips and tricks that can help reduce the chance of getting these symptoms.

 

Take time to eat and drink

How many times have you gulped down a glass of water when you’ve realised that you haven’t had a drink all morning? Who else sometimes gobbles down their lunch whilst sitting at their desk?

Taking time to chew our food properly is the start of digestion, breaking it down into much smaller pieces and coating it in saliva. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase which starts to break down the starch, long chains of sugars, into shorter chains of sugars.

Chewing food well also gives our brain time to register that we are eating and to prepare the rest of the digestive system. This can also have the effect of making us feel more satisfied, something that Laura Thomas has also mentioned in her Mindful Eating podcast episode.

By chewing food and drinking fluids slowly we can also reduce the risk of taking in a lot of air at the same time which can sometimes make us feel a bit windy.

 

Find a routine

Something else that can really help with ‘getting things moving’ is to have a regular meal pattern. If you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast and then have a huge dinner this can affect our stomachs.

For some people, their routine might be 3 meals a day, whereas others may include some snacks in there too. If you’re absolutely starving by the time you get to your next meal it might be worth trying to have a snack in between next time.

 

Up your fibre intake

The current recommendation is to have 30g of fibre a day, but most adults are currently only eating about 18g. Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested an absorbed in our small intestine. Instead bacteria in our large intestine partially or completely breaks it down. It is essential for preventing constipation, softening stools and making them easier to pass, as well as lowering our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

These foods are particularly high in fibre;

  • Starchy foods like oats, potato with the skin on, sweet potato, high fibre breakfast cereals, wholemeal or wholegrain bread and pasta, and brown rice.
  • Vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, parsnips, green beans, carrots
  • Beans and pulses such as chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils
  • Fruits like apples, pears, plums and prunes, apricots, raspberries and blackberries
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanut butter, linseeds and chia seeds

This table has been adapted from the BDA Food Facts sheet on fibre which shows how you can fit extra fibre into your diet.

Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
Breakfast Porridge 50g 5g
With raspberries 80g 2.5g
Snack 1 banana or apple 1 medium sized 2g
Lunch Baked potato 180g – medium cooked 5g
Baked beans 80g 3g
Sweetcorn (tinned) 80g 2g
Snack Wholemeal bread 2 slices 6g
  Peanut butter 1 tablespoon 1g
Dinner Wholemeal spaghetti 150g 5g
Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables
TOTAL 31.5g

 

Remember that if you are having serious and recurrent problems with your stomach or digestion please see your GP or registered dietitian to rule out any other health problems.

Guest post: Why I love yoga

My friend from uni, Sarah, has written a beautiful post about her love of yoga and how it’s helped her, especially whilst living in crazy London. This post is such a delight to read, hopefully it’ll bring you spot of calm on your morning commute or wherever else you might be reading this. 

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A few months ago now my wonderful friend, ex-flat mate, fellow dietetics student and founder of this amazing blog – Jess – asked me to write a guest post about Yoga. Maybe it was the many evenings when we lived together and I went out into the cold dark night saying “Going to yoga, see you later” that made her wonder what I actually like about it so much. Especially because she knows that I’m not actually a huge fan of exercise…

 

So I will attempt to put it into words here. Growing up, to me yoga was something old people do- my grandma has been practicing yoga for years, my dad used to back in his hippy days, and whenever I had gone to a yoga class at my local gym in Germany I lowered the average age dramatically. I started to like yoga when I was 16-17 years old- I’d got a free DVD with a magazine and I started to practice semi-regularly. I’ve always been quite stretchy so it came easily to me in the beginning, which is probably why I stuck with it and started to do more. When I moved to London three years ago there was a really cool yoga studio near my halls of residence and I went almost every day and I think that is when I first really fell in love with the practice. Now I don’t have money for studios anymore so I just improvise on my mat at home which is cool too 🙂

 

I love the word practice – because that is what yoga is about: it is not mastering a contortionistic pose that may get you loads of Instagram likes, but it is about practicing. Practicing awareness, practicing self-care, practicing kindness, gratitude and really feeling your breath and your body.

To paraphrase Waylon Lewis (the founder of elephantjournal.com), Yoga is not yoga pants, or young models stopping at Wholefoods on their way home from class to pick up some quinoa. Yoga is a spiritual path; yoga is about opening up your mind and heart and becoming a more present, sane, compassionate and relaxed human being.

 

I think today many people are attracted to yoga for the physical side of it- the Asana practice. And this is great of course- whatever brings you to the mat is great. But know that once you start, yoga will change you.

 

This ancient practice is made up of 8 limbs and Asana is just one of them. The first two limbs- Yama and Niyama are about ethical standards, integrity, self-discipline and spirituality. Asana is the third limb of yoga and this is what we usually practice in a yoga class. Asana is about making a deep connection to the body and using the body to still the mind (if you’re focusing on not falling over in a headstand it is hard to worry about why someone hasn’t texted you back yet). Pranayama– or control of the breath- is the fourth limb of yoga. The breath is one of the most powerful tools for meditation, because it gives you something to concentrate on even if you are completely still. The 5th limb Pratyahara is about withdrawing our senses from the external world and focusing on what we feel inside. Dharana (No. 6) is about concentration, Dhyana is meditation and the final stage Samadhi is described as the completion of the yogic path and is sometimes translated as ‘enlightenment’. I’ve not gotten that far obvs 😛

If this philosophy aspect sounds kind of cool to you, you can check out “The tree of yoga” by B. K. S. Iyengar. It sums it up pretty nicely.

 

I hope that philosophy lesson hasn’t put anyone off – it is not something that is talked about in a lot of yoga classes so don’t worry if you’re not an ultra-spiritual kind of person! I think yoga can be intimidating for a lot of people. I’ve heard many times “oh I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible” or “I can’t sit still” or some variation of that. If that is you, I think that is exactly why you SHOULD try yoga. As I said before it is about practicing and I think especially if you are struggling with flexibility or quieting the mind or anything else that intimidates you about yoga- maybe you can get better at it if you practice! Also, every yoga pose can be modified to what feels good for you – nobody will expect you to do the splits (or monkey pose) in the first class. You will get better over time!

 

I love yoga because for me it is incredibly empowering. I feel super badass getting on the bus in the morning after playing around on my mat for a bit. It’s fun to experiment with what my body can do, where it can go. It is also super adaptable – some days I want to move and then doing a physically challenging flow can be great, but if I’m honest that is not always the case ;). But even if I feel shit I can always do a more restorative kind of practice, or even just sit on my mat for 5 minutes and listen to my breath.

Living in London for the past 3 years, away from all my friends and family hasn’t been easy. But yoga has given me something to come back to, a place to come home to.

 

Seriously guys, you should give it a try 😉 And you can find great classes online for free, e.g. Bad Yogi on Youtube!

 

Love, Sarah xx

Hiking in Hertfordshire

Just as the thought of another sweaty sticky weekend in London started to lose its charm my boyfriend pulled one out of the bag and planned a hike in the Hertfordshire countryside.

On Saturday morning, we hauled ourselves across London to catch a 45-minute train from Euston to Tring where we walked a total of 9 miles around Ivinghoe Beacon and the Ashridge Estate. As part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the views definitely didn’t disappoint!

Although we had a little bit of a rocky start finding the route, the rest of the walk was pretty plain sailing in terms of directions – be prepared for a rather hilly hike though. (The route for the walk that we took can be found here.)

We found a great country pub for lunch, The Grand Junction Arms, nestled on the edge of the canal that serves delicious pub classics as well as offering an array of seasonal specials. We bagged a spot in the beer garden for a good couple of hours, recovering before a short walk back to Tring station.

I was definitely feeling the after effects on Sunday but the stunning views and picturesque cottages made the 30,000 steps worth it! Below are a few of our photos from the weekend.

We’ve made a pledge to try and make it out of London to go hiking at least one weekend a month so please share your recommendations! Have a great week!

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Ivinghoe Beacon

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Does it benefit our health to eat seasonably?

We now live in a time where we can walk into a supermarket at any time of year and expect to see a huge variety of food available. Whilst this means that we can make any recipe that we want all year, it can sometimes feel as though we’ve become removed from the growth and production of our food. Eating more seasonably could reconnect us with the origins of our food and reminds us that most foods are not meant to be available all year round.

Although many definitions of ‘seasonality’ exist, most people think of it when food is grown outdoors in its natural season, without using extra energy (for heat, light etc.), therefore not producing extra greenhouse gas emissions. (Did you know that 15-20% of all greenhouse gases in the UK are produced from the food system?! [1]) Strawberries grown in the UK in June are seasonal, as are apples grown during the autumn in New Zealand but then eaten in the spring/summer in the UK.

Apart from the obvious environmental benefit (a strawberry grown in England in the usual spring/summertime growing season uses far less energy than those grown in heated greenhouses all year round, for example), eating more seasonably can introduce more variety into our diets. By eating lots of different foods, we increase our chances of consuming all of our essential nutrients.

Some nutrients become more available once the food has been processed. Lycopene and beta-carotene (the inactive form of vitamin A) are higher in tinned tomatoes than fresh ones [2]. Therefore, you can eat tinned tomatoes all year round knowing that they were probably produced in season and can contain lots of nutrients.

Frozen fruit and veg are also a good idea as they are often picked and frozen in season so can have a higher nutrient content than some ‘fresh’ fruit and veg that’s been sitting on the supermarket shelf for a few days. They are also a really cost-effective way of increasing your fruit and veg intake! It can also be cheaper to buy fresh foods when they are in season as it has often cost less money to produce them in the first place.

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Eating seasonal foods has some environmental, and potentially nutritional, benefits, but it is a small piece in the puzzle of having a sustainable diet. Eating only seasonal foods in the winter in the UK can also look a bit dull, so why not take inspiration from the Eat Seasonably Calendar and use it to remind you of which seasons your foods would traditionally have been grown and encourage you to try out different food each month?

 

Find some tips and seasonal recipes on these websites:

http://eatseasonably.co.uk/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all

 

Beautiful photographs courtesy of @lauraheck 

 

Sources

  1. Garnett T (2008). Cooking Up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate. Surrey: University of Surrey, Food Climate Research Network, Centre for Environmental Strategy.
  2. Hwang E-S, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE (2012). Effects of heat treatment on the carotenoid and tocopherol composition of tomato. J Food Sci. 77; 1109-1114.
  3. Macdiarmid JI (2014). Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 73; 368-375.