Helping you Solve your Gut Health Puzzle:
Digestion is a complex system that is affected by many factors and in turn can affect a lot of other systems. Therefore, trying to figure out what is causing one specific digestive complaint can be challenging. To help you navigate the maze that is your digestion, try to follow these steps:
Step 1: Get clear on the symptom.
Try to be aware of exactly which discomforts you are experiencing; is it
- A sharp, specific pain or is it a dull, diffuse pain?
- Where is the pain?
- What type of pain is it? Is it a burning sensation, a stinging sensation or a throbbing sensation?
- Do you experience multiple symptoms at the same time? Such as cramps simultaneously with headaches? Or are your cramps followed by diarrhoea?
Being aware of what you are feeling, can help your healthcare provider get a better idea of what could be causing the problem.
Step 2: Identify triggers.
It helps to keep track of things that may be causing your symptoms. Lots of people find they can relate a specific food to their discomfort. Common triggers are dairy, gluten and soy. Your body could be having difficulty breaking down these food groups and that could be leading to digestive discomfort.
Just because something is triggering your digestive system does not mean you have to eliminate the food completely or forever; it could just mean that your digestive system requires a break to heal and that these foods should be consumed in moderation. (This can differ for different conditions)
Step 3: Starting the Healing Process.
There are plenty of general tips to alleviating digestive discomfort; such as:
- Probiotics (See more information in this article)
- L-glutamine: This is an amino acid that helps reduce inflammation of the intestinal wall.
- Enjoying your meal slowly and chewing properly: chewing is an important first step in the digestive process and should not be neglected.
- Consuming a whole food diet, which incorporates antioxidants, fibre, healthy fats & proteins. Trans fats, large amounts of saturated fats and processed foods are hard on your digestive system and can disrupt the health of your bowel flora.
- Stress management: High levels of stress increases our stress hormones, and these hormones can negatively impact our digestive system. Managing stress levels can therefore assist in maintaining a healthy gut.
- Here are some guidelines for the most common complaints:
|Constipation||– Ensure adequate hydration|
|– Start with soluble fibre (Oats) & then introduce more insoluble fibre (Bran & fresh veg).|
|– Using Schweden Bitters or Triphala to assist digestion.|
|– Stimulant laxatives such as Senna & Aloe ferox can also be useful in small amounts for short periods of time.|
|Bloating||– Digestive enzymes can assist in the breakdown of food; reducing discomfort.|
|– Soaking hard to digest foods such as beans in baking soda or overnight.|
|– Drinking herbal teas that help calm the stomach such as Chamomile, Rooibos, Ginger & Fennel.|
|– Consuming fermented foods in small amounts to improve lactic acid bacteria (Probiotic) health.|
|Heartburn/Indigestion||– Herbs that assist the liver and gallbladder to break down foods; these include Milkthistle, Artichoke & Burdock root.|
|– Digestive enzymes are helpful in this situation as well.|
|– Herbs that reduce inflammation in the gut such as Turmeric, Ginger & Cinnamon are also useful to help relieve some of the discomfort.|
Signs to watch out for:
- Bloody stool
- Dark grainy stool
- Diarrhoea that lasts more than 3 days
- Constipation that lasts longer than 48 hours with no bowel movement.
It is important to always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medications or if you are unsure of what could be causing your discomfort. These tips are meant as a guideline as should not be used as a diagnostic tool.
If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to come speak to any of our health assistants in our Health Zone.