Top ten foods for a healthy tummy

Fibre

Fibre is very important for digestion and defecation. Soluble fibre, found in oats, vegetables and pulses could help keep bowels moving.

Fish

Oily fish is a vital ingredient for a healthy digestive system. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are anti-inflammatory. They help to heal the mucosal lining and protect the body from toxins produced in the gut. Olive oil, sunflower seeds and flaxseed are other great fatty acids sources.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are good for digestion because they are ‘live’ foods. This means they come with their own enzymes to help with their digestion. ‘Dead’ foods, such as processed foods, require the body to produce all the enzymes for their digestion. This requires a lot of energy which can cause tiredness at the end of a heavy meal.

Garlic

A good antibiotic that could help with infectious diarrhoea, indigestion and wind is garlic. Basil and sage are two more herbs that contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and soothing properties.

Ginger, dill and fennel

Ginger is a great root to aid digestion as it can help reduce colic spasms, wind, nausea and diarrhoea. Dill and fennel could also have the same effect.

Lemons

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C and help the digestive system break down essential minerals, such as calcium, in food.

Papaya and pineapple

Papaya and pineapple have digestive enzymes which could help bloating and nausea after a big meal. They are also known for their healing effects.

Peppermint and rosemary

Peppermint and rosemary have a very calming effect and can help with intestinal spasm and flatulence.

Probiotics

Probiotics are essential to help digestion. However, foods that may contain some probiotics, such as yoghurt and fermented milk, do not contain enough to keep the digestive system going, so a good supplement is recommended.

Water

Water is essential for our digestive system and for all other processes that go on in the body. Our bodies are 70% water and every chemical in the body either contains water or is suspended in water. Therefore, it is important to drink at least 1-2 litres of water daily to keep your body hydrated.

A Healthy Digestive System

Constipation

Most people find from time to time that they become a little constipated when they open their bowels less often than usual. Ignoring the urge to go, stress and not enough fibre water or exercise are the usual culprits resulting in straining on the toilet with just a rabbit-pellet sized stool the reward. Taking any necessary lifestyle changes are put in place to try and make sure constipation doesn’t happen again. If it is a long term constipation, course of colonic irrigation/hydrotherapy (up to 3 treatments) could help to restart your ability to have normal bowel movement.

Heartburn & Indigestion

It’s estimated that up to 40% of people suffer with heartburn and indigestion. This normally occurs as a result of overindulgence and unhealthy eating habits. Rich, fatty, and spicy food, caffeine, smoking, alcohol and stress all contribute to too much acid being made and this damages the stomach lining, causing inflammation and painful indigestion. Overeating, being overweight, eating late at night and wearing tight clothes put pressure on the stomach, forcing acid back up into the gullet and causing painful heartburn. A traditional remedy for heartburn and indigestion is a glass of lowfat milk. Antacids neutralise stomach acid and work quickly to relieve symptoms. Artichoke extract can help to relieve symptoms of overindulgence, bloating and flatulence, which may accompany indigestion. Peppermint oil helps to relieve the feeling of fullness too.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The number of people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome is increasing and currently it is estimated that as many as one in three is affected at some time with symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, alternating constipation and diarrhoea, mucous in the stools, excess belching or passing of excess wind. Many people know what triggers their IBS. Common things include stress and some foods, for example, wheat, citrus fruits, caffeine and alcohol. These triggers should be avoided as far as possible. Peppermint oil effectively relieves painful gut spasm and bloating. Many people find that taking a probiotic supplement helps to keep their IBS under control. Having extra fibre in the diet or taking psyllium dietary fibre helps some people with IBS; however, for others it exacerbates their symptoms so it’s usually a case of try it and see.

Gut feeling

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Digestive enzymes are complex proteins involved in digestion and are needed for every single chemical action that takes place in the body. Enzymes are produced both internally (most notably in the pancreas and the other endocrine glands) and are also present in the raw foods we eat. Unfortunately, due to modern farming and food preparation, we are not getting the right amount of enzymes from our food. Added to this, the ageing process depletes the body of its store of digestive enzymes.

The three digestive enzymes are protease, amylase and lipase. Amylase is needed to digest carbohydrates and dead blood cells. Protease digests proteins, parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungus. Lipase is needed to digest fat as well as fat soluble nutrients, such as fish oil and vitamin E.

PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are vital for a healthy digestive tract. They work to keep unfriendly or pathogenic bacteria at bay and they also help with the absorption of key nutrients. In addition, probiotics keep the lining of your intestines healthy and work to keep candida albicans  from developing into a problem. Yet, this is not all that probiotics can do, as they also play a key role in the healing process and anti-ageing.  Probiotics help to restore levels of gastrointestinal microflora that may have been compromised from the use of antibiotics and medication or as a result of poor diet, stress and digestive abnormalities. When choosing a probiotic, it is important to look for a multi-strain variety as these have been shown to exert more positive benefits and reach more areas of the gastrointestinal tract than single-strain varieties.

INULIN

Inulin is a natural soluble dietary fibre derived from chicory root which is also found in a number of fruits and vegetables. It has many health benefits, the main one being supporting digestive health. Inulin is known as a prebiotic because it increases the activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut, by acting as a ‘food’ for the good bacteria in your digestive system. It therefore helps to promote digestive health and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.

CURCUMIN

Curcumin is the active anti¬inflammatory ingredient of turmeric, the spice traditionally used in curries. It is a potent antioxidant and has pharmacological actions that might benefit patients with digestive disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Due to its inherent poor absorbency, high doses of ordinary curcumin have been needed to achieve the dramatic effects shown in worldwide studies. Studies have shown that Meriva curcumin is absorbed up to 23 times more than ordinary curcumin. A 2007 study, published in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, demonstrated Meriva’s superior bioavailability compared to ordinary curcumin.

Why you should stop dieting!

You’ll end up heavier

Once they’ve stopped dieting, most woment put even more weight back on. The reason is that by dieting regularly, your basal metabolic rate becomes adjusted to a lower calorie intake and your body works at a lower level, burning fewer calories. When you go back to eating normally your body is confused. Your basal metabolic rate remains lower, you burn fewer calories than you did before dieting and put all the weight back on. This creates a yo-yo effect.

Your energy levels plummet

One way women lose weight quickly is to stop eating carbohydrates. This can lead to weight loss because once the carbohydrate stores in the liver are used, the body burns fat to produce energy. However, this is not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight. No Carbs means no starch in the body which is the substance broken down into sugars and this can lead to a dip in the body’s blood sugar which can cause low-energy levels.

It causes bad breath

If you’ve restricted your diet to such an extent that your body is burning fat stores rather than carbohydrates in order to produce energy, you’ll produce a by-product called ketones. This is an acid that can cause bad breath and it is what diabetics produce when they develop ketoacidosis — a coma-inducing condition when the body stops producing insulin. When dieters bum fat stores, their bodies mimic this process to a lesser extent.

Its not sustainable

Dieting doesn’t teach you much about healthy eating — it simply divides food into good and bad categories. If, once you’ve finished dieting, you go back to what you were eating before, the chances are you will put all the weight back on. This is not good for your body or your self-confidence.

So what’s the alternative if you want to lose weight?

The key to long-term weight loss is having good eating that become a way of life. It’s about keeping a check on your weight, having a look at what you eat and learning to enjoy exercise. For many women, food is a complex issue, which is about more than just eating.

To lose weight successfully, you need to not only change your eating habits but your lifestyle and mindset too. It is about re-eavaluating your relationship with food, identifying what triggers you to eat crisps, biscuits and snacks between meals and either trying to avoid or minimize those situations or finding a healthier alternative. For most women who are maybe between half a stone and a stone overweight, making minor changes over a long period of time can make all the difference.

Go with your instinct!

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Digestive enzymes are complex proteins involved in the process of digestion, which  are needed for every single chemical action that takes place in the body. Enzymes are  produced both internally (most notably in the pancreas and the other endocrine glands) and are also ingested by us through the raw or lightly cooked foods we eat. However, as a result of modern farming methods and food preparation, we are no longer obtaining the right amount of enzymes from our food. Furthermore, the ageing process depletes the body of its store of digestive enzymes. There are two ways to preserve and replenish our enzyme level: by eating living foods and food supplements and taking enzyme supplements. Here are some examples of important digestive enzymes, and the roles they play in our health:

AMYLASE

Amylase is a digestive enzyme which is secreted by the salivary and pancreatic glands. It breaks down carbohydrates into a form that can be used by the body for energy. As a result of poor dietary habits and ageing, many people become deficient in amylase, the symptoms of which can include allergies, excess gas, constipation and general digestive upset. Low levels of amylase are also thought to lead to a variety of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, blood sugar imbalances, hypoglycemia and food sensitivities.

PROTEASE

This digestive enzyme is found in the gastric and pancreatic juices. It breaks down proteins into amino acids called peptides, which can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. Protease also helps to digest the cell walls of unwanted harmful organisms in the body as well as breaking down toxins, cellular debris and undigested proteins. This helps our immune system by avoiding an overload of toxins. Protease has been found to help with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, stomach ulcers and helps to promote beneficial gut bacteria.

LIPASE

Lactase is produced by the cells lining the small intestines. It is needed to break down lactose, the main sugar found in milk. Most individuals are born producing it, but often make less of it as they age, which can cause lactose intolerance.

LACTASE

Lactase is produced by the cells lining the small intestines. It is needed to break down lactose, the main sugar found in milk. Most individuals are born producing it, but often make less of it as they age, which can cause lactose intolerance.

CELLULASE

Cellulase is an enzyme that is needed to break down cellulose into glucose so that it can be used by the body for energy. Cellulose is a polysaccharide fibre found in the majority of raw foods, especially raw vegetables. Our bodies do not produce cellulase, which is why we need to take it in supplement form in order to ensure that we can properly digest foods containing cellulose. Without cellulase we can experience symptoms such as bloating, excessive gas and abdominal pain.

ALPHA GALACTOSIDASE

Foods such as beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are notorious for causing excess gas and bloating. The abovementioned foods contain carbohydrates which are linked to proteins or fats (known as glycoproteins or glycolipids) which aren’t properly digested in the gut. These badly-digested particles are then fermented by intestinal bacteria, which produce gas, leaving us feeling bloated and uncomfortable. The enzyme alpha galactosidase stops this process. Alpha galactosidase is produced in the mouth and pancreas, but the amount we produce decreases with age. A deficiency of this enzyme can lead to indigestion, excess gas and Candida overgrowth.

INVERTASE

This is an enzyme which digests carbohydrates, converting sucrose into glucose and fructose. It enhances the overall digestion of starch, sugar and other carbohydrates. As our body ages, we have less access to invertase, which reduces our ability to extract the essential nutrients from the food we eat. This enzyme is most often found in bee pollen and yeast sources. It has a number of antioxidant properties and is a natural immune booster. It also helps to reduce stomach toxicity and offers natural respiratory support.

PECTINASE

This enzyme is generally found in fruits such as bananas and apples. It breaks down pectin, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls. Along with cellulase, pectinase assists with the digestion of plant-based foods, increasing their nutritional and prebiotic worth. Pectinase has been shown to promote the growth and health of intestinal microbiota and provides fuel for the lining of the colon.

GLUCOAMYLASE

Glucoamylase helps to break down starch that is naturally found in most vegetables and also in foods such as potatoes, corn, rice and wheat. It is produced in the mouth and pancreas. Glucoamylase breaks down these starches into glucose, which is absorbable and usable. By taking the load off the digestive process, it helps to reduce a number of digestive problems such as excess gas, bloating and fatigue. It has been shown to help ease the symptoms of IBS and may help to reduce food allergies.

INULIN

Inulin is a natural form of soluble dietary fibre which is derived from chicory root. It is lso found in a number of fruits and vegetables. Inulin has a number of health benefits, but the main one is supporting digestive health. Iis known as a «prebiotic» b ecause it increases the activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut, by acting as a «food» for the good bacteria in your digestive system. Inulin therefore helps to promote digestive health and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.

Going through the motions

The role of probiotics

Your bowels contain around 11 trillion bacteria — more than the total number of human cells in your body. Together, these bacteria weigh around 1.5kg. Bowel bacteria play an important role in intestinal health. They ferment fibre and bulk up the stools to make defecation easier. In fact, every lg in dietary fibre you consume increases the weight of your motions by around 5g — mostly due to an increased weight of bacteria.

Ideally, at least 70% of bowel bacteria should be ‘probiotic’ which, by definition, provide definable health benefits. Only 30% should be other types of bacteria, such as E.coli, which tend to produce gas and can, in some circumstances, produce harmful toxins.

Probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacter, secrete beneficial substances which discourage less acid tolerant bacteria, which are anti-inflammatory and act as a fuel for intestinal lining cells, natural antibiotics and nutrients which we can absorb and use.

Although we think of our intestines as being inside our body, substances in our gut lumen actually remain outside our body unless they are absorbed across the intestinal wall. Our gut is therefore an important first line of defence against infection, and contains one of the largest concentrations of immune cells. The gut-associated lymphoid tissue continually samples bowel contents and helps to prime our immune system against infection, while promoting tolerance to normal food com­ponents. Probiotic bacteria play an important role in this process, helping to boost our immunity and protecting against atopic conditions such as eczema ana asthma.

Balancing bacteria

Because our bowel empties regularly, probiotic bacteria are readily lost from the body along with their less desirable relatives. Replenishment comes from those adhering to the gut wall, and from the vermiform appendix — a blind pouch which acts as a reservoir of bacteria.

When we are under stress, follow a poor diet or take antibiotics, however, our numbers of probiotic bacteria dwindle. This can lead to an imbalance known as dysbiosis. Lack of probiotic bacteria increases the risk of a number of digestive problems, including abnormal fermentation, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and spasmodic pain — symptoms compatible with irritable bowel syndrome.

To maintain a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria in your intestines, aim to replenish them regularly — ideally on a daily basis — in the form of a probiotic supplement.

Prebiotics (eg fructo-oligosaccharides) also help to promote the growth and survival of probiotic bacteria by providing them with a food source that they can ferment.

The fibre factor

Many people do not eat the recommended minimum of 18g fibre per day, and a fibre supplement can help to maintain bowel regularity. Psyllium seed and husks (also known as ispaghula) is a highly effective, natural and gentle fibre source. Its effectiveness is due to its mucilage content, which swells to between and 8 and 14 times its original volume when mixed with water. In the intestines, psyllium forms a laxative bulk that acts rather like a sponge, gently scrubbing the bowel clean as well as absorbing toxins and excess fats. It is particularly helpful for people who cannot tolerate other forms of fibre such as bran. Always consume with plenty of water.

IBS solution

Peppermint, a traditional remedy for indigestion and bowel spasm, is among the most effective treatments for treating irritable bowel syndrome. A meta-analysis exploring the effectiveness of fibre, antispasmodics and peppermint oil found the number of people that would have to be treated to prevent one person from experiencing persistent symptoms was six for ispaghula husk (psyllium), five for prescribed antispasmodic treatments, but only two and a half for peppermint oil, making it the most effective therapy.

Final words

Don’t take your bowels for granted. Spend a bit more time gazing at what you produce, eat more fibre (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains plus, if necessary, fibre supplements), consume probiotic products regularly, and if you do develop persistent symptoms don’t be embarrassed to seek medical advice. If you are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, and antispasmodic therapies are not as helpful as you would wish, you may find peppermint oil is more effective.

The Power of Probiotics

What are probiotics?

Probiotics – Greek for ‘for life’ – are “living good bacteria” that can improve health. Or, if you want the official definition, “live microorganisms”, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Whichever explanation you prefer the key word is “live” – the bacteria in any probiotic products you take must be alive once they reach the gut to do their job.

Are probiotics new?

Far from it. The idea of health-promoting bacteria was first floated in the 1900s by Russian scientist and Nobel Prize winner, Elie Metchnikoff, who attributed the exceptional health and longevity of Bulgarian peasants to their consumption of fermented milk products such as yoghurt and buttermilk.

Why do we need them?

Your gut, the body’s largest immune organ, is home to 100 trillion good and bad bacteria, known collectively as gut microflora. As well as helping to regulate basic physical functions. such as how we absorb nutrients, a proper balance of good and bad gut bacteria is crucial for immune function.

They could also help as we get older, when age-linked changes in, for instance, what we eat and how long it takes food to pass through the gut, can alter the composition of gut bacteria making us more vulnerable to infection and disease.

Do they work the same for everyone?

Each of us has our own individual gut micro-flora, established in the early years of life, which depends on all sorts of factors including our genes, where we live. our diet and our state of health. This means that a probiotic that helps you may not help someone else. Probiotics are also what is known as strain-specific – that is their benefits depend on the family and type of bacteria used.

How do bacteria become unbalanced?

If you fall ill, have an infection or go on a course of antibiotics, the balance of gut microflora can become disrupted and bad bacteria can outnumber good. Replenishing your gut with good bacteria can restore a healthy balance, which is why in some countries doctors automatically prescribe probiotics at the same time as antibiotics.

How do they work?

Scientists are still working on the exact mechanisms but research suggests that one of the main ways is by regulating the way the cells of the immune system ‘talk’ to each other and carry messages between the gut and other parts of the body and the brain.

What are they good for?

Probiotics have been shown to help shorten the length of infections such as diarrhea and sickness, colds and flu and to prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is also growing evidence that they may have wider health benefits – from improving digestive health to protecting against inflammatory and allergic diseases, and even preventing symptoms of emotional problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are plant fibres – with names such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides – found in foods such as fruits and vegetables. Prebiotics provide ‘food’ for probiotics to feed on and as a result can increase their number and efficacy.

How do prebiotics work?

Because they are poorly digested, prebiotics reach the colon intact, where they ferment and act as fuel for good bacteria as well as helping to create an environment that is hostile to the growth of bad bacteria.

What are their benefits?

By boosting the number of good bacteria, prebiotics can increase the bulk and weight of stools, so helping ease constipation. They can improve the body’s uptake of other nutrients. For example inulin helps enhance absorption of calcium, needed for strong bones and other bodily functions. Prebiotics can also boost production of short-chain fatty acids (acids produced from the breakdown of fats), which in turn can benefit immune function, help regulate the metabolism of blood fats, such as cholester¬ol, and may even help prevent some cancers.

Where next?

The future looks bright. We’ve made huge strides in understanding how probiotics work and exactly what they do to benefit health. We can now screen hundreds if not thousands of bacteria to select them for specific purposes on the basis of sound science.

Thanks to these advances, a new generation of probiotics is on the horizon that could, for example, be used to treat – and even prevent – debilitating inflammatory diseases such as inflamma¬tory bowel diseases, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. These may include or replace the probiotics currently available.

Take probiotics with a cold, not hot, drink as heat destroys bacteria – remember bacteria need to be alive to have an effect…

What are the best food source of probiotics?

Probiotics are found in naturally fermented foods such as cottage cheese, temper, miso, soy sauce, and fresh sauerkraut. You can also get them in live or bio-yoghurts and cultured dairy products such as kefir (a fermented milk drink) and buttermilk. A growing number of products are fortified with probiotics including infant formula, juices and cereals and, of course, you can take them as supplements.

What are the best food source of prebiotics?

Prebiotics are found naturally in a wide range of foods. such as whole grains, asparagus, onions. bananas, garlic. honey, leeks and artichokes. You can also get them in fortified foods such as cereals, biscuits. breads, spreads. drinks and yoghurts as well as taking them in capsules, tablets or powders that you sprinkle on food.

Supplements: how should I take them?

It’s entirely up to you. You can take prebiotics and probiotics as two separate preparations. However you may find it more convenient to take a probiotic with an added prebiotic – the official term is a synbiotic – and these are increasingly available.

Pick and choose

When buying a supplement:

  • Check it contains Lactobacilli and/or Bifidobacteria – the types of good bacteria whose benefits have been most studied.
  • Make sure it contains sufficient numbers of bacteria – there’s no set number but experts say benefits are rarely seen at less than 100 million bacteria per gram.
  • If you are taking a product that also contains a prebiotics, look for one that contains at least 2g per dose – prebiotic doses higher than 20g a day may cause side effects such as wind or bloating.