Stand in line at any cafe and you hear the same thing. Coffees ordered with soy milk, or no milk at all. A serve of gluten-free banana bread. Questions about whether the cookie is nut-free. Whispered confessions of lactose intolerance and carbs make me feel bloated. What’s going on? Are digestive issues and food intolerances on the rise, and what can we do about it?
The most common symptoms are bloating, diarrhoea, cramping and gas. It can have a lot to do with what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and how old we are. But the good news is, simple easy changes to your lifestyle and eating habits could dramatically improve your digestive health.
Naturopath Daniella Fra has some of the answers to the digestive puzzle.
Taking a daily probiotic and/or digestive enzyme can dramatically help a lot of people with tummy trouble and a sluggish digestive system. A detox can also be hugely beneficial & for people with diagnosed IBS, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Daniela’s top 5 tips to improve digestive health are:
- Digestive Enzymes
PROBLEM: You feel discomfort, bloated and gassy after eating certain foods, or a big meal. Culprits are often milk and dairy, and/or wheat or gluten products.
SOLUTION: Digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes help break down the food we eat. They’re naturally produced by our bodies and found in many foods. But age, stress and processed foods can mean an enzyme deficiency.
Without the enzymes to break down our food, big chunks of food can go through our body unprocessed – and nutrients not absorbed properly – resulting in food sensitivity, digestive discomfort, bloating and gas. According to Daniela, one of the most common food sensitivities, especially as we age, is lactose intolerance, or sensitivity to dairy products. Hence the rise in the ‘Soyoccino’ phenomenon in the cafe line!
Many people who once happily slurped away on their morning cappuccino find as they age that they just can’t stomach all that milk. By late morning they suffer varying degrees of bloating and digestive discomfort. As we age, our bodies just don’t produce as much of the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products.
The good news is that you don’t have to give up your morning cappuccino. Simply taking a digestive enzyme that includes lactase (or tilactase) before each meal can help digest lactose and avoid these symptoms.
Daniela’s advice – Look for broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement packed with enzymes to help break down all five food groups including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibre and dairy (lactase).
PROBLEM; Bloating is a constant companion. Your digestive system feels sluggish and distressed, and you feel like your immune system is under siege.
Probiotics continue to be pivotal in healthy lifestyles and health research as their benefits for a range of health concerns are studied. Everyone seems to be talking about them, or taking them, and why not?
The health benefits of probiotics, the ‘good’ bacteria that balances our digestive system include digestive health, wellbeing and immunity. Research indicates that taking a Probiotic everyday can help keep you healthy. 70% of our immune system is based in our intestinal tract, so it stands to reason that if our insides are fighting fit, it will help protect us.
According to Daniela, the key to good digestive health is keeping good bacteria that live in the colon in balance. But, she warns, the balance of good and bad bacteria can be upset by lifestyle factors, antibiotics, alcohol, foods, and stress. Symptoms of poor balance include bloating, poor immune health and recurrent colds and flus, diarrhea/ constipation to name a few.
Daniela’s advice – take a Probiotic everyday, but look for a room stable Probiotic that doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge. This is important particularly when travelling as probiotics can help prevent and treat traveler’s diarrhea.
- IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
PROBLEM: you experience alternating diarrhea and constipation, abdominal pain and bloating particularly when you are stressed.
SOLUTION; You may have an irritable bowel
Your first step if you experiencing these symptoms is to visit your doctor who can diagnose if you have irritable bowel syndrome. When it comes to IBS, says Daniela, prevention is important. Our digestive system is linked to every system in our body and so stress and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on the health of our digestion.
To manage IBS you need to look at all the factors, including relief of symptoms such as pain, bloating and diarrhea and constipation, plus management of triggers such as stress and anxiety advises Daniela.
Daniela’s advice – Once diagnosed you should discuss dietary choices with your practitioner and look for a herbal and nutritional supplement to help with symptoms that includes slippery elm, curcumin, glutamine, chamomile, and peppermint and lemon balm.
PROBLEM – You are feeling tired, run-down, sluggish and experiencing skin break outs, headaches and digestive discomfort. You’ve been a bit naughty and haven’t been eating well, indulging in the odd alcoholic drink and too much coffee. To add insult to injury, your waistband is getting a bit snug, too. Sound familiar?
SOLUTION – Detox! It’s the spring clean your body’s craving!
When your ‘get up and go’ has got up and left, one of the best things you can do for your body is Detox, says Daniela. Our body naturally detoxes to remove toxins, but this process can be affected by poor lifestyle choices. The benefit of a Detox is enormous. It helps the body clear out those toxins. You get more energy, find you have clearer skin and get relief from digestive symptoms like bloating and flatulence says Daniela. And the good news? No longer does an effective detox require weeks of abstaining from 4 out of the 5 food groups. There are some great detox options that take as little as 2 days.
Daniela recommends that during a detox you include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, herbal teas and lean protein such as fish; choose organic foods where possible. Plus lifestyle changes including exercise.
Daniela’s advice – choose a detox supplement that includes herbs and nutrients that can help St Mary’s thistle, dandelion, schizandra, vitamin C, selenium and amino acids taurine and glutamine.
As always if symptoms persist, address your concerns with your healthcare professional.