Feeling bloated, sluggish or generally uncomfortable with your digestive system can often be smoothed out by a few simple diet changes.
A healthy digestion depends on many bodily functions all working properly together. The most important factor is your diet.
Though not technically a ‘food’, lack of water is an often overlooked reason for poor digestion (as well as a dull appearance and chronic fatigue). It helps food to digest and waste to pass through your system and it softens stools to prevent constipation. Fibre’s vital for this too but it acts like a sponge and if you don’t have enough liquid it can’t do its job.
Go for a pro-biotic, unsweetened variety (sugars can be bad for your tummy) as this encourages the growth of friendly bacteria and keeps a good balance so they can work on digesting your food properly. Many contain lactobacillus, which helps lactose digest. Try adding fruit for flavour (but keep an eye on your reaction).
We’d only just got our head around probiotics and now we’re hearing all about PREbiotics. These stimulate the growth of the microorganisms (i.e. good bacteria) in the digestive tract, which then help to digest the food. The good news is that you probably eat them anyway. If you focus on a healthy diet that includes whole grains (as opposed to processed and white breads and rices) and fresh fruit and veg including highly prebiotic garlic, onions, bananas and artichokes, you’re supplying your good bacteria with a tidy dose of nutrition.
You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to struggle with digesting this complex protein. Giving your digestive system a break with naturally gluten-free options can help if it’s overstressed. Quinoa is the easiest, but other handy cupboard grains include buckwheat and corn flour. Try pulses as an alternative to pasta or rice, but you may notice these don’t agree with your stomach and can cause wind so don’t overdo it.
Almonds and pistachio nuts have been found to have digestion-improving benefits. Almonds contain plenty of fibre, which is vital for the health of your intestines. And in a recent study, pistachios have been linked to improving the condition of the flora in your gut and working with the microbes to improve digestion. Nuts have tonnes of other benefits too but stick to a handful a day if you’re watching your weight as they’re high in fat (heven tough it is the good kind!).
So stock up, and make sure you also know which foods to avoid for the sake of your tum.