A lifestyle full of stress, rushed eating habits, irregular eating times and an unbalanced diet can leave you with a digestive system that is challenged on an almost daily basis.
Digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas/wind and constipation is very common, but the good news is that for many people is it can be improved through simple lifestyle and diet changes.
The gastrointestinal tract is commonly referred to as the gut. It is responsible for the digestion of food to keep our bodies fuelled with energy and nutrients. And now it’s also believed to play an important role in our overall wellbeing. In fact, 95% of our body’s feel good hormone serotonin is produced there, so it’s no surprise that, according to one consumer study 72% of people feel emotionally affected when they have digestive discomfort.
There is now increasing evidence that the bacteria within the gut play a central role in our health and wellbeing and we are only just beginning to understand its true importance. The problem is that 4 out of 5 women regularly have an upset tummy which means most women either aren’t listening, or simply don’t realise that, although it’s common, it’s not normal to have digestive discomfort.
Research has found that living with regular but mild tummy problems is having a huge impact on women’s emotional and social wellbeing.
72% report an emotional impact including:
· Being bad tempered/annoyed (25.5%)
· Feeling unattractive (15%)
· Being stressed and anxious (13.4%)
· Not wanting to socialise or go out (10.2%)
Your intestine is a great ecosystem! It harbours around 100 trillion bacteria of over 1000 different species. A healthy digestive system depends on keeping the “friendly bacteria” far outnumbering the “bad” bacteria. Factors such as stress, lack of sleep, antibiotics, illness, ageing, and eating habits can alter the types and number of bacteria. Some bacteria, such as certain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains are known as ‘probiotics’, which scientists recognise and define as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit”. Regular consumption of certain probiotics strains such as those found in fermented dairy products may help, in combination with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, to improve digestive discomfort.
If you experience problems associated with your gut, log onto www.loveyour tummy.org for more information about your symptoms and how to manage them.
Important elements of a healthy diet and gut.
Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals that mop up free radicals, which can damage DNA and suppress the body's immune system. Getting your ‘5 – 7 a day’ any way (fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables count) will provide a myriad of important antioxidants for immune health.
Omega 3 fats are also essential. They work by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. These fats also help strengthen cell membranes, thereby speeding up healing and strengthening resistance to infection in the body. Eating two portions of omega-3 rich
oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) every week is not only good for the heart, but good for your brain, gut and immune function too.
Seventy percent of your natural barriers are in your intestine, helping to form resistant barriers against bad bacteria. The intestine is composed to three kinds of defence that work together, the good bacteria, the intestine wall and the immune system.
To express their benefits, probiotics or beneficial bacteria must be active or ‘alive’ and reach the gut in sufficient quantities and so resist the effects of stomach acids. There they can make life harder for the bad bacteria. You can boost these friendly bacteria by including low fat probiotic milk, yoghurts and other dairy as daily foods.
The Zinc Link
The mineral zinc helps develop white blood cells, the immune cells that fight off foreign bacteria and viruses. A zinc deficiency can greatly increase our risk of infection.
Zinc is found in abundance in oysters and shell fish. Lean red meat is another good source but vegetarians have to rely on other foods to ensure adequate zinc, such as pumpkin and other seeds, fortified cereals and low fat yoghurt and milk.
Immune Health? Whats on your plate?
Apricot and Walnut*** porridge****
Soak the porridge oats overnight with chopped dried apricots and walnuts.
Two thin slices of wholemeal toast**** topped with anti-bacterial Manuka honey
Cup of green tea or red bush tea *
Berry good smoothie*
Blend together one teacupful of frozen raspberries and one teacupful of fresh blueberries with 1 tsp honey and 5 or 6 ice-cubes until smooth. Serve immediately.
Cup of green tea or red bush tea *
Mango and Avocado salad with chicken
½ ripe avocado* 1 tsp lemon juice* ½ small mango* 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp clear honey ½ tsp cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper Handful of watercress* 1oz cooked beetroot*, finely sliced 2 oz cold chicken, thinly sliced
Mix the olive oil with the wholegrain mustard, honey, vinegar, and ground black pepper and mix well. Remove the avocado from the lemon juice and mix the juice into the dressing.
Arrange the watercress and beetroot on a plate or in a salad bowl and add the avocado and mango flesh. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and top with the slices of smoked chicken. Serve immediately.
A probiotic yoghurt**
3 brazil nuts, 3 almonds and 3 walnuts ***
A roasted salmon parcel** seasoned with lemon juice, ginger or chilli
Served with your favourite roasted vegetables*
Dried fruit* and cinnamon compote with a swirl of low fat Greek yoghurt
cup of green tea* or herbal tea
Key for symbols
* contains antioxidants
** probiotic friendly bacteria
*** contains omega 3 fats
***** contains zinc