The lucky few can devour a curry, wash it down with beer and follow it with a fry-up the next morning, without any ill-effects.
For the rest of us, when it comes to digestion, not all foods are created equal. Some can be more of a hindrance than a help to our digestive systems.
Here are some common culprits behind excess wind, indigestion, constipation and bloating, with a few tips on how to improve your overall digestive health.
Eating fatty and fried foods on a regular basis can challenge the hardiest of digestive systems, as they take longer to digest. Eating too much or too often can lead to stomach pain and heart burn. If you are already susceptible to heartburn, you may want to avoid them altogether.
Give your gut a chance, by grilling foods rather than frying them, use vegetable oils for cooking, and choose low-fat dairy products whenever you can.
Indian, Chinese and Thai food is popular, with good reason – it tastes great, thanks in part to the clever use of spices. Although some are able to eat any amount of spicy food, for others it can cause indigestion, heartburn and diarrhoea, especially after a large meal.
Acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits or fruit juices, salad dressings and vinegars are not for everyone. In those who are sensitive, they can cause heartburn or an upset stomach.
Caffeine containing drinks such as tea, coffee and cola are also acidic, and should be kept to a minimum if you have a sensitive stomach. Try herbal teas instead.
In the short-term, drinking too much alcohol can lead to heartburn, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting; in the long-term, drinking over the limit can damage the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and intestine.
For low risk drinking, stick to the recommended limits; these are no more than 21 units of alcohol a week for a man, and 14 units a week for a woman. Men are also strongly advised to drink no more than 3-4 units, and women no more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day.
Used as an artificial sweetener in some diet foods and chewing gum, sorbitol also occurs naturally in prunes, apples and peaches. However, for some it can cause stomach cramps, wind and diarrhoea.
What’s good for digestion?
To keep your digestive system in good working order, include plenty of fibre in your diet, such as whole grain cereals, breads and pasta, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables.
If you’re not used to eating these foods, gradually add them to your diet, as their sudden introduction can cause excess wind and bloating.
Drink plenty of water, especially if you are eating more fibre. Fibre soaks up water, and makes stools more bulky and soft so they can exit the body more easily. But if you are not drinking enough, you may end up with constipation instead.
Leave out fizzy drinks as these can cause excess wind.
Fresh foods are better than processed, as the latter are often low in fibre and high in additives.
Try to eat regularly during the day, rather than just one or two large meals, and chew food thoroughly; digestion begins in the mouth, not the stomach. Gulping down lumps of food can also contribute to excess wind and bloating.
In general, exercise is also good for your digestion. It helps to keep food moving through the intestine and counteracts the negative effect stress can have on the digestive system.
Intense exercise after a large meal is generally not advised, as the body diverts blood away from the intestines to the muscles, which may lead to nausea and cramps.
If you think a particular food is causing problems, keep a food diary and then take it to your doctor. Note down what you eat, when you eat it and any symptoms that occur afterwards.
You should never exclude an entire food group from your diet as it can leave your body deprived of essential nutrients, and may make you feel worse than before.