5 Ways to Fight Sluggishness and Improve Your Digestion

Improve Digestion

Without a doubt, this is the least glamorous topic I have ever covered on Coco’s Tea Party. But I wanted to take a moment to discuss digestion. Why? Because for the past two years I have struggled with poor digestion, food intolerances, sluggishness, constant bloating and bouts of IBS. And I know that I’m not alone.

A high proportion of my female friends in their 20s and early 30s have also been battling similar issues, of late. Gone are the days when everyone could happily order straight from the menu at restaurants. Now adjustments have to be made to almost every dish. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re quote-unquote “healthy”, because IBS can effect anyone. (According to my GP, digestion issues are mostly commonly found amongst women in their 20s. How lucky are we?!)

For a long time I felt too embarrassed to talk to about my struggles with IBS. But once I did speak up, I discovered that many of my closest friends and colleagues had been going through the same thing.

And I’m now at a point where I know exactly how to aid digestion and manage bouts of IBS. So – outside of visiting your GP to determine whether you have any food intolerances or other undiagnosed issues causing your symptoms – here are five proactive things you can do to improve digestion…


5 Ways to Improve Digestion

MAKE EXERCISE A PRIORITY

It’s so boring when exercise is the answer for everything, right? But regular exercise does help your digestive system work properly. I find yoga particularly helpful. And poses that involve twists (like triangle/trikonasana and seated spinal twist) and are said to be the best for improving digestion.

TAKE PROBIOTICS

Probiotic supplements help to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your digestive system. So if you’re constantly feeling sluggish and bloated, or are suffering with IBS, they could make a noticeable difference. I take one of the Holland & Barrett Mega Potency Acidophilus Capsules with breakfast every morning. (And, a quick side note: it’s always a good idea to take probiotics if you’re on a course of antibiotics, because antibiotics can throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut).

GP Nutrition Clean Me

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

As Madeline Shaw notes in her post about IBS, “Water nourishes the digestive tract and helps remove waste and toxins.” So you should ideally aim to drink two litres of water a day. I’ve also been advised by a dietician to start each day with a cup of hot water and lemon (ideally 30 minutes before eating breakfast), as it aids digestion.

TRY A SUPPLEMENT PROGRAMME

Earlier in the summer my body got into a bit of a funk. I was still eating well, but after a busy period of work and month off from the gym I started struggling with IBS again. Nothing seemed to be improving my symptoms, so as an experiment I followed the GP Nutrition Clean Me supplement programme for seven days.

The Clean Me supplements contain a mix of micronutrients and natural ingredients (view the full list here). And they were designed to “keep your liver working at maximum efficiency” and support digestive function. I didn’t really expect them to have any noticeable effect. But within 48 hours all of my symptoms had vanished. I was so surprised, and will definitely follow the Clean Me programme the next time I’m struggling with digestion.

How to Improve Digestion and IBS

FOLLOW THE FODMAP DIET

At the height of my struggle with IBS I had to resort to the FODMAP diet, which is super boring but can quickly ease symptoms. The diet cuts out all short chain carbohydrates because they’re more difficult for the small intestine to absorb. So you have to avoid a variety of delicious ingredients, including onions, garlic (sob!), beans, apples and gluten.

It’s very restrictive, so I always treat the FODMAP diet as a last resort. The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen Cookbook and The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet are two books worth checking out if you do decide to give it a go. 

Do you also suffer from IBS or constant bloating and sluggishness? How do you improve digestion when you’re struggling? Leave a comment below to share your advice…

Balcony images by Jay McLaughlin on the Olympus PEN E-PL8

  • My diet is like a mine field and sometimes I feel like there is less I can eat than what I cannot. But hey, it works, so who am I to judge 🙂

    • cocos_tea_party

      I feel that way sometimes too. And it’s always annoying when people judge you for it, as if you’re just being over dramatic or something!

  • This is really interesting Ella, most of my female friends struggle with the same. As you say it’s definitely worth looking if there’s an underlying issue. I have endometriosis (1 in 10 women have it) and this is frequently misdiagnosed as IBS.

    • cocos_tea_party

      It’s strange how everyone seems to be struggling so much at the moment, isn’t it? I wonder if it’s always been that way, and people are now just more open about it. Or whether it’s related to all the stress and pollution we’re exposed to now?

      • I had this exact conversation with my friend a few weeks ago as it seems literally all my female friends suffer in some way. I think it’s definitely stress related, perhaps we drink more than we should or have poorer diets etc. I watched an interesting talk a while ago which touches on this (watch from around 3.30) https://youtu.be/tJ0SME6Z9rw

        • cocos_tea_party

          Thanks – I will check that out this weekend. I actually don’t drink very frequently at all, so for me I don’t think that’s related to my issues. However, I have completely stopped drinking wine because even one glass upsets my stomach, because of the fermentation.

  • cocos_tea_party

    Hi Laura. So sorry to hear that you’re really suffering at the moment. I totally sympathise. It is so miserable, and it’s horrible to have to worry about every single thing you that eat and whether you’re making the wrong choice etc. I also feel like FODMAP is very hit and miss.

    Probiotics are definitely worth a shot, and I’ve actually been taking vitamin B as well lately and feel like that has made a difference. Also, if you haven’t checked it out already, there are some more good tips in Madeline Shaw’s post http://madeleineshaw.com/7-life-changing-tips-to-heal-your-ibs/ Apparently eating bitter foods like watercress and rocket can help digestion too.

    I hope that you’re able to find something that works soon xxx

  • Two years ago I had to cut a lot of food from my diet because I felt terribly bad, I had nausea almost every day and I couldn’t sleep because of it. So, I had to cut a lot of foods I love. Almost every type of dairies, tomatoes, peppers, alcohol… And I’m vegetarian so it means that I really could eat only few things. I really wanted to die. I felt so bad and I was so angry because my doctor underrated the symptoms for months. Now I feel definitely better, even if my diet is still pretty restricted. My stomach is very delicate and I have to be careful because bad quality oil, for example, makes me sick and so do other food. My advice? Try homeopathy! A pharmacist suggested me a homeopathic remedy and she really saved my life. I know some people don’t believe in this type of medicine, but I also use homeopathic analgesic for period pains and they work!
    I think that bad quality food is the cause of lots of problems, but most of all stress is. I also would like to try acupuncture, some say it does wonders.
    Thanks for sharing your problems.

    • cocos_tea_party

      Hi Noemi. I’m so sorry to hear about all your struggles with food. This does sound miserable indeed, so I think you’re absolutely amazing for remaining positive and working hard to find solutions that work for you. I 100% believe in homeopathic remedies, and that’s brilliant that they’ve been able to help. I also think acupuncture sounds like a wonderful idea. My mum used to suffer from terrible migraines it was able to help her.

      I also absolutely agree about food quality. It’s scary how many chemicals are in our foods (and how much we absorb just through air pollution etc). And it’s such a big problem that it almost seems impossible to tackle it in any way. I really hope that things start to change, and as a society we can stop eating so much processed food.