"Take a holiday!
It's good for the mind,
body and soul."
Even people with healthy diets can be affected by digestive problems. Our digestive system can be affected by all sorts of everyday things. Here are some of the common culprits.
Lack of Sleep
How much sleep we get can affect our bowel habits. Just like the rest of our body, our digestive system needs time to recuperate. Going to bed and getting up at regular hours each day can help our digestive system work more effectively.
- Wind down. Aim for 7-8 hours sleep nightly.
- Avoid eating large meals before bed.
Lack of exercise
Our digestive system benefits from regular physical activity. Otherwise, it becomes sluggish and we may feel bloated, windy and lethargic.
Keep a simple diary of how much time you spend at your computer screen at work and watching TV at home, then try to reduce it. You may be amazed at the results.
Going on holiday can be fun and is good for the mind, body and soul. However, taking a trip abroad can play havoc with our digestive system. Long periods of inactivity on the plane or by the pool, dehydration and different eating and drinking habits can all contribute to holiday bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.
Too much stress
Stress is a normal part of life and small amounts may actually be good for us. However, faced with too much stress, one of the first parts of the body to react is our digestive system.
Try to reduce stress with simple breathing exercises, yoga or meditation. Try a massage, take a walk or go swimming - they really work.
Antibiotics are prescribed in the UK to help kill bacteria that cause infections. However, as well as killing harmful bacteria, many antibiotics also kill bacteria that keep our digestive system healthy - sometimes resulting in diarrhoea.
Eat foods containing prebiotics, like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus and artichokes. These help friendly bacteria in the digestive system to multiply.
Staying hydrated is essential to the health of your digestive system. If the body loses water quicker than it's replaced, it starts to get dehydrated. A common effect of dehydration is constipation.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluids a day - more in warm weather.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to help increase your fluid intake.
Too much alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol affects every part of the body. In fact, it's most concentrated in the stomach - so too much can cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining, resulting in nausea and vomiting. As it prevents our small and large intestines from reabsorbing salt and water, it can also cause diarrhoea. To avoid these unpleasant side effects, it's important to drink sensibly.
Follow these tips to help you drink sensibly...
Offer to drive so that you can stick to non-alcoholic drinks all night. Mix wine with soda or sparkling water. Pace yourself and have one non-alcoholic drink after every alcoholic one.
You've heard it hundreds of times before, but smoking is bad for your whole body, including your digestive system. It contributes to common disorders like heartburn and peptic ulcers and increases the risk of Crohn's disease and gallstones. Smoking also lessens your liver's ability to handle alcohol, so the two combined are double trouble for the digestive system.
- To help you quit, set a date for stopping smoking.
- Ensure that friends and family know and are supportive.
- Avoid situations where you know you'll want to smoke.
- Get support from your Doctor.
As we get older, our immune system gets weaker and the bacteria living in our gut also tends to change, tipping more in favour of harmful bacteria. So, as the majority of the immune system is gut-associated, it's important that we keep to good habits to support it, such as eating well and exercise.