Confession time: I didn’t care about my digestive health at all until I started experiencing problems with it.
I guess it’s kind of like when I thought my first car would just keep running without me taking any care of it…until the day it broke down because I’d never bothered to top up the water. Yep, I was THAT person. Oh, the shame!
Anyway, I know I’m not the only one who’s taken their digestive health for granted. I mean, most of us only start taking care of it when it’s playing up, right? That’s probably why you’ve stumbled upon this blog post.
And as I’ve been through many years of trial and error on the quest to improve my digestive health I’m here to share my advice with you.
I’d always had digestive issues but when they started majorly flaring up in my early twenties I decided to Google it…and after reading a few posts which convinced me I was minutes away from dying I finally booked an appointment with my GP.
As the only appointment I could get was almost two weeks later and I managed to make it there in one piece I realised Google might not be the most accurate source to use for self-diagnosis. And after a lot of medical tests, I was eventually told I had gluten intolerance.
The symptoms were hugely varied and to this day if I accidentally eat gluten even my mood gets majorly affected. Seriously, I go from being my usual happy positive self to becoming someone who resembles Ursula from The Little Mermaid!
I’ve got fairly good digestive health most days though. It’s not perfect, but in general it’s great and I feel healthy and happy.
You see, your digestive health is way more important than most people realise, so if you’re experiencing issues then do your best to look after it with these tips:
1. Figure out your trigger
If you’ve clicked on this post, chances are you’ve got something going on with your digestive system that you’re not happy about. So the first step is to figure out what foods (if any) are causing the issues.
The best way to figure out if you have any trigger foods is to keep a food diary.
I know there are loads of food intolerance tests available and some of them are brilliant…but in the initial stages, I’d recommend keeping a food diary so you can check for any specific patterns relating to certain foods.
I realised from keeping my food diary that my mood dropped and my stomach ballooned every time I ate pasta or bread. I also had *ahem* undesirable toilet issues. Sexy.
The crazy thing is that I spent my whole life thinking that was normal because I’d never thought to ask anyone else if they experienced the same thing. The only reason I even ended up seeing a doctor was because it reached the point where I started falling asleep at the dinner table any time I ate pasta!
If that hadn’t happened I’d probably still be eating gluten and spending all day every day bloated and uncomfortable.
Anyway, in your food diary I’d advise you to keep track of:
- What you eat
- What time you eat
- How much of it you eat – this doesn’t have to be weighed, just note whether it was a little or a lot
- What your mood was
- If you experienced any symptoms like bloating, etc
- If you had to make any toilet trips…and if so, what the *ahem* outcome was
Then after a few weeks, look through your food diary to see if you can spot any patterns where specific foods seem to cause certain symptoms.
If you find any you can try temporarily removing that food from your diet to see what changes, if anything. I’ve written more about this specific point here.
2. Stress less
Ok, I know this is always easier said than done. But TRY to reduce your stress-load. I won’t pretend to have mastered this, but I’m slowly getting there.
You’d be amazed the impact stress has on your gut. Think about it – if you’re nervous before a job interview it’s common to get an upset stomach. Or if you’re upset after a breakup you might lose your appetite…or you might go the other way and eat everything in sight. We’ve all been there – those nights on the sofa spent crying into a tub of ice cream.
Seriously, your gut is majorly affected by your emotional state. I know my digestive health freaks out any time I’m particularly busy and stressed with work.
You might think the gut is only affected by stress for people with IBS but it can happen to anyone. So if you’re having digestive health problems check to see if you’ve been feeling more stressed recently and see if the symptoms started occurring around the time your stress-load increased.
And if you’re thinking stress might be the cause, take steps to lower your stress-load. Try meditating, going for a walk, even just taking a few deep breaths – it all helps.
3. Become a subscriber to eating more fibre
I know, I know…this point isn’t exactly breaking news. But as most people still aren’t eating enough fibre it’s worth mentioning.
Not getting enough fibre can significantly affect your digestive health. I mean, it plays a huge part in transporting food through the gut and can help prevent constipation. Man, this post is just filled with all the sexy talk.
Seriously though, if constipation is one of your digestive issues take a look at your daily fibre intake and see if you need to increase it.
The current recommendations in the UK are 30g of fibre per day for adults. Are you eating that much?
A few examples of foods that are high in fibre are vegetables, beans, lentils and chickpeas. And as fibre helps to keep you feeling full it’s win-win if you’re trying to make healthier choices with your diet too.
4. Don’t stop moving
Ok, I don’t mean literally – I just wanted to somehow sneak those S Club 7 lyrics in here to make my inner 10-year-old proud. Who am I kidding…? I still love the S Club songs!
Anyway, if your gut is playing up then it could help to introduce regular exercise to your routine. To be honest, even if your gut isn’t playing up it’s a great idea to start exercising regularly because of all the other benefits exercise offers for your physical and mental health.
For digestive health in particular, exercise increases the blood flow towards the digestive tract so it’s able to function better. So even just going for a walk each day could help to ease some of the digestive issues you’re experiencing.
Walking is one of my favourite ways to de-stress too, so it’s the perfect way to combine two of my top tips. Besides, getting fresh air is great for your health anyway!
5. Seek professional advice to make your gut feel nice
For many people, making a few simple lifestyle changes will be enough to improve digestive health. But if things still don’t clear up then I’d recommend seeking professional help.
I’m not a doctor or a dietician – I’m only able to give advice based on my personal experience with food intolerances. But a professional from a great clinic like OneWelbeck in London could majorly help you to figure out what the cause is of your digestive issues…and they could guide you through the process to resolve those problems.
Oh, and there’s no need to feel embarrassed talking to them about your toilet trips, etc – in the digestive health world that’s a totally normal conversation topic.
If your digestive health has taken a major turn for the worse OneWelbeck could definitely help as they specialise in digestive and heart health. So listen to your body and look after your gut.
This is a sponsored post in partnership with OneWelbeck…but all views are my own. #Ad