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)|
|Snack||1 banana or apple||1 medium sized||2g|
|Lunch||Baked potato||180g – medium cooked||5g|
|Snack||Wholemeal bread||2 slices||6g|
|Peanut butter||1 tablespoon||1g|
|Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables|
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.