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.
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).
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.
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…