Whether you’re struck with bloating, nausea or wind, stomach discomfort is an unwelcome visitor and can give great insight into your health. An impaired digestive system does not have to be your digestive destiny. Here are some common tummy troubles experienced day-to-day and the diet changes that may assist you getting things running smoothly again:
Whether you wake up with the bloat or feel like you’ve swallowed a balloon by noon, bloating is a frequently voiced concern. Often too much gas production is the cause of bloating. Increased gas production can be tied back to certain foods consumed within the diet. Sulphur-containing vegetables including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are extremely gassy and are common culprits. Gas aside, other causes of bloating might be bacteria imbalance, poor liver function, food intolerances or eating in a stressed state.
- Limit sulphur-containing vegetables if easily irritated
- Avoid carbonated drinks and excess water around meals
- Monitor beans and legume consumption
- Avoid excessive raw vegetables and opt for lightly steamed
- Enjoy more bitter foods in the diet for liver support including dandelion and watercress
- Chew each bite until liquid before swallowing
- Start your day with a squeeze of lemon juice in warm water
- Sip peppermint tea between meals to help ease the bloat
- Avoid over-eating at meals and try enjoying 5-6 smaller meals daily instead
Keep a food diary and try to identify which foods are causing you discomfort. Once removed, if it doesn’t deflate the situation, it might be worth digging a little deeper and following some of the extra tips below.
A daily bowel motion may form part of your routine like clockwork or it may be a daily battle. If bowel motions are not occurring frequently enough, review your fibre and fluid intake. Fibre instantly springs to mind when we think sluggish bowels; insoluble fibre is the best type for speeding up bowels and as a bulking agent. Other causes of constipation can be poor bacteria balance, food intolerances and poor eating habits.
- Start your day with a squeeze of lemon juice in warm water to get things moving
- Aim for 40g of fibre daily, particularly insoluble fibre including wheat bran, rice bran, root vegetables, legumes and wholegrains
- Chew each bite well before swallowing
- Fill your diet with magnesium rich foods including avocado, nuts and seeds and wholegrains for their soothing effect
- Befriend fermented foods rich in good bacteria including kefir, miso, tempeh and yoghurt
- Include resistant starch in your daily diet to feed good bacteria –make a salad from cooked and cooled potatoes or rice
- Create a ritual of sipping a relaxing chamomile tea before bed to help relax the bowels
- Try a shot of fresh aloe vera juice in the morning to soften stools
- Ensure you are drinking 1-2L of water daily
Loose bowels occur when stool passes through the colon rapidly causing watery and frequent bowel motions. Causes of loose bowels vary but may include infection, stimulants, too much insoluble fibre, bacteria imbalance, zinc deficiency, excess fats, food intolerances and allergies.
- Try for 40g of fibre daily, in particular soluble fibre to firm up looseness; chia seeds, linseeds, seaweed and oat bran
- Reduce or avoid stimulants (coffee, alcohol)
- Monitor diet for food intolerances/allergies; common sensitivities include dairy and wheat
- Reduce fatty foods by limiting take-away and fried foods
- Increase good bacteria in your diet by enjoying fermented foods; kefir, miso, tempeh, yoghurt
- Top up zinc levels with zinc-rich foods; pumpkin seeds, beef and seafood
- Assess for food sensitivities and follow the tips below
Amongst other symptoms a tell tale sign of food intolerances is nausea. Food intolerances occur when our body reacts negatively to the foods we consume, perhaps because we don’t have the enzymes required to breakdown those foods. Other causes of nausea generally include infection, too much fatty food, lack of digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
- Limit fatty foods in the diet or add a squeeze of lemon to fatty meals
- Assess your diet for food reactions/intolerances
- If you are intolerant to cow’s milk try plant-based milks as a tummy soothing alternative. I love Vitasoy’s range of plant milks: Soy, Coconut, Rice and Oat. They’ve also just launched their new Almond milk (in Original and Unsweetened) that’s made with Australian grown whole almonds, has less calories than lite dairy milk* and is a source of calcium.
- Based on dairy milk with 1* fat containing 51 calories and 6.1g total sugars per 100mL (NUTTAB 2010)
- Add 1tbsp of grated ginger to meals, drink as a tea or use as a salad dressing to help settle the stomach
- Opt for easily digested foods such as broths, soups and slow cooked dishes to avoid any extra digestive distress
- Eat small meals more frequently during the day to prevent overloading your digestive system
Poor Appetite and Reflux
Adequate digestive enzymes and stomach acid are needed for the breakdown of foods in our gastrointestinal tract. When food particles cannot breakdown, it may cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, reflux, constipation and poor appetite. Eating on the run, consuming too much liquid and lack of raw foods are common causes of low enzyme and stomach acid production.
- Slow down and chew food until liquid before swallowing
- Start each meal with a squeeze of lemon juice in water (preferably 20-30 minutes before eating)
- Incorporate a source of raw foods into each meal; raw foods contain natural enzymes to help break down foods
- Consume bitter foods such as watercress, dandelion and radicchio which stimulate digestive enzymes and stomach acid production
- Include pineapple and papaya in the diet daily, these fruits contain bromelain and papain, naturally occurring digestive enzymes
- Consume more fermented foods, rich in natural enzymes
- Dress salads and vegetables with an apple cider vinegar or lemon based dressing to help increase stomach acid production
- Smell foods before eating and whilst cooking to start the digestive process
Mind Body Connection
Whilst diet plays a vital role in the working of our digestive system, an underestimated contributor to gut health is the nervous system. Our gut and brain share many of the same nerve endings, hormones and neurotransmitters, thus ensuring a link between the gut and brain. Research has shown and is beginning to further define how our emotions can also have a significant impact on the physiological functioning of our gut. Next time gut symptoms strike, take a moment to think about whether your emotional state correlates with how you’re feeling. Identifying an underlying trigger in conjunction with dietary change may be your ticket out of digestive distress.
Try my tummy soothing Chia seed porridge – high in fibre and dairy-free; enjoy it with Vitasoy’s Almond Milk and added grated ginger for an extra tummy soothing boost.
2 small pears, cut into small chunks with the skin on
1 tbsp. raisins
1/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
1 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
1 cup Vitasoy Almond milk
½ cup chia seed
2 tbsp. toasted coconut shavings
1/4 cup mixed nuts, roughly chopped
In a small pan combine the pears, raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil and simmer for 5 minute or till soft. Add the chia seeds and Vitasoy Almond milk to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a jar or bowl and top with mixed nuts and coconut shavings.
Please note these are dietary suggestions only that may assist to optimise stomach health and comfort only. If symptoms persist or for any health advice, please seek professional medical advice.
Buckley, M et al 2014, ‘Convergence of neuro-endocrine-immune pathways in the pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome,’ World Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 20, No. 27, pp. 8846-58.
Darzi et al 2014, ‘Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake’, International journal of obesity, iss. 38
Hlebowicz et al 2007, ‘Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study’, BMC gastroenterology, Vol. 7, iss. 46.
Lawton, C et al 2013, ‘Short Term (14 days) Consumption of Insoluble Wheat Bran Fibre-Containing Breakfast Cereals Improves Subjective Digestive Feelings, General Wellbeing and Bowel Function in a Dose Dependent Manner, Nutrients, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 1436-1455.