How can I relieve my digestive problems?
Digestive complaints such as bloating and indigestion are common and usually manageable with diet and lifestyle measures. Here are steps you can take to support healthy digestive function and relieve digestive problems:
Dietary and lifestyle measures
- Eat slowly and chew your food mindfully as the digestive process starts in the mouth.
- Sit down to eat rather than eating on the run.
- Gradually increase your fibre intake which is important for good digestion and for regular bowel motions. Include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains such as brown rice, spelt, oats and rye. You should aim for about 30g of fibre each day.1
- Drink at least 2L of water each day.
- Exercise regularly for sluggish digestive function and constipation relief.1
- Incorporate stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi or deep reathing to help relieve any stress‐related digestive symptoms.
- Try not to eat too quickly if you suffer with bloating. Also limit foods that seem to trigger your symptoms and avoid smoking, chewing gum and carbonated drinks.2
- Avoid smoking as it damages the protective lining of the stomach.3
- Reduce alcohol consumption as excessive amounts can irritate the stomach.3
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess fat inside the abdominal wall reduces the amount of room for the stomach and intestines, and can lead to symptoms of indigestion.4
- Limit intake of artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and mannitol found in sugar‐free products and chewing gum, as they can cause diarrhoea.3
- Start a journal if you suffer from regular digestive complaints. Record what you eat and drink, plus daily events, to see if there’s any connection. Once you know your digestive triggers, you can avoid or at least prepare for any inconvenient situations.
The following herbs and other natural ingredients may support digestive function and help relieve common digestive complaints.
- Digestive enzymes – Digestive enzymes assist in the healthy breakdown of food helping your body obtain the nutrients it needs. The enzyme amylase is needed to breakdown carbohydrates, protease is needed for protein breakdown, lipase for fats and lactase is needed to breakdown lactose.
- Probiotics – Probiotics are types of ‘good bacteria’ that help maintain healthy intestinal flora and may be useful for the symptoms of gas, bloating and flatulence. Your normal flora may be disrupted by a course of antibiotics or other digestive problems.
- Ginger – Ginger may aid digestion, help relieve flatulence, nausea and vomiting, and assist in the management of indigestion.
- Fenugreek – Fenugreek is traditionally used in Ayurvedic herbal medicine to aid digestion and help soothe the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines. It may be beneficial for relieving digestive discomfort.
- Slippery Elm – Slippery elm is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine to soothe and relieve irritation especially of the mucous surfaces such as the lining of the digestive tract.
- Milk thistle – The liver plays an active role in the process of digestion by producing bile, which is needed to breakdown fats. Milk thistle is a liver tonic that helps enhance liver function and supports its detoxification and regeneration processes.
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Published December 5, 2014
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