Be Good to Your Gut

It’s a brand new year. Banish those lingering regrets about festive overindulgence. Those digestive woes can be retired with the old year—and we can bring on the new, with these good-to-your-gut tips to take care of your digestive distress.

So this is the new year. And what have we done? Another year over. And a new one just begun. If you’re hearing the iconic words of John Lennon while you read this, our apologies. What we’re really channelling here is that deep regret many of us remember after all those festive nogs and butter tarts downed over the holidays. But there’s good news!
Some simple fixes like mindful eating and natural digestive aids can help with bloating, gas, heartburn, and indigestion.

Try mindful eating

Being more attentive while we eat can actually serve many purposes aside from avoiding digestive discomfort (a laudable goal for sure). It can help us appreciate and enjoy our food more and slow us down so we can savour the full experience. There’s also the happy result of helping us to find calm and reduce stress.

Eat before you’re ravenous

Don’t wait to eat until you’re starving, and try to avoid skipping meals; this makes it really hard to slow down and savour your food.

Drink water first

Drinking a tall glass of water before meals can help to minimize overeating; it’s also a great way to stay hydrated.

Chew with purpose

Mindfully chew, then swallow everything in your mouth before raising another forkful; this will slow you down and help cut down the amount you eat.

Stop before you’re full

Eat only enough to be nearly full; this can also help by letting your brain’s signals catch up with your stomach’s true extent of fullness.

Try digestive enzymes

If you struggle to digest typically gassy foods like beans or Brussels sprouts, digestive enzymes, found at health food stores, may be your best friends.

What are digestive enzymes?

Naturally produced in our body, digestive enzymes help break down food in our stomach and intestines.

There are three main types of digestive enzymes:

  • Amylase breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.
  • Protease breaks down proteins into amino acids.
  • Lipase breaks down lipids (fats and oils) into glycerol and fatty acids.

What we eat can have an effect on our body’s enzyme activity, since many foods contain natural enzymes. When we eat bananas, the natural amylase found in the banana helps us digest the plentiful carbs found in the banana. But when we experience digestive symptoms, supplementing with the same enzymes found naturally in our system can give our body a bit of a helping hand.

Lactase

This enzyme is needed to properly break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. People who are lactose intolerant don’t have enough lactase, so lactose-containing foods can cause them a lot of digestive upset. Lactase supplements, or milk to which lactase has been added, help to break down the lactose and decrease symptoms of lactose intolerance like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Alpha-galactosidase

This fancy-sounding enzyme is helpful for those who have trouble digesting “gassy” foods like beans and brassica vegetables including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Alpha-galactosidase allows for better breakdown of the carbohydrates found in these foods so they cause less bloating and gas.

Both lactase and alpha-galactosidase are available in a variety of over-the-counter supplements.

Get it checked

If your digestive woes can’t be easily managed with these tips, or if your symptoms have persisted for a long time, it might be time to see a health professional for a thorough check-up.

Potential underlying causes of chronic digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and reflux include sluggish thyroid; structural problems (including a hiatal hernia); food sensitivities; autoimmune disease; or an overgrowth of yeast, parasites, or bacteria. Getting a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment might resolve the issue for good.

Try these digestive helpers

There are plenty of other options at your health food store that might help to tackle your tummy troubles.

Peppermint

You can find peppermint as a tea or as encapsulated oil. Some studies have shown success in using peppermint for relieving symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If you’re someone who suffers from heartburn or acid reflux, though, be careful—that peppermint might worsen your symptoms.

Psyllium husk

Psyllium is a great source of soluble fibre that can be used to normalize irregular stools due to constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)

DGL, in chewable tablets or lozenges, can be soothing and supportive to the tissues of the stomach. It’s commonly used for treatment of indigestion, acid reflux, and stomach ulcers.

Stock up on probiotics

Friendly bacteria naturally living in our guts help with everything from boosting immunity to enabling digestion. Supplementing with probiotics can boost the live healthy bacteria count in our digestive systems.

Choose a good quality probiotic yogurt or pick up probiotics in supplement form at your local health food store. Benefits include reducing bloating and constipation, as well as easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

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