Have you been feeling the effects of Christmas over-indulgence? All the booze, fatty foods and sugary snacks can wreak havoc on your gut and leave you with bloating, cramps, gas and even diarrhoea or constipation.
Use January as an excuse to give your digestive system a healthy overhaul.
1. Take gut-friendly supplements
If you’ve found your digestion has been playing up a bit, then it could be worth adding some supplements to your diet that will boost friendly bacteria. ‘When these get killed, or when bad bacteria outweigh them,
you may experience bloating, gas, tiredness and mood swings,’ says Probio7 nutritionist Claire Hargreaves.
You could try…
Like Probio7, £15.99. This daily tablet has seven strains of healthy bacteria that your gut needs to stay balanced.
These green tablets boost the immune system, aid digestion and reduce bloating. Try Sun Chlorella, from £21.95.
This root cools inflammation in the body and has a soothing effect on the bowel. Buy it at Holland & Barrett for £10.49.
Tip: Calm your flare-ups fast
If your gut does suddenly start acting up and you’re feeling bloated or gassy, try drinking 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed into a glass of water. It helps neutralise and calm the pH in the digestive system.
2. Make healthy diet swaps
Take some of the strain off your stomach by swapping out foods that are tricky to digest for ones that reduce inflammation and aid digestion…
Swap: White flour for Buckwheat flour
Why? Since gluten causes gut problems for many people, try switching to buckwheat flour when homebaking. It’s high in fibre, protein, and is packed with essential minerals.
Swap: Rice for Quinoa
Why? While white rice is gluten-free, it’s high in carbohydrates and not much else. Quinoa has more protein and double the amount of fibre, which is great for digestion.
Swap: Sugar for Maple syrup or honey
Why? Sugar is a big cause of inflammation in the body, so opt for more natural sweeteners like these, which are less refined, so won’t lead to as many spikes in blood sugar levels.
Swap: Cow’s milk for Coconut, oat or almond milk
Why? Diets rich in dairy can affect the balance of bacteria in the gut, so cereal and drinks with dairy-free milk can keep things calm.
3. Cut down on histamine-heavy foods
If you suffer from hayfever, you’ll be familiar with how histamine can make your body feel – itchy, sneezy, runny nose – but high levels of histamine can also lead to digestive issues.
Histamine is produced by the immune system in response to an allergen, stress or infection. ‘They help to control inflammation. But when there’s too much inflammation in the body (from infections or stress) it can produce too much, and that’s when foods that are high in histamine might be a problem,’ says Claire.
If you’re suffering from bloating or stomach pains, try cutting down on foods that contain a lot of histamine.
Some of the most common culprits are:
● Cured and processed meats.
● Cow’s milk and foods like yoghurt, cheese and cream that are made from it.
● Alcohol – especially fermented types, such as champagne, beer and wine.
● Vinegary foods like mayonnaise and pickles.
4. Try going dry
…even if it’s just for a few weeks. Having a break from booze will be beneficial for your gut. Drinking alcohol in excess can damage the lining of your intestines and make them more prone to becoming leaky – when little holes appear and nutrients stop being absorbed properly,’ explains Claire. ‘It also causes inflammation, which can lead to chronic conditions like IBS.’
5. Test for intolerances
If you’ve tried cutting out key food culprits and have already embarked on a healthy diet but you still find yourself suffering from dodgy digestion, then it may be worth testing to see if you have a food intolerance. This can be done from a simple blood test and your GP can refer you to get one if you need it. That way you’re not shooting in the dark on which foods to cut out.