Problems with our gut are so incredibly common that you can guarantee each and every one of us will suffer with symptoms, disorders or disease of our gut at one point in our life. Our gut consists of the singular and highly specialised tube that starts in our mouth with our oesophagus and ends at our anus. This tube is roughly 9m long so there's a lot of space for things to go wrong at some point!
But it's got to be said that discussing our gut issues isn't exactly dinner table conversation in the UK (unless you come to our house, where we highly encourage it!). As nutritionists in the world of fermented foods gut health is a topic we love to discuss and spread awareness on, so have a read of this blog where we look at some of the most common gut symptoms and steps you can take to feel better.
Bloating is very common and all of us will experience it at some time or another. It's the feeling we get when there's pressure in our gut and it feels larger than normal. This is most common after a large meal. If it's something you experience often there are things you can try to see if you get any benefit:
Gentle massage to help remove trapped gas (in a clockwise motion)
Gentle exercise like yoga or walking
Mindful eating - making sure to chew your food properly. Remember that your mouth is the only part of your gut that has teeth!
Drink plenty of water
Wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes
Peppermint oil capsules have some evidence that in some people they can help alleviate bloating.
Heart burn & Indigestion
Indigestion incorporates a range of symptoms such as heartburn, feeling full or sick, burping or bloating. It can be common after a meal for some people and is very common in the later stages of pregnancy.
Cutting down on foods and drink like tea or coffee, spicy or very fatty foods, alcohol and seeing if you get any benefits is one way to investigate triggers. Making other simple changes like not eating right before bed and propping yourself up with pillows might also help if you suffer at night.
Diarrhoea & Constipation
We'll all have experienced both diarrhoea and constipation at some point in our lives. Hopefully these have been short lived and resolved easily, but sometimes we need to make some changes or get a bit of help. Here at The Crafty Pickle we think it can be helpful to get to know your poop. The normal range for number of poops is anywhere from 3 times a day to 3 times a week.
Ever heard of the Bristol Stool Chart? It was developed by researchers at Bristol Uni to help clinicians and patients understand poop just that bit better. This is a great tool to give you confidence about talking about your poop, what it looks like and any changes that have occurred. Get used to talking about it with your loved ones, that's a great place to start.
With either diarrhoea or constipation if they're persistent it definitely makes sense to get some advice from your healthcare provider. Even if that conversation starts with your Pharmacist. In terms of things you can try at home, give these a go:
Constipation = move your body more, get more fibre (although too much can make things worse!), drink plenty of water, don't ignore the call to stool and take the correct position to poop (see below).
Diarrhoea = drink plenty of water, electrolytes to rehydrate if longer than a few days, consider anti-diarrhoea medication and talk to GP (if chronic).
The production of gas by the billions of microbes with live in our gut is totally normal. In fact farting between 10-20 times per day is totally normal and even show our gut is healthy - it means your microbes are being fed and are happy!
Where you might want to investigate things is if you're farting a lot more than this, if it feels uncontrollable or it's really stinky. In this case you might want to take a closer look at a few things: what are you eating a lot of and how are you eating?
Protein heavy diets can make for really stinky farts (protein shakes are notoriously bad for this!)
Are you swallowing air when you eat or drink? Give mindful eating a go to slow down and chew your food properly.
Are your meals very large? If so opt for smaller, more regular meals.
Are you eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), pulses, drinks with CO2 or foods containing polyols (sweeteners used in chewing gums etc).
Exercise can also help move trapped gas through you better (moves like happy baby in yoga are great)
Grumbling, Rumbling or Pain
Occasional grumbling, rumbling, noises or pain in your gut is normal and indicative of the process your gut goes through moving food along your gut, churning it up, breaking it down and absorbing it. However, if this is very persistent or excessive then that's where it tips into abnormal. This can often be associated with some of the above symptoms like excess gas or constipation so have a go at some of these tips and see if you feel any benefits.
So in conclusion, let's just start to normalise conversations about our guts shall we? And if you have a problem that's causing you pain, affecting your life or mental health then reach out for help. For most of us there are ways be can be simple changes we can make to help ease symptoms.
It's very important to contact your GP if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Sudden, unplanned weight loss
Consistent vomiting or diarrhoea
Persistent, uncomfortable bloating
Any changes to pooping habit for more than 6 weeks