Good digestion and regular bowel function is something we take for granted, that is until we start to experience problems, digestive related issues account for the largest number of GP appointments in the UK. Women are more likely to visit their doctor about their bowel habits than men who tend to put off seeking advice until symptoms present a problem they can no longer ignore.
An optimally functioning digestive system is essential to good health in order fully absorb the nutrients in food, general poor digestion can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like indigestion, heartburn, bloating and acid reflux, these are usually a result of overeating, poor food choices or rushing or missing meals.
Eating more slowly and most importantly chewing each mouthful of food thoroughly will help improve digestion, decrease bloating and reduce the incidence of heartburn. Try to avoid bending over or lying down straight after eating to help prevent acid reflux.
Our body should produce the majority of the digestive enzymes we require, some foods naturally contain them, but sometimes a little extra help is needed so a useful food supplement for digestive health would be one containing digestive enzymes. These help boost the natural supply of digestive enzymes to improve inefficient digestion following a heavy meal and to reduce symptoms of such as indigestion, flatulence and bloating. In some cases the underlying cause of digestive dysfunction is insufficient production of the enzyme lactase, needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. A supplement containing lactase enzyme, combined with probiotic bacteria for more effective results, can improve lactose digestion to reduce symptoms in those who are lactose intolerant.
Probiotic bacteria naturally dominate in a healthy gut; they help digest some foods and aid in the absorption of nutrients. The gut flora is intrinsically linked with immunity helping to support normal immune responses and have been shown to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Another useful supplement is aged garlic extract which acts as a prebiotic, enhancing the growth of “friendly bacteria”.
Food intolerances account for some digestive issues, avoidance of problematic foods is often the only way to eliminate symptoms, but dietary changes should be done carefully, do not permanently cut out food groups without professional advice.
For general digestive health, nutritionists recommend a diet that includes whole-grains, such as oats and brown rice, fresh fruit and vegetables and high quality protein, such as eggs, organic meat and oily fish, will help promote optimal digestive health.
However some people find high fibre foods difficult to digest so reduce intake of insoluble fibre (such as bran foods) while increasing intake of soluble fibre (found in oats, barley, legumes and vegetables). This also helps prevent constipation and for long term gut health a balance of both fibre types should be consumed. Avoid too many stimulants that over tax the digestive system, drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation and stop smoking.
Chew your food, eat smaller meals, eat a wide variety of foods especially colourful ones to ensure a good supply of nutrients, don’t drink large volumes of liquids with a meal, this dilutes the digestive chyme, the semifluid mass of partly digested food produced in the stomach and increases the chance of air being taken in with each gulp of water. With the festive season coming up there is no reason not to enjoy yourself but these few sensible rules to remember will help you enjoy it.
by Sharon Morey – Quest Vitamins