Have a Happy Belly

I was recently asked to comment on a few foods that help keep our gut in good shape for Healthy Diet Mag.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can effect up to 1 in 5 people in the UK (1). For some it can be so debilitating that even getting up and going to work can be hard, and when they do make it out they will know exactly where all the public toilets are. Seems like I’m exaggerating doesn’t it? Many a time did I hear stories like this during my time working as a gastro dietitian. The funny thing is that I suffer from IBS myself! And even though I know that IBS can be triggered by many things; stress, hormones, inactivity, to name a few, I still find that a few changes to your diet can help you manage your symptoms – or even resolve them completely.

One thing I say to anyone who asks me what they should (or shouldn’t) eat for their IBS is to make sure it actually is IBS . Having diarhoea, constipation, bloating, stomach ache, tiredness are all common IBS symptoms but they can also be symptoms of other conditions like coeliac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, anaemia. Before you start removing foods from your diet you could go and see your GP – many of these other conditions can be picked up by a simple blood test.

Today I want to focus on constipation & bloating

Constipation might seem like a trivial problem but for many it can be really distressing and reduce quality of life. There are many causes of constipation, some of which are down to our diet and lifestyle, but frustratingly for some there can be no particular cause.

It could well be a result of what you are eating or a change in your diet. If you are eating poorly, skipping meals, following an overly restrictive diet or the opposite and are overeating, then it’s reasonable to expect that your bowels might be responding to this. Irregular eating can lead to irregular bowel movements.

What’s the deal on fibre?

UK men and women don’t eat anywhere near enough the recommended intake of 30g/day of fibre. Women are consuming on average only 17g/day, only about half of what is needed.

Increasing your fibre intake needs to be done gently over a few days or even weeks as a sudden increase can actually bring about symptoms such as abdominal distension, discomfort and wind. But once introduced it will support gut health and your gut bacteria adapts to having more fibre.

When checking labels, a food is classes as ‘high fibre’ if it contains at least 6g of fibre per 100g.

A gentle way to boost your fibre intake is by adding Golden linseeds to your diet for example, in breakfast cereal, soups, yoghurts or sprinkled onto salads. They make it easier to pass a bowel motion and ease bloating.

How about fluids?

Dehydration affects every part of your body and your digestive system doesn’t go unmissed. Water is reabsorbed back into your body from your large bowel and your body is very efficient at taking exactly what it needs to hydrate all your cells. If you don’t drink enough then there won’t be much water left in your digestive track to keep things moving nice and regular. The result can be constipation which often exacerbates other abdominal discomfort such a pain and bloating. You should try and drink 8 glasses of fluid per day, mainly non-caffeinated fluids.

Drinking tea and coffee can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet but to limit intake to 2-3 cups of coffee and 4-5 cups of tea per day.

Are beans the musical fruit?

With the push to reduce our meat consumption and the rise in people following a vegan diet , there will be many people finding this change in diet to be a bit troublesome on their bowels. The popular plant based alternatives to meat are beans, pulses and lentils all of which are wonderfully nutritious but can be highly fermentable in the large bowel . Pulses are high in galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) which is a sugar that humans are unable to break down and absorb fully. People who suffer from IBS or bloating will often find it easier to reduce their consumption of these foods.

Baked beans is an obvious culprit but other pulses such as chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans can also cause symptoms, and the foods made from these such as houmous and falafel. Canned pulses may be better tolerated because the water soluble GOS leach out of the bean.


To read the full article click here

  1. The IBS Network 

*Featured image from Unsplash


Written by Lilia Malcolm, Registered Dietitian

August 2018

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