Beat the bloat

Your gut works hard to keep you happy, healthy and nourished. It’s common to have problems with bloating, irregularity and discomfort.

Simple tips to improve your digestive system
Sarah Goonan, NZRD

Sarah Goonan, NZRD

Tick Programme Dietitian

I enjoy travelling, yoga and will find any excuse to spend time in the kitchen.

Luckily, some people find that simple changes to their lifestyle can go a long way towards keeping their gut functioning well.

Focus on fibre

Fibre is the part of food that is not broken down by your digestive system. It helps keep food moving through your digestive tract. Fibre-rich foods include vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and legumes (for example chickpeas, lentils and baked beans). Following a healthy eating pattern, based largely on minimally-processed foods with plenty of vegetables and fruit, will help ensure you’re getting enough fibre in your diet.

Slow down

When life gets busy, many of us end up eating as we rush out the door, sit in traffic or dash between meetings. But it’s important to make time for meals and eat slowly. Chewing food well is the first stage of digestion and makes the rest of the process much easier for your body.

Are you actually hungry?

Growing up, you may have been taught to finish everything on your plate (it was rude not to, right?) Over time, as you got used to eating what was in front of you, you may have begun to ignore your body’s cues that you don’t need more food. But overeating puts stress on the digestive system, so before opening the fridge or reaching for seconds, take a moment to listen to your body and ask if you’re actually hungry.

Power of probiotics

The lining of our gut is home to billions of bacteria, called the ‘microbiota’, which are crucial for good digestion. For each and every one of us, the population of bacteria inhabiting our insides is unique. Scientists have been aware of the microbiota for a while, but it’s only more recently that they’re discovering its fascinating role in different aspects of health – including digestion, immunity, metabolism and overall wellbeing. How can you help those good gut bacteria to thrive? Probiotics are live bacteria that help the ‘bugs’ in your gut stay in balance. Yoghurt with live cultures, probiotic drinks and fermented foods like Sauerkraut or Kimchi (fermented cabbage) will help you get your daily dose of probiotics. 

Keep up the fluids

Drinking enough fluid, especially water, is essential for a healthy gut. That’s because fibre and water work together, helping waste move easily through your body. Beware of caffeine, fizzy drinks and alcohol which are common triggers of gut distress.

Relax

Anxiety and stress can contribute to digestive issues. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and find relaxing activities you enjoy – meditation, reading, music or hobbies are just a few ideas. And don’t forget to keep moving regularly; exercise enhances our physical health and mental wellbeing, and keeps our digestive systems regular and healthy.

These tips will go a long way towards improving your digestive system. But for some, maintaining a healthy gut is easier said than done. It’s not uncommon for people to experience ongoing symptoms of stomach pain, bloating or irregular bowel habits. This could be due to a number of reasons such as food intolerances or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (a condition where the bowel's normal rhythmical motions go into spasms).

If you’re concerned about your digestive health, chat to your doctor or a registered health professional. They will be able to assess your overall health and eating pattern and make recommendations to suit your individual diet and lifestyle.

How can the Tick help?

The Heart Foundation Tick helps you make healthier choices within a food category. Many products in the programme must contain a minimum amount of fibre (along with meeting standards for other important nutrients) to help you meet your daily requirements.

Two Ticks signposts core foods for a healthy diet. These are the foods that should make up the bulk of your diet, not only for the sake of your digestion, but for overall health and wellbeing.

Browse our latest Tick Recipe Guide, Homemade Comforts, for tasty, nutritious meal ideas to help keep your gut happy and healthy.