As April is IBS Awareness Month I am continuing this theme. Here are some simple tips that can be used by everybody to keep their digestive systems in good working order:
- Eat regularly – don’t skip meals. Avoid eating too late in the evening to allow food to be digested before bedtime.
- Try not to eat when feeling stressed or anxious. The mind has an intimate connection to the gut, hence why we often feel nauseous or in need of the toilet when under stress. When in a state of stress our sympathetic nervous system takes control, switching off unnecessary systems such as digestion in order to concentrate on muscles and respiration to help us escape the source of stress. Food will sit undigested in the gut until the stress has passed.
- Concentrate on your meal. We process food better when we pay attention to what and how we are eating. There is also a tendency to over eat when watching the television or working as we do not notice the signals that we are full.
- Don’t eat when in a hurry. Eating too quickly and not allowing some quiet time for digestion can add to digestive complaints.
- Consider any negative emotional associations you may have with certain foods. These may be due to bad memories involving a meal, negative emotions or simple mental associations. Often eating these foods can trigger stress responses that can affect digestion. According to the IBS Network, a survey of IBS sufferers found the following common food associations:
o Chocolate – guilt or a treat
o Muesli – control
o Meat – violence
o Shellfish – sex
o Milk – mother
o Roast dinner – family arguments
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the Stomach as a crockpot that processes the food. It sits above the Spleen which acts as the fire beneath. TCM dietetics advise avoiding cold and raw foods where possible as these douse the fire of the Spleen, making it difficult for the Stomach to “cook” and digest the food. Foods that are kind to the Spleen and Stomach are warming such as soups and stews.
- Try gentle abdominal massage to keep things moving smoothly. Your colon runs up the right hand side of your abdomen (ascending colon), across below your ribs (transverse colon) and back down the left side (descending colon). Start by stroking down the descending colon 3 or 4 times. Then stroke across the transverse colon 3 or 4 times, and finally up the ascending colon. Then stroke all the way along, starting up the right, across the middle and down the left.
- Essential oils of Aniseed, Basil, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Roman and German Chamomile, Fennel, Ginger, Nutmeg, Orange, Peppermint and Rose are carminative, providing local stimulation to the stomach lining which increases tone and contraction of the muscles. They increase stomach secretions thus improving digestion, relax the intestines to facilitate the passage of intestinal gas, have an antiseptic action on undesirable micro-organisms and promote the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Herbal and fruit teas such as Chamomile, Ginger, Fennel and Peppermint are helpful in maintaining digestive health and calming an upset system.
For information and support for IBS visit The IBS Network