Stop bloating and other gut issues with these expert tips
Good health really does begin in the gut. Fueling your training with the right foods is important, but if your digestive tract is stressed out and not functioning correctly, you may not be absorbing all the nutrients you need to replenish glycogen stores, repair damaged muscles, nourish the body and maintain general health.
Drawing on the knowledge of digestive health specialists Doctor Claudia Lee from Sydney Integrative Medicine and Maggie Godin from Healthspace Clinics, here are 5 simple strategies to help sort out your digestive troubles, including an idea on how to take things further when nothing is doing the trick.
Limit water at meal times. Ideally you should stop drinking 15-30 minutes before sitting down to eat and refrain from gulping down the H2O for a further 15-30 minutes once you’ve finished your meal.
Drinking water with your meals dilutes digestive enzymes and makes it harder for your stomach acid to do its job and break down your food. The result? A ‘swooshy’ feeling in your stomach and undigested food heading into your digestive tract. This leads to increased bloating and all the fun stuff that comes with it. Don’t worry, a little sip to rinse your mouth won’t hurt, just don’t go downing a giant glass full!
A glass of red wine with your dinner can actually help to speed up digestion, which is a good thing BUT you should never drink booze on an empty stomach.
Alcohol will immediately inflame the stomach lining when it hits an empty tummy, meaning the rest of your meal will have trouble being digested properly. Wait until after your appetiser before taking a sip and make sure you stop at 1-2 glasses, otherwise the benefits are reneged.
Get your digestive juices flowing before you start on your main meal, by sipping on a glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in it, around 15-30 minutes before eating.
To stimulate digestive juices and help your body break down the food you’re about to eat. As an extra bonus, ACV also good for clearing up skin, boosting liver health and immunity, regulating blood sugar, encouraging the body to release fat, reducing cramping and improving stamina and energy. Make sure you choose a brand that is unpasteurised and still contains the “mother”. If you’re not keen on ACV, try fermented drinks/foods like kombucha, sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables.
Get your food combinations right. Fruit is a food that best digests alone, so eat it first thing in the morning and wait 30 minutes before other foods, or as a snack by itself, not directly before or after a heavy meal. Protein and starches do not mix, so choose steak or potato/rice, not both, then reach for leafy greens and colourful veggies to go with your choice. Fats are well digested alongside most things and the best kinds are grass-fed and organic animal fats (from eggs, meat, broth, butter, cream), or wild-caught seafood (salmon, sardines, mackerel) as well as virgin olive and coconut oil, ghee, avocado, and activated seeds or nuts. Eat these in moderation though, as too many fats taken at once can slow digestion down a little too much.
Different foods digest at different rates and use different enzymes, some of which cancel the others out, leaving food poorly digested and leading to bloating, weight gain and gas. Getting your food combinations right can be a game-changer for your gut health and is also a nice way to stay mindful about your meal choices.
Tip # 5
If these simple things don’t work for you, get your gut checked out properly by a professional. Find an integrative doctor and ask them to test for any parasites you may have picked up (often while traveling, eating raw fish or unwashed food, playing with pets and drinking unfiltered water), imbalances in your gut bacteria that may need treatment, or an underlying syndrome that may need specialised attention to heal.
If you’ve got an underlying and chronic issue, all the good nutrition habits and over-the-counter probiotics in the world won’t make your stomach happy for long, so you need to get to the root problem. A few simple tests can pick up what’s really going on and help your doctor get you back on track. Trust us, it’s worth the hassle! A little warning though, you may have to collect your own poop for a few days.
By health and fitness expert Libby Babet
Libby Babet has a long line of credentials under her belt. As a known health specialist, presenter and writer, fitness expert for Women's Fitness Magazine, owner of AGOGA and' Bottoms Up!' Fitness, and brand ambassador for Lululemon and Vie Active, Libby’s passion for wellbeing makes her one of Australia’s favourite health and fitness personalities.