1. Be kind to your tum
Back on step 1 of ‘5 Steps to Better Digestion’ I discussed the importance of considering how you eat as well as what you eat, and this is especially relevant when it comes to your stomach – it’s a bit of a sensitive soul and needs looking after!
Firstly, be sure to take your time eating your meals. If you eat slowly and deliberately (and hey, you may even be able to start enjoying your meals a little more!) you’re more likely to chew your meals more thoroughly which will help the digestive processes both in the stomach and beyond, but also, you’ll be less likely to overeat which is also of benefit.
As soon as you start to overeat or eat too much of one type of food (sugar or fat for example) your stomach will start to struggle to keep up with the demand and nausea, indigestion and bloating are much more likely to take hold. Of course, this is even more apparent if you are particularly sensitive to one or more of the ingredients, for example, if you have a food intolerance.
Digestive bitters can help calm symptoms if you do overindulge, but preferably we want to try and prevent these flare ups going forward, rather than just desperately trying to calm the symptoms once they’ve occurred.
2. Foe or friendly? Foods to consider
Now, as discussed yesterday, how your stomach reacts to certain foods is to some extent individual so my number one piece of advice is to listen to your body. If you find you experience bloating after eggs, dairy, or gluten, for example, you may have an intolerance and so limiting your intake to see how your symptoms progress may be the best course of action. Keeping a food diary can be a really helpful way of identifying triggers.
For other food stuffs such as high fat or high protein foods, firstly you should be ensuring that you aren’t eating these in excess and as part of a balanced meal instead - all in moderation people! Then, if symptoms such as bloating are persistent with these foods, even in smaller amounts, you may need to offer your stomach some extra support, as well as consider the possibility of food intolerance.
3. Stressful stomach
Apart from that feeling of ‘butterflies’ that most of us have experienced once in a while, have you ever considered what impact chronic or long-term stress could be having on your stomach?
This is all quite interesting and the physiology around all of this stems back to when we were living as cavemen. See, back then, stress literally meant a life or death situation – this was the only stress that existed! No money worries or deadlines in sight.
So, on those rare occasions of stress, being physically ready to fight for your life or run away to safety as quickly as possible was priority. This meant getting our skeletal muscles, heart and lungs pumping and raring to go was priority and digestive functions were put on the back burner for the time being. This is fine for a short space of time, but nowadays, in modern instances of chronic (long-term) stress, digestive functions can really start to suffer at the hands of these responses to stress and symptoms such as bloating can easily crop up.
Interestingly, stress may also heighten intestinal hypersensitivity to certain foods. So, some stress remedies together with relaxation techniques may be a really important step in helping to keep unwanted stress at bay and settling your stomach.
4. It’s all about stomach acid
Contrary to popular belief, levels of our stomach acid decrease both as we age, but also during times of stress which means you may not be able to digest your food as efficiently and the absorption of essential nutrients can also become compromised. As the breakdown of the food is affected, unsurprisingly, symptoms such as bloating can also crop up.
The symptoms of low stomach acid are surprisingly similar to having too much. Both can affect the internal pressure of the stomach and the function of the lower oesophageal sphincter which can give rise to a number of shared symptoms including:
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Heartburn and pain
However, there are also some additional symptoms to look out for which may suggest you have too little, rather than too much, stomach acid:
- Bloating – With low levels of stomach acid we may fail to break down our food properly in the stomach. This will not only make food intolerance more likely, but as bacteria throughout our digestive tract then attack the partially undigested food through a process called fermentation, excess gas is produced and you can be left feeling bagged up and bloated.
- Belching – Belching may occur with excess gas too. This is likely to be especially bad after high protein meals, for example after eating meat, as insufficient stomach acid struggles to break it all down properly
- Undigested food in stools – This is caused by food not being broken down properly. When stomach acid fails to do its job properly, food may travel the full length of the digestive tract without being completely broken down and absorbed. This may result in rather unsightly stools and will mostly likely give rise to a number of other symptoms along the way
- Other digestive complaints – Symptoms of food intolerance (often made worse by low stomach acid) can also include flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea. These symptoms are again likely to be a result of undigested food travelling into the colon and causing disruption there
- Bacterial overgrowth – Symptoms which suggest bacterial overgrowth is apparent can include: food intolerance, fatigue, skin problems or brain fog. The bad bacteria in your gut can overpopulate quickly in the right conditions!
5. Support your stomach with herbs
Now, even after taking all of the advice above on board, your stomach might just still need a little extra support which is where herbs come in. Bitter herbs are absolutely key; they help support the stomach and gently stimulate gastric secretions.
In many cultures a small bitter leaf salad is eaten before meals, and this is exactly why. Digestisan contains a combination of bitter herbs including Artichoke, Dandelion and Boldo and with Centaurium, the bitterness is even more intense.
Choose your remedy and take it 5 – 10 minutes before meals, up to 3 times daily to help support your stomach and get those juices flowing. Please note that in cases of severe food intolerance we would recommend you consult with a practitioner to help manage your condition.
My top product picks for managing the symptoms of food intolerance
Digestisan contains a combination of bitter herb extracts including artichoke and dandelion to help calm the stomach. Once your stomach is settled, it’s time to concentrate on the gut. Take Molkosan rich in L+ lactic acid to support the internal environment of the gut, and top up your numbers of good bacteria with Optibac’s ‘For Every Day’ probiotics.
Then, tune in tomorrow for step 4 as we move on to healing the gut!