Preventing and Treating Digestive Health Issues

Preventing and Treating Digestive Health Issues

A handful of gastrointestinal health issues can disrupt the digestive system and cause pain, discomfort, and a lower quality of life. Irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones, GERD, peptic ulcers, IBD, Celiac disease, diverticulitis, and coeliac disease are all examples of such conditions.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Stomach discomfort, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, or all of these might be symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a persistent gastrointestinal disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can have several causes, including heredity, food, past infections, gut lining inflammation, leaky gut, and an overabundance of harmful bacteria.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

The gut is the second brainRegular regurgitation of stomach acid into the oesophagus is another symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, another chronic ailment. Symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation, chest discomfort, and heartburn. Inflammation of the oesophagus, often called Barrett’s oesophagus, can develop into oesophageal cancer if not treated.

The weakening of the sphincter, the muscle connection between the oesophagus and stomach, causes gastroesophageal reflux disease. Because of this, gastric acid can be redirected from the stomach to the oesophagus. Other reasons include a weak sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus, which can occur when the stomach does not empty or when there is a hiatus hernia.

Being overweight, smoking, consuming meals that are acidic, spicy, or fatty, drinking beverages that are high in caffeine or alcohol, and taking certain medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are other causes of sphincter weakness.

Peptic ulcers

Sores that form in the stomach, oesophagus, or small intestine lining are called peptic ulcers. They are similar to oral sores. Peptic ulcers are characterised by abdominal discomfort, gas, vomiting, bloating, and loss of appetite or weight. Infections caused by Helicobacter pylori and other harmful bacteria, excessive stomach acid, damage to the protective mucus layer, and long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines are the primary causes of peptic ulcers. Additionally, these excruciating ulcers can be brought on by smoking and drinking to excess.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Chronic inflammation of the intestines is known as inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two possible causes of this. Some symptoms include discomfort in the belly, loose stools, loss of appetite, and extreme weariness. Irritable bowel disease and autoimmune disorders run in my family, which is a sad reality for anyone suffering from this terrible disease. Not only is there no known treatment, but the likelihood of acquiring bowel cancer is also elevated. Quality of life might be affected, similar to irritable bowel syndrome. When the gut lining becomes inflamed, the protective mucus layer can thin, and spaces can open between the gut’s single-cell layer. As a result, the stomach becomes more porous, increasing the risk of infection, discomfort, and inflammation as toxins and germs seep into the circulation.

Coeliac disease

Severe gluten intolerance, a protein found in wheat, is the underlying cause of Coeliac disease. Rye, wheat, and barley are some of the crops that contain this protein. The intestinal lining is damaged, which can lead to less effective nutrition absorption. Symptoms of Coeliac disease include foul-smelling diarrhoea, gas, bloating, flatulence, indigestion, and constipation, which can lead to severe stomach discomfort.

Having a history of Coeliac disease or another autoimmune illness increases a person’s risk of developing Coeliac disease. In autoimmune illnesses, the immune system mistakenly targets its tissues.


When tiny pockets form all along the big intestine, it’s called diverticular disease. Diverticulitis develops when food particles enter these spaces and cause inflammation and infection. When this happens, you could have bloating and pain in your lower abdomen, among other gastrointestinal issues. It is crucial to consult a medical professional without delay if a person has severe abdominal discomfort, a high temperature, or persistent diarrhoea. One of the primary causes is consuming a diet that is poor in fibre, mainly processed foods. Additional risk factors include being overweight, not getting enough exercise, and smoking.


Gallstones are located in the upper abdomen and can cause severe discomfort, but they are not in the stomach or gut. These grow in the gallbladder from tiny stones of hardened cholesterol, bile, and bilirubin. They can range in size from a grain of sugar to a tiny ball, like a ping pong or golf ball. Moreover, they have the potential to induce vomiting and nausea. Having gallstones is more likely if you are overweight, have diabetes, are a woman, or are over the age of 40. A family history of gallstones also raises your risk—the likelihood of getting gallstones increases by consuming a diet rich in processed foods and poor in fibre.

Preventing common gut and stomach problems

Due to its extensive nerve network, the enteric nervous system, the digestive tract is frequently called the “second brain” due to its proximity to the brain. It encompasses more than just the central nervous system and the nerves that branch out from it (the peripheral nervous system). The lengthy vagus nerve, which links the digestive tract to the central nervous system, is also a part of it. Interestingly, more connections go from the gut to the brain than the other way around. The gut-brain axis describes this. We frequently experience an intuitive “gut feeling” because the enteric nerve system impacts our emotions and moods.

In addition to highlighting the importance of the gut’s billions of microbes and bacteria to general health, the phrase “second brain” highlights the gut’s impact on immune and mental health. More and more studies are coming out as researchers learn more about the gut’s role in digestion and illness. Surprisingly, there are more cells in the microbiome from microorganisms than there are in the entire human body, and there are more genes in the microbiome than in the human genome by more than 100 times. This provides a substantial explanation for the critical function of gut microbes in maintaining immunity and warding off gastrointestinal issues.

In addition to aiding digestion, the microbes in the gut synthesise vitamins like biotin, vitamin K, and a few B vitamins. They also strengthen the immune system, keep the delicate microbial balance in check, and prevent harmful bacteria from colonising the digestive tract and causing infections. That is why a balanced microbiome is so important.

A rising body of evidence suggests that disruptions in the gut microbiota or inflammation may be associated with a wide range of medical issues, including autoimmune illnesses, mental health disorders, and digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. That is why prioritising gut health is essential for avoiding gastrointestinal issues.

Keeping the gut microbiome healthy

A gut-friendly, well-balanced diet aims to prevent gastrointestinal and stomach issues, promote the growth and proliferation of good bacteria, supply necessary nutrients, and aid digestion.

Eating a high-fibre diet is an excellent strategy to encourage the development and proliferation of good bacteria in the digestive tract. Fibre—and notably insoluble fibre—provides fuel for good microorganisms. Probiotics refer to good bacteria and prebiotics refer to the insoluble fibres.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are all plant-based and include prebiotic fibre. This is the indigestible kind of fibre that people can’t digest. The gut bacteria in the colon ferment this undigested fibre, breaking it down. The energy-rich short-chain fatty acids are produced this way and used by the cells lining the large intestine. Among the short-chain fatty acids generated, butyrate is a potential shield against colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal issues. Because butyrate reduces inflammation, this is the case.

Consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, garlic, onions, cabbage, and sprouts is the ideal way to incorporate prebiotics into your diet. Coconut, raspberries, avocado pears, and kiwi fruit are the finest. You may boost your fibre intake by eating the kiwi fruit skin, although you might have to get used to the scratchy feel and flavour. Probiotic bacteria highly favour grains, including bulgar wheat, rye, and oats, due to their high fibre content. Include lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, and other pulses or beans you like.

By fostering the expansion of good bacteria and stifling the proliferation of bad ones, SCFAs help establish a balanced microbiome in the intestines. A balanced gut microbiota is linked to better digestion, more robust immune function, and a decreased incidence of gastrointestinal illnesses, which this helps preserve.

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods for gut healthConsuming fermented foods is another strategy for maintaining healthy gut flora. Kimchi and sauerkraut are among these. In addition to active probiotic bacteria, these meals include prebiotic veggies, which the bacteria may eat. Fermented cabbage is the basis of both kimchi and sauerkraut, with the addition of spices like ginger and chilli in the former. To make it even more delicious, you may add radishes and carrots. You may use sauerkraut or kimchi as a cheese pickle or add them to a salad.

The following items and beverages are also fermented: yoghurt, kefir made with water or milk, kombucha, tempeh, and miso. In addition to increasing the gut’s probiotic population, these fermented foods also encourage vitamin synthesis there.

Incorporating more beneficial bacteria into the microbiome is another advantage of consuming a diverse range of fermented foods. Their individual positive effects on digestive health make this a must-know. Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease symptoms can be alleviated by consuming fermented milk products like yoghurt and kefir, which can boost short-chain fatty acids. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have reported a marked improvement in their symptoms after eating sauerkraut, which may be due to the increased population of good bacteria in their digestive tracts.

Similarly, when harmful bacteria like Heliobacter pylori increase too much, probiotic yoghurt can help bring the good bacteria back into balance. To lessen the harmful germs that might cause food poisoning, try fermented soy milk kombucha or green tea. Fermented foods can either prevent or alleviate gastrointestinal issues; therefore, it’s a good idea to eat them often.

High-fibre diet for healthy digestion

A high-fibre diet is an excellent choice to keep your digestive system active (gut motility) and avoid constipation. It also helps the good bacteria in your gut. The indigestible insoluble fibre increases stool volume and water absorption. Faeces are pushed down the digestive tract and eventually expelled by these forces in conjunction with the contractions of the gut, which are called peristalsis.

Additionally, fibre aids digestion by shortening the time food spends in the digestive tract, lessening the likelihood of gastrointestinal issues. A high-fiber diet can prevent diverticulitis, IBS, and colon cancer.

Drink plenty of water.

Drink plenty of water to aid digestion

Proper digestion, which prevents gastrointestinal and gastric issues, relies on water, essential in the digestive process. One benefit of using water while chewing is that it makes meals simpler to swallow. In the end, it aids digestion by lubricating the digestive tract, which makes food transit easier. Saliva, gastric fluids, pancreatic enzymes, and bile are all digestive juices that help break down food, and water is an essential component of each. Consider saliva: it contains nearly all water.

Water aids in the transportation of water-soluble nutrients from food through the intestinal wall and into the circulation during digestion. Additionally, it contributes to the formation of the mucus layer that protects the intestinal tract.

Water is essential for flushing the intestines and gut to eliminate waste, poisons, and digestive byproducts via urine and faeces. Another strategy to keep diverticulitis at bay is to drink lots of water; this will flush out any small food particles that may become stuck in the small openings in the intestinal wall. In addition to encouraging regular bowel movements, it aids in avoiding constipation.

Eight glasses of water daily should keep you hydrated and aid in healthy digestion. A water bottle with graduated lines on the side might be a helpful reminder to drink enough water throughout the day. You might also find setting an alarm every hour beneficial if that works better for you.

An easy way to combat the dehydration that sets in first thing in the morning is to have a glass of water close by your bedside. Consuming foods rich in water and drinking water with meals are two more ways to increase fluid intake. These foods include berries, cucumbers, oranges, tomatoes, watercress, and watermelon. If you do not like plain water, you may still stay hydrated by drinking herbal or fruit teas. Your urine should be either completely clear or a very light shade of yellow if you get the recommended amount of water daily. This is crucial in all weather conditions, notably when consuming alcohol, exercising vigorously, or both.

Foods that can cause gut and stomach problems

To keep your digestive system in good working order, you must avoid meals that might irritate or otherwise harm your gut and stomach. People with digestive issues may find certain meals exacerbating their symptoms or throwing off the microbiome’s delicate balance.

Processed foods

In addition to being low in fibre, highly processed meals are known to be filled with additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, and artificial flavourings—ingredients that can upset the gut flora and trigger inflammation. Ingesting processed foods regularly can lead to gastrointestinal issues. These foods are manufactured on a large scale and have a long shelf life. They include carbonated drinks, candy, margarine, biscuits, pastries, cakes, breakfast cereals, pizza, ready meals, sausages, burgers, nuggets, and instant noodles or soups.

The sugar content of many packaged beverages and meals is relatively high. Because sugar encourages the growth of harmful bacteria, these meals are especially damaging to the microbes in the digestive tract, which can cause infections and gastrointestinal issues, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Short-chain fatty acids will form less due to the decrease in helpful bacteria. Also, a leaky gut might result from stomach inflammation, which can be worsened by consuming a lot of sugary foods. Inflammatory bowel disease and colitis have both been associated with sugar-heavy diets.

Many processed meals, candies, and supposedly “diet” goods include artificial sweeteners. Similar to sugar, some of these can also harm the good bacteria in your stomach. It should be mentioned that xylitol, a popular granular sugar alternative, might increase the quantity of microorganisms in the stomach.  

Fried foods and foods high in fat

A high-fat diet, particularly saturated fat, can cause leaky gut and inflammation, much like sugar. Consuming meals that are high in fat and fried, as well as processed foods that include trans fats, can impact the variety and quantity of good bacteria in the gut.

Indigestion can also be caused by fried meals like fries, burgers, and nuggets, as well as by high-fat foods like red meat, processed meats, pastries, cakes, and biscuits. Fat has a high digestive resistance and slows down the process of breaking down food in the stomach. In addition, acid reflux and heartburn are brought on by cholecystokinin, a hormone that relaxes the sphincter that connects the oesophagus to the stomach. This opens the oesophagus to acid reflux and heartburn.

Spicy foods

For those who already suffer from gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome, the addition of spices or hot meals might make their symptoms worse. Despite not being the cause, they can aggravate peptic ulcers.


Gastritis can develop when the stomach lining is irritated and inflamed due to excessive alcohol use. Heartburn, feeling sick to the stomach, throwing up, and abdominal pain are signs of gastritis. Also, the strength of the alcohol can influence how quickly or slowly the stomach empties; lower alcohol concentrations speed up gastric motility, while higher alcohol concentrations slow it down. Indigestion may result from this. Finally, the worst gastrointestinal problem—cancer—can be caused by consuming too much alcohol.

High-lectin foods

Phytates and lectins are both known as anti-nutrients. Whole grains, including wheat, beans, nuts, lentils, and legumes, are some of the foods that contain these anti-nutrients. These foods contain lectins as a natural defence mechanism against being consumed. Their indigestibility stems from the lectins that cling to the nutrients and block their absorption. So, you can get indigestion, gas, nausea, vomiting, and bloating as a result. The advantages of eating these foods exceed the downsides, so it’s excellent news that boiling, sprouting, or soaking them reduces this effect.

Avoiding gastrointestinal issues is often easier said than done. Maintaining a healthy digestive tract requires a balanced diet that is low in processed foods, high in fresh water, and free of items that trigger gastrointestinal problems. However, it’s crucial to consult a doctor if gastrointestinal issues persist for over a few days; otherwise, medical intervention could be required to rule out a digestive condition.

Gut health is vital to weight management. Please find out more about my eight-week weight management course here.


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