1 Chew thoroughly
Saliva starts the digestion process – as you age your mouth has less of it, which means thorough chewing is even more important. Try putting your fork down between mouthfuls to slow down eating. If you eat too quickly, your stomach and intestines have to work harder to digest food, increasing the risk of bloating, stomach aches, indigestion, constipation and heartburn. Chewing thoroughly could also help you lose weight because your body has more chance to register you’re full before you overeat.
“Toxins such as mercury, aluminium and pesticides can all collect in your gut and reduce its effectiveness,” says nutritionist Nadia Brydon. “Give your bowels a thorough cleanse by taking a supplement such as Sun Chlorella ‘A’ every day. Chlorella is a green algae which acts as an intestinal broom, cleansing your gut by clinging onto toxins and eliminating them as waste.” A recent study found people taking it had less constipation and more regular bowel movements. It’s thought the benefits might come from a unique component in Sun Chlorella ‘A’ called Chlorella Growth Factor that stimulates the repair of body cells, promoting the growth of good stomach bacteria.
3 Eat pistachios
Snacking on pistachios could improve your digestive health. Scientists have found they act as a prebiotic because they contain non-digestive components such as dietary fibre, which stay in your gut providing food for friendly bacteria. If friendly bacteria have plenty to eat they can better do their job and keep your digestion moving swiftly. Try eating up to 3oz/85g a day to get the benefits.
5 Check your medicines
Some prescription medicines can have side effects which might upset your tummy. Aspirin and some arthritis drugs – especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can worsen indigestion. Other painkillers, iron tablets and cough medicines may cause constipation and antibiotics or blood pressure pills could prompt diarrhoea. If you think your tablets might be affecting your digestion speak to your GP. There is often another option which may have fewer side effects.
Eating when you feel anxious or stressed could disrupt your digestion and lead to stomach aches, cramping, bloating, indigestion and heartburn. Being stressed reduces the supply of blood to your stomach, which makes your digestion more sluggish.
Try to eat when you’re feeling calm rather than wound up. If you regularly feel stressed look for ways to relax – many people find yoga helpful for both stress and stomach problems – there are particular poses which are thought to improve digestion.
Find a teacher in your area by visiting www.bwy.org.uk or calling 01529 306851.
4 Beat bloating
Bloating often comes hand in hand with trapped wind, both caused by excess air in your digestive system. Eating too quickly and not chewing thoroughly with your mouth closed can increase the amount of air you swallow. Chewing gum and poorly fitting dentures also increase bloating and flatulence. If you’re particularly prone to these problems, avoid ‘wind-inducing’ foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, pulses, beans and sprouts.
If you struggle with constipation, try doing more exercise. Inactivity is one of the biggest contributing factors to sluggish bowel habits. Regular exercise helps to speed up the rate at which your food passes through your digestive tract. Just 10 to 15 minutes of walking a day could make a difference if you don’t usually exercise. Don’t be tempted to walk straight after a meal, though – you’re better off waiting an hour so that your body has a chance to start processing your food.