A little wind every now and then is normal. In fact, a good fart first thing is your body clearing out the waste products from a nights worth of digestive activity. The occasional burp is natural too, especially if you eat too much or too quickly, but excessive occurrence of these bodily functions can provide an indication that your digestion is being compromised.
If you suffer from frequent abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea or bloating these are clear signs your diet and your body are not getting along. Often these symptoms are unhelpfully labelled as ‘irritable bowel syndrome’ and doctors inform people to take anti-spasmodic medication or chomp of charcoal tablets to prevent the wind. This is simply treating the symptom without addressing the cause.
There are simple steps you can take to address your digestive health. We run through them below:
Test Your Ability To Digest
Burp Test – Pardon You!
Our stomach acid is weakened by stress and people with blood type A generally have low levels of stomach acid and poor digestive function. One simple test that can be done is to add ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning. If you don’t burp within a few minutes you are potentially suffering from low stomach acid (HCL) known as hypochlordria . This effects your body’s ability to breakdown food for absorption, especially protein. Stomach acid also protects us from foreign substances which enter the body via the food we eat and water we drink, so it is essential in preventing infections and parasitic invaders.
Other symptoms include a sense of fullness after eating only a little and consistent bloating every time you eat. If you are suffering from low stomach acid you can supplement your diet with HCL and follow our Eating Etiquette below.
Peek a Poo!
If you’re eating now, finish your meal before reading on! All done? Okay let’s go.
So no one likes to talk about toilet trends but you should always check out what’s coming out your ‘other’ end. The Bristol Stool Scale is used by GP’s and nutritionists to help investigate digestive disorders. Take a look:
Nice eh?! Types 1 and 2 indicate you are suffering from constipation. Type 3 and 4 are the “ideal stools” especially type 4 and should be a relatively easy experience 🙂 Type 5–7 are tending towards diarrhoea.
If you are more type 1&2 you need to look at the fibre content of you diet (ideally not from gluten grains as these aggravate the gut further but from fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, vegetables, nuts and seeds). If you are the opposite you may need to eliminate foods that are overstimulating your gut especially if you are a stressed out individual. Check out our step by step guide below.
“I did ne eat corn!”
If you really want to get pro-active you can test your gut transit time by eating sweetcorn or beetroot. Each time you visit the loo for a number two check when they reappear. Beetroot will make your plops a lovely shade of pink and the corn will be visible (hopefully without too much investigation!)
Gut transit time is the time it takes for ingested food to travel through the digestive tract. This can be measured by a ‘food marker’, a substance such as kernel corn or beetroot, which is swallowed and allowed to travel through the digestive tract to be eliminated in your stool without being digested. The purpose of this test is to evaluate the time it takes for food to pass through your digestive tract.
The average normal transit time ranges from 14 to 24 hours after the ingestion of the food marker. It should take place within 36 to 48 hours. If the transit time takes longer than 72 hours, it is an indication of slowed bowel function, follow our step by step guide and eating etiquette below.
Fitter Digestion – Step by Step Guide
If you suffer from abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, wind or bloating. First of all test out your infrastructure with the digestive tests suggested above and look to make the following dietary changes.
Remove gluten grain products and dairy for at least 4 weeks, ideally 12 weeks if you can. Good dairy substitutes include almond or coconut milk, avoid soya. Good substitutes for gluten products include rice, quinoa and potatoes.
**Check products labelled GF as they may contain milk proteins and other additives or preservatives that aggravate the gut***
Remove foods listed below that often trigger sensitivities. Ideally you should remove for 4 weeks and introduce one by one to monitor your bodies reaction.
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils, peanuts
- Alcohol – especially wine due to the sulphite content.
- Smoked meats
Include some digestive aids into your diet. You should consider a good quality digestive enzyme (that includes HCL), a probiotic, L-glutamine and collagen to strengthen your gut. If you have a long history of digestive issues you should consider working with a nutritional therapist to follow a gut healing protocol to restore digestive function.
The following foods all naturally assist digestion:
- Sauerkraut and artichokes are a good source of FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides are prebiotics– best pals with good bacteria and makes the gut a great environment for probiotic party).
- Fermented foods are a good source of live bacteria – live yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and miso.
- Root vegetables like leeks, onions & asparagus also act as a prebiotic as they contain inulin which supports healthy bacteria.
- Bitter foods like watercress or chervil help to stimulate our bodies natural digestive functions.
- Fennel is great digestive aid, sprinkle seeds into meals or roast whole.
- Chew your food, over and over, to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and secretion of stomach acid.
- Sit down to eat in a calm environment so your body can register this and focus on the task in hand. Ideally don’t eat on the go or continue working eating at your desk.
- 30 minutes after your meal take a gentle walk preferably outdoors.
- Try to leave 3 hours before your evening meal and bedtime, ideally have this meal around 6.30-7pm so that digestive activity won’t effect sleep.
- If stressed avoid caffeine and alcohol, stress over stimulates the bowel leading to cramps and diarrhoea, adding further stimulants will simply exacerbate the situation.
So the key to keeping strong, fit and healthy is a steel constitution! We cover the gut in more detail in our debut book, The Paleo Primer. Pick up your copy here.