Whilst there are many people who suffer with genuine digestives health conditions, I have noticed an increase in people complaining of symptoms which are caused simply by bad diet habits. I am not saying that they eat unhealthily as such, just in a way which doesn’t help the digestive system. So have a read of these points to see if you can instigate some ‘self help.’
1.Are you eating too much fruit and vegetables? – yes, I know a bizarre concept because surely the more the better? Well, no not really. If you are someone who suffers with bloating and or loose stools have a look at your fruit and vegetable intake. We should all be aiming to have at least 5 portions a day, and this is where the guidelines stop. It may be that actually, your body can’t cope with much more than this and 1 portion is only around 80g. So if you are having a smoothie with your granola (which is topped with blueberries), a large salad for lunch, a pile of veg on your plate in the evening and then fruit/nuts in-between, and you are having some digestive symptoms – perhaps you need to cut down a little.
2.Do you skip meals? – by this I mean ever? Your body needs 3 meals a day and this helps the digestive process. You may even be great at achieving this during the week and actually at the weekend your routine goes out of the window. Regardless of how big your meals are (i.e. Sunday roast) – you need to have 3 a day.
3.Do you have copious amounts of caffeine? Caffeine is a drug and will affect your digestive system. You may be surprised to find that it is found not only in coffee – but also decaf tea/coffee, green tea, diet coke, coke zero, chocolate and most energy drinks. Try keeping a diary for a week to see what your average intake is and then cut down by 1-2 cups a day each week. Or opt for decaf versions which, although contain caffeine – they contain far less than their alternative.
4. Do you have enough fibre? So many people self-diagnose themselves with IBS when actually they have constipation- caused by lack of fibre. Constipation can lead to bloating, abdominal pain and nausea- as everything just backs up a little (nice). Periods of constipation are often followed by loose stools as gas builds up behind the blockage
5. Do you drink enough? If you are eating enough fibre- you MUST drink enough fluid or else you can end up with constipation. Fluid and fibre harmonise to provide a happy bowel. All fluid counts (apart from alcohol) but the best is water (obviously). Really, most people need to be aiming for around 2L a day and you will need more during exercise, after drinking alcohol or if you have a job which involves speaking to lots of people. Try to keep on top of this, especially at weekends by using a bottle.
If you would like a more in-depth, personalised review of your eating habits and digestive symptoms. Please contact Dietitian Kirsten Crothers for more details.
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