What’s your gut try­ing to tell you?

Tummy trou­ble? Dr Sarah Brewer is here to help

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

On the cover

Who thinks of their stom­ach as a prob­lem area? Not be­cause of the way it looks (that’s an­other story), but be­cause of the phys­i­cally un­com­fort­able way it can make you feel? As your gut is around eight me­tres long, there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong, and once you reach mid­dle age, your bowel func­tion does tend to change. You may be more prone to in­di­ges­tion, bloat­ing, con­sti­pa­tion, wind and dis­com­fort. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by the Tay­mount Clinic, the world’s first fae­cal mi­cro­biota trans­plant (FMT) clinic, one in five think their gut health is not up to scratch. But there are things you can do to help im­prove it. How­ever, al­ways seek med­i­cal ad­vice about per­sis­tent di­ges­tive symp­toms to rule out more se­ri­ous con­di­tions, which are eas­ier to treat when de­tected early.

It hurts af­ter meals!

In­di­ges­tion and heart­burn are com­mon af­ter eat­ing. In­di­ges­tion is felt in the up­per ab­domen and in­cludes feel­ings of dis­ten­sion, flat­u­lence, nau­sea, acid­ity or burn­ing. Heart­burn is a more spe­cific term re­fer­ring to burn­ing sen­sa­tions be­hind the chest bone, which may spread to­wards the throat. Here’s how to ease them…

Di­ges­tion starts in the mouth, so chew your food thor­oughly to break it down.

Choose bland foods – try white rice, oats, scram­bled eggs, ripe ba­nanas and chicken broth. Milk and yogurt pro­vide cal­cium to neu­tralise ex­cess acid.

Avoid acidic fruit juices, cof­fee, al­co­hol and large meals that are rich

(eg with cream sauces) or heavy.

Eat lit­tle and of­ten to avoid over­fill­ing your stom­ach.

Los­ing any ex­cess weight will re­ally help, es­pe­cially if you tend to store fat around your waist.

Avoid stoop­ing, bend­ing or ly­ing down im­me­di­ately af­ter eat­ing.

Gin­ger, pep­per­mint and ar­ti­choke ex­tracts help to re­lieve in­di­ges­tion.

Ir­ri­ta­ble bow­els?

Ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome (IBS) is the most com­mon con­di­tion to af­fect the gut, with at least one in five peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms at some point. IBS is as­so­ci­ated with symp­toms in­clud­ing in­ter­mit­tent pain, bloat­ing (with or with­out dis­ten­sion) and di­ar­rhoea or con­sti­pa­tion. It may also in­volve changes in the way the gut and brain in­ter­act. Im­bal­ances in bowel bac­te­ria are also thought to be in­volved, as symp­toms of­ten come on af­ter food poi­son­ing, tak­ing an­tibi­otics and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing stress or surgery. These fac­tors may af­fect in­testi­nal per­me­abil­ity (so-called leaky gut, which lets food par­ti­cles and bac­te­ria out) or al­ter the bal­ance of di­ges­tive bac­te­ria to in­crease gas pro­duc­tion and cause bloat­ing.

What else could it be?

Al­ways tell your GP if you ex­pe­ri­ence re­cur­rent ab­dom­i­nal pain or a change in stool fre­quency or form. The di­ag­no­sis of IBS isn’t al­ways clear cut, as there’s no sin­gle di­ag­nos­tic test for it. Your GP will con­sider other con­di­tions, such as in­flam­ma­tory bowel disease, coeliac disease or lac­tose in­tol­er­ance, and ex­clude prob­lems af­fect­ing other or­gans. But it’s also im­por­tant to avoid un­nec­es­sary tests if you don’t have ‘red flag’ symp­toms such as a fam­ily his­tory of bowel or ovarian cancer, un­ex­plained weight loss or blood in the mo­tions. Reg­u­lar fol­low-ups are also im­por­tant, so go back to your doc­tor if symp­toms per­sist, worsen or change.

Get things mov­ing

Con­sti­pa­tion can oc­cur as a re­sult of health con­di­tions such as IBS, de­pres­sion, an un­der­ac­tive thy­roid and neurological con­di­tions or as a side ef­fect of med­i­ca­tion – es­pe­cially opi­oid painkillers (eg codeine). And women are more likely to be af­fected by it than men due to the fe­male hor­mone, pro­ges­terone, slow­ing bowel move­ments. Strain­ing can lead to prob­lems in the form of her­nias, ‘piles’ or di­ver­tic­u­lar disease, where pouches bulge out from the bowel lin­ing. Of­ten, how­ever, no ob­vi­ous cause is found, and this is re­ferred to as func­tional con­sti­pa­tion. There may be some truth in the old wives’ tale that it’s as­so­ci­ated with ‘a change of wa­ter’. If you live in a hard wa­ter area, where wa­ter has higher lev­els of dis­solved cal­cium and mag­ne­sium, you may adapt less well to soft wa­ter ar­eas, as these min­er­als are needed for mus­cle con­trac­tion. Here’s what you can take to help…

Mag­ne­sium is needed for mus­cles to work prop­erly. In­crease your in­take of mag­ne­sium-rich foods (eg nuts, seeds, dark green leaves). A sup­ple­ment will also help.

Fi­bre helps to get things mov­ing. As well as eat­ing more fruit, veg, beans, sal­ads, nuts and seeds, sup­ple­ments such as psyl­lium will ‘feed’ bowel bac­te­ria and ab­sorb wa­ter to add bulk. How­ever, it can take up to four weeks to no­tice the ben­e­fit.

Prunes and prune juice are an ex­cel­lent source of sol­u­ble fi­bre, and also con­tain a lax­a­tive sub­stance (di­hy­drox­yphenyl isatin) that stim­u­lates se­cre­tion of fluid into the bowel.

Pro­bi­otics also help to im­prove di­ges­tion, stool con­sis­tency and bowel reg­u­lar­ity as they fer­ment undi­gested fi­bre and bulk up the stools.

Beat the bloat

Bloat­ing can re­sult from re­duced pro­duc­tion of bile or pan­cre­atic en­zymes, so that fat is less eas­ily di­gested. Globe ar­ti­choke ex­tract stim­u­lates bile pro­duc­tion in the liver to im­prove di­ges­tion of fats and re­lieve bloat­ing. It’s also a source of in­ulin, a pre­bi­otic fi­bre that stim­u­lates the growth of ben­e­fi­cial di­ges­tive bac­te­ria. Ar­ti­choke sup­ple­ments have also been found to re­duce symp­toms of bloat­ing, flat­u­lence, ab­dom­i­nal pain and con­sti­pa­tion in peo­ple with ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome.

If you ex­pe­ri­ence per­sis­tent bloat­ing, it’s im­por­tant to see your doc­tor. This symp­tom can some­times re­sult from other con­di­tions

in­clud­ing fi­broids or an ovarian cyst or tu­mour, so don’t ig­nore it if di­ges­tive changes don’t help.

Ease a rum­bling tum

Au­di­ble bowel sounds are a sign that gases have built up in the in­testines. This can re­sult from an im­bal­ance in bowel bac­te­ria (dys­bio­sis), poor delivery of bile (eg due to gall­stones) or a re­duced abil­ity to process cer­tain foods (eg gluten in­tol­er­ance in coeliac disease, or poor pro­duc­tion of lac­tase en­zymes needed to break­down lac­tose). If rum­bling con­tin­ues, do see your doc­tor for a check up, es­pe­cially if you also ex­pe­ri­ence bloat­ing or ab­dom­i­nal pain.

Ar­ti­choke eases in­di­ges­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.