A little wind or the occasional burp every now and then is a natural sign there’s some digestive activity going on inside, however, excessive occurrence of these bodily functions may be a sign that’s somethings up with your gut.
If you suffer from frequent abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea or bloating these are often signs your diet and your body are not getting along or some form of dysfunction is kicking off in the digestive system.
If you visit a GP they may offer a diagnosis of ‘irritable bowel syndrome,’ perhaps anti-spasmodic medication and suggestion of a low FODMAP diet.
All they have really confirmed here is that you have a collection of symptoms (yes really!) and they’re not sure why but avoid ‘farty’ foods and hopefully things will get better.
Improving digestive health is really about finding the causes and triggers of your symptoms. Some of these may be ongoing like stress, anxiety or a gluten intolerance and it’s about managing these symptoms where you can.
Others may be due to some issues with the digestive infrastructure (low stomach acid, enzyme deficiency, poor gut motility or increased permeability in the gut barrier) or an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria or yeast or a parasite infection.
All the principles of Fitter Food are geared towards developing a strong, healthy gut as this is the foundation for optimal energy production, immune function, good mood health and balanced hormones.
We provide personalised nutritional therapy consultations if you need some help addressing any digestive health problems, you can find more details here and in the meantime the following are helpful to consider:
Test Your Ability To Digest
Your stomach acid production maybe insufficient due to stress, nutrient deficiencies. medications (especially acid blocking prescriptions e.g. Omprazole). One simple test that can be done uses bicarbonate of soda; add ½ teaspoon to a glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If you don’t burp within a few minutes you are potentially suffering from low stomach acid known as hypochlordria.
This effects your body’s ability to break down food ready for absorption, especially protein as it activates the enzymes that break the bonds between the amino acids. Stomach acid also protects us from foreign substances which enter the body, so it is essential in preventing infections and neutralising toxins.
Other symptoms that suggest low stomach acid include an immediate sense of fullness after eating only a little, consistent bloating, multiple food intolerances and excessive flatulence after eating a protein rich meal. If you’re suffering from low stomach acid having slow cooked proteins (as they’re predigested by the cooking process) and adding acidic foods like vinegars, lemon juice or lime to meals will aid the breakdown of protein.
Check Your Stool
If you’re eating now, finish up before reading on …
All done? Okay let’s go.
You should always keep an eye on what’s coming out the other end, the Bristol Stool Scale is used by GP’s and nutritionists to help investigate digestive disorders. Take a look:
Types 1 and 2 tend to indicate you are suffering from constipation and sluggish bowel movements.
Type 3 and 4 are the “ideal stools” especially type 4 and it should be a relatively easy experience (no straining or pain).
Type 5–7 are tending towards diarrhoea.
If you are more type 1 & 2 you may need to look at the fibre content of your diet and increase sources that are rich in nutrients that help support a gut health as well as motility, including beans, fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Hydration is another important factor to consider and also do you eat enough? If you’re running about all day on a cappuccino and a handful of nuts this could be a factor as the frequency and volume of meals will impact bowel movements.
If you are the opposite you may need to consider what is overstimulating your gut, the usual suspects include caffeine, alcohol, fruit (especially dried), intense training and stress.
Unusual bowel movements can be indicative of other issues including poor thyroid function, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disease or bacterial infection so seek professional advice and of course contact us if you need further advice with this.
Transit Time Test
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 toilet have a quick check for a corn kernels or a pink poop.
The purpose of this test is to evaluate the time it takes for food to pass through your digestive tract using a ‘food marker.’
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’s an indication of sluggish bowel function.
Digestion: The Fitter Fix
If you’re pretty sure there’s something up with your gut the following steps are a good place to start making some supportive adaptations to your nutrition and lifestyle. Remember sometimes the issues maybe a little more complicated and require some functional testing with stool samples, blood tests, urine samples, colonoscopy or endoscopy. If your symptoms persist see professional guidance as soon as possible.
Remove gluten, dairy and yeast for at least 4 weeks, ideally for 6-12 weeks if you experience symptom relief. These are a commonly implicated in digestive issues so trial using a good substitutes including almond or coconut milks, rice, quinoa and potatoes.
**Check products labelled “Gluten Free” as they may contain milk proteins and other additives or preservatives that aggravate the gut***
If symptoms continue trial the removal of the foods listed below that often trigger sensitivities. Ideally you should remove for 4 weeks and introduce one by one (try a new food every three days) to monitor your bodies reaction.
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils, peanuts
Include some digestive aids into your diet. If you are showing signs of nutrient deficiencies (broken nails, easy bruising, bleeding gums, joint pain, brittle hair) perhaps consider a good quality digestive enzyme (that includes HCL), a probiotic and under professional guidance you can use supplements formulas that help support the integrity and infrastructure of the digestive system with nutrients like slippery elm, L-glutamine, chamomile, peppermint, deglycrrhizinated liquorice and collagen.
The following foods all naturally assist digestion:
- Apple cider vinegar; a spoonful before eating can aid digestion.
- Bitter foods like watercress, rocket, endives, olives or chervil can help to stimulate the production of enzymes so eat these as an appetiser.
- 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.
- Vegetables including leeks, onions, asparagus and root vegetables act as a prebiotic as they contain inulin which supports healthy bacteria.
- Fennel is great digestive aid, sprinkle seeds into meals or roast whole.
- Bone broths or stock and eating animal foods nose to tail provides lots of tissues that support the integrity of the gut barrier.
Eat Like You’re On Your First Date
A big cause of digestive symptoms are eating too fast and not chewing food, imagine each meal is a chance to impress someone you have the hots for with some impeccable table manners:
- 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. Take breaks between mouthfuls and put down your knife and fork.
- Ideally don’t eat on the go or continue working eating at your desk.
- 30 minutes after your meal take a gentle walk or move around a little.
- 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 as stress can over stimulates the bowel leading to cramps and diarrhoea, adding further stimulants will simply exacerbate the situation.
Need More Help?
Our lifestyle transformation program Fitter 16 includes a guided elimination diet where gluten, dairy, alcohol, refined sugar, processed foods and protein powders are all removed BUT there’s still over 50 great tasting, easy recipes for you to cook up in every single phase. We also provide a guide to improving digestion that covers nutrients to increase for gut health, supplement information (e.g. probiotics) and a selection of recipes specifically aimed at supporting digestion. You can find more details here www.fitter16.com