We’ve all been there after a heavy meal. That warm sensation in the throat that slowly ramps up to become irritating and won’t budge no matter what you try to do.
Everyone gets and deals with digestive problems in their own way. Your home may have a family remedy which they swear by, even if there’s no science to back it up when it comes to tackling symptoms like an upset stomach or acid reflux. Making little changes can have a significant impact on improving your digestive health. I’m not talking about avoiding acid reflux when you’ve overeaten but ways to actively boost your digestive system without needing to do much.
Let’s look at some of the simple ways to improve digestive health and why you might have problems you’ve never taken much notice of.
Say No To Coffee
Are you the kind of person who will always say yes when your waiter asks if you’d like coffee or a cheeky digestif at the end of a meal?
If you do, and then find yourself with an upset stomach or reflux a short time later, it might not be the food you ate, but having had that drink which has put things in motion.
Caffeine can stimulate your intestine, which is great when you’re just drinking coffee, but not so fantastic if it’s part of a full meal. Alcohol also dehydrates at a time when your stomach needs water to break food down.
So the next time you feel like a drink to cap off a lovely evening, go for herbal tea or just another glass of water.
Up The Acid Intake
If you’re getting acid reflux, why would you ever want more acid? When you eat, your stomach is looking to break food down and get it ready for the small intestine. When stomach acid levels are low, your stomach will essentially go into overtime to break things down. Think of it like a car engine running low on petrol, chugging along to keep going and sputtering in the process. That’s why the reflux sensation sometimes happens hours after you eat.
So how do you help your stomach? Grab a lemon and squeeze! Putting some lemon in the water you drink with your meal will help give your stomach a head start. You could also have a small teaspoon of apple cider vinegar every day, but the effect can be minimal.
Who knew throwing some citrus in your water did more than giving it a kick!
Hey Siri, Guess What I Ate?
Everyone will have a specific food that acts as a trigger, although it can be hard to pick up on. The next time you get a queasy feeling or the sensation of reflux after eating, grab your phone and leave a voice note of what you’ve eaten.
It won’t happen with every meal but say, once a month, you have digestive problems after eating and know to make a note of it, you’ll be able to check back on what you ate and possibly see a correlation with a particular food.
If you then have a certain food cropping up every time you have digestive problems, double-check with a GP about it, as it may be that you have an intolerance you never knew about.
Know What Foods Aid Digestion
A bowl of bran flakes or fibre cereal for breakfast helps digestion, right? Well, it can, but there are foods which will make digestion so much better.
Upping the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat is a way of naturally increasing your intake of fibre which will improve your digestion, while beans and yoghurt with probiotics help provide a boost through the day.
Other foods you’ll be surprised to know help with digestion include:
If you feel indigestion, a few leaves in water or tea can provide relief
Make sure you use whole peppercorns and grind them
Squeeze a bit on Mexican food or rice to help fight heartburn later on
Cook some onion without burning it and it will release inulin; great for your gut bacteria
Know That Not All Spices Are Bad
Spicy food is always the first thing people will say to avoid if you don’t want heartburn or digestive problems, and while it’s true that curry or spicy dishes can irritate you, there are ways of using spice to your advantage.
Certain spices can aid digestion if taken smartly. For example, ginger can help settle a stomach when you drink it as tea, while cumin stimulates digestive juices so you don’t get bad bloating after a meal. Cinnamon can also act as an anti-inflammatory for the stomach. Just make sure you have it by popping a stick in herbal tea or just a pinch in a smoothie, as opposed to dipping a teaspoon in and have a mouthful (just go look up cinnamon videos on YouTube to see why it’s a bad idea.)
Drink More Water
It’s surprising how upping your water intake can help your body throughout the day. Staying hydrated not only keeps you refreshed but calms the stomach, helping your colon do what it has to do when you go to the bathroom.
What If You Don’t See Any Changes?
Some of us will find that no matter what action we take to minimise annoying problems like acid reflux, it just doesn’t seem to want to go away. In cases like this, it’s important to get specialist help. Clinics like OneWelbeck Digestive Health specialise in diagnosing and treating digestive issues, looking at everything from acid reflux to Barrett’s oesophagus.
The best thing to do is to visit your GP first and let them know what the problems are. They’ll be able to point you towards a solution and then hopefully put you in touch with a specialist.
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