Be kind to your digestive system
If you have a sensitive gut, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to miss out. There are several things you can do to please your tummy, from eating more slowly or tweaking a recipe to keeping a food diary to work out any triggers.
Good eating habits
Here are some good eating habits to help improve your digestion:
- Eat more slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full, so eating more slowly means you’re likely to eat less and so have less to digest.
- Chew your food. When you take time to chew your food properly, you not only slow down the eating process, but you help your digestive system by giving it smaller pieces of food to break down.
- Don’t gulp it down. When you gulp down food, you swallow air, which can lead to trapped wind and poor digestion.
- Eat smaller, lighter meals. Big, heavy meals take longer to digest and make your system work harder.
- Don’t eat late at night. Your digestive system is at its least efficient at the end of the day, so try to make sure you leave enough time to eat your last meal before bedtime.
Potential trigger foods & drinks
Everyone is different. What might trigger diarrhoea for one person could be fine for another. Saying that, here are some foods that can commonly cause diarrhoea:
- Rich & Spicy foods.
- Fatty foods.
Remember, your symptoms might not be caused by the food you’ve just eaten, but by what you ate the day before. Or it may not be the food at all, but how quickly, how late or how much you ate.
The Nutritionist, Amanda Hamilton, does not endorse any brands.
How to avoid eating the wrong foods
If you have diarrhoea that might be caused by eating a certain food, you can try to identify the food by keeping a diary of what you eat every day and when you have the symptom.
Keep a food diary
- Get a notebook with space to write a page for each day.
- Write down absolutely everything you eat including the smallest snacks, condiments, seasoning (if you can), and drinks.
- Write down your stress levels or any symptoms you may experience during the day. You might be surprised by their impact.
- Look out for patterns in ingredients. Pasta, pizza and sandwiches are different meals, but could all contain wheat.
- Start broad and then focus on the ingredients. So, once you’re aware of your problem foods, try to work out which individual ingredients may be causing your issues.
- Think long term. If you are sensitive to some foods, you may begin to notice a pattern develop. You can speak to your doctor about any concerns you might have.
Break down problem meals
You might have worked out that eating pasta with tomato sauce gives you a bout of diarrhoea, but you won’t necessarily know which ingredient is the problem. The way to find out is to try eating pasta without tomato sauce and vice versa. The same goes for all sorts of meals.
Do you have a food intolerance?
Two of the most common food intolerances are to:
- Gluten – a protein found in many types of grain, including wheat, barley and oats
- Lactose – a sugar found in milk and other dairy products
If you think you have a food allergy or intolerance, see your GP for advice.
Is fibre a problem for you?
You might not know it but there are two types of fibre; soluble and insoluble
Soluble fibre. This is found in most citrus fruits and in vegetables like potatoes and beans. It can help with both diarrhoea and constipation, as it absorbs water so makes stools firmer if you have diarrhoea.
Insoluble fibre. This is found in bran, wholegrain, rice and the skins of some fruit and vegetables. It can help with constipation, but can make IBS and frequent diarrhoea symptoms worse. This doesn’t mean you should avoid insoluble fibre if you have diarrhoea. Just try to keep an eye on what you eat and learn what works for you.
What are you drinking?
It’s not only different foods that can trigger diarrhoea. For some people, certain drinks can cause diarrhoea or make symptoms worse.
So, when looking at your diet for trigger foods, remember to note what you’re drinking too.
Fizzy drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices all contain fructose – a sugar that some people can find hard to absorb and can make diarrhoea worse.
Alcoholic drinks might worsen your diarrhoea. You may find that different alcoholic drinks can trigger your symptoms, so work out which ones disagree with you and steer away from those.