From bloating to constipation, heartburn and wind, digestive problems are a common concern for most people and it can be quite uncomfortable. Learn more about digestion with our Naturopath!
Constipation is where a person infrequently passes a stool, or has difficulty in doing so. It may be a symptom of another underlying medical condition, or an ongoing problem in itself. Some of the causes of constipation include:
• Dietary changes
• A low fibre diet
• Decrease in physical activity
• Certain medications
• Underactive thyroid
There are some things you can do that may assist with constipation, these things include:
• Removing refined foods, sugars, caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol are especially dehydrating.
• Increasing fibre in the diet to help bulk up the stool, as well as fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains.
• Increase water intake.
• Do some regular exercise to get the bowels moving.
• Eat smaller, more frequent meals, rather than large ones.
• Introduce bitter foods into your diet, include foods like; radicchio, rocket, endive, olives, dandelion greens and roasted dandelion root tea.
Slippery elm powder or tablets is a type of fibre that comes from a tree bark. It is soothing to the entire digestive tract. It is known as a bulking agent, so it adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass.
Taking a magnesium supplement can be beneficial if you are constipated and experiencing stress. When we are stressed our muscles tighten (our bowel being a muscle), making it harder for us to pass a stool. Magnesium can help to relax the bowel, allowing for a movement to pass.
Bloating is where your tummy feels full and swollen. It usually occurs after eating a meal, but can happen at other times also. It is often caused by intestinal cramping and an excessive production of gas. Bloating can be as a result of:
• Food allergies or intolerances; particularly to foods containing lactose, fructose, eggs, wheat and gluten. Legumes, garlic, onions and brassica family vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts) can also be a problem for some people.
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Leaky gut
• Coeliac disease
• Hormones; especially during menopause or before your period
• Certain medications
• Weight gain
All of these factors can lead to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, which exacerbates bloating.
There are some things you can do to alleviate the discomfort of bloating:
• Keep a diet diary and write down everything you are eating and drinking in a week. Then you can write down and monitor any symptoms you may be experiencing, making it easier to identify and remove offending foods.
• If there is a hormonal aspect involved, consider talking to a practitioner about nutrient and herbal support to regulate hormones.
• If stress is a factor, try doing some mindfulness techniques, yoga, meditation or tai chi to help reduce stress levels.
Taking a good probiotic such as Henry Blooms Complete Digestion can be quite beneficial. Probiotics help to restore the balance of good bacteria, help with gut inflammation and assist with the production of enzymes. It also contains digestive enzymes which aids in the digestion of food. If we are unable to digest our food properly, it sits in our gut and ferments, causing wind and bloating as a result. Lastly it contains prebiotics, which feed good bacteria.
Heartburn is a burning sensation you feel in your chest which is accompanied by a bitter taste in your mouth. It can occur at anytime, but is often worse when lying down or after eating food.
What foods cause heartburn?
• Spicy foods
• Fatty foods
• Larger carbohydrate meals
What other factors cause heartburn?
• Stress: when we are stressed our body goes into fight or flight mode. It prepares our body from running away from the tiger, not to digest food, as it is considered a non-essential task when we are in danger. So our body slows down the whole digestive system and decreases production of gastric acid, which is needed to break down our food.
• Weak esophageal sphincter: the sphincter is a muscle that sits on top of the stomach, that closes after we eat, to prevent the contents of the stomach from coming back up.
• Certain medications
• Low stomach acid. Contrary to popular belief, low acid usually can cause heartburn. Food is not broken down properly, which allows it to sit in the stomach for longer, leading to refluxing of the gastric content into the oesophagus.
Helpful hints to combat heartburn
• Eat smaller meals more frequently, don't over eat.
• Try and reduce carbohydrates and if you do eat them, don't eat too much. Carbohydrates can ferment in the gut, producing more gas, causing more pressure on the stomach.
• Don't eat right before bed (2-3 hours)
• Avoid the following foods; citrus fruits, chocolate, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions (especially raw), spicy foods, tomato based foods and fizzy drinks. All of these foods either encourage reflux, irritate the gut, relax the oesophageal sphincter or increase the amount of time food stays in the gut.
Slippery Elm can be quite beneficial for heartburn. It comes from a bark fibre that forms a gel when mixed with water. It soothes, protects and heals the gut, it does this by forming a barrier over the stomach and oesophagus to protect it from the acid. It is best to have after a meal.
Indigestion and other digestive disturbances can also occur as a result of your liver being a little sluggish. Taking something like Henry Blooms Liver Detox may assist with indigestion, bloating, digestive discomfort and constipation. It contains Milk thistle and other powerful antioxidants, that help support liver function.
If you would like more information about digestion or are suffering from any of these concerns, please make a booking with our Naturopath Chantel.
*Not intended as a treatment or diagnosis, if your condition persists please see your doctor. Please also consult with your doctor if you are on any medications, before taking any supplements, to ensure there are no interactions.