I always say that I have a cast-iron digestive constitution. I think I get it from Gran on my mum’s side of our family. She had a very good appetite, often saying how she ‘lived to eat’. Gran was the gregarious one, a larger than life character – quite different to my quiet coal miner Grandad, and she made the most delicious Sunday roasts, mouth-watering casseroles and pastry to die for. She cooked everything from scratch for her entire life. I think the secret to her good gut health and her overall strong health was her good diet and her attitude to life. I like to think I am a similar type to Gran.
The month of December can be a challenge, even for those of us with the most robust digestive system and gut, and that includes me. And it’s not just the excess of food and alcohol that our poor tummies have to cope with during the festive season, but the stress of getting organised for Christmas, having too much to do, and often far too many expectations to meet – it’s no surprise that the stress can give rise to a flare-up of IBS symptoms, including diarrhoea, constipation and painful bloating.
For many years, I ran a busy IBS, digestive health and gut disorders clinic, and then in 2015, I launched my Just For Tummies supplement business; January soon became by far my busiest month. At the beginning of every new year, I’m inundated with enquiries from people who have eaten and drunk too much, and want to detox their bowel, as well as those who are experiencing a seriously bad flare-up of their IBS symptoms. Then there are the people who are chronically constipated because they’ve overdone it on their consumption of gluten and dairy, causing transit time in their bowel to slow right down.
No matter what the symptoms, be it an IBS flare-up, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, my advice is almost always the same when it comes to addressing dietary issues. First and foremost, remove one of the most common digestive irritants – gluten. Gluten is a difficult protein for some digestive systems to break down, and can cause irritation in the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to excessive painful trapped gases and an episode of either diarrhoea or constipation. I would also advise to cut right back on processed sugar, in fact, eliminate all processed food if practically possible. I know it’s not always easy, and when you’ve been out at work all day and you don’t get home until late, the last thing you want to do is to start cooking a meal, but I don’t think it’s too difficult to cut out gluten and try gluten-free alternatives, and to reduce processed sugar.
I would also recommend trying to go plant-based for January. For the past few years, my husband, Kevin, and I have done ‘Veganuary’ and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many incredibly delicious and nutritious meals you can make, and I’m sure our tummies have welcomed the gentler and easier to digest foods we’ve treated them to during January! I’m not sure that we will ever completely give up animal protein, but we thoroughly enjoy making vegan recipes and always continue to eat plant-based meals on a regular basis throughout the year. It certainly gives us a boost in energy, as well as helping us to lose a few pounds.
When it comes to the natural supplements to help reduce the above symptoms, I always recommend my Perfect Balance Kit which contains my Live Bacteria probiotic capsules to help regularise bowel movements and reduce bloating; my plant-based Digestive Enzymes tablets will help further reduce bloating and discomfort after meals, indigestion and acid reflux, as well as ensure that you are absorbing nutrients from your food. My Omega 3 fish oil capsules provide essential anti-inflammatory fatty acids; we can’t manufacture Omega 3s ourselves, so if we are not eating oily fish such as herrings, sardines, mackerel, tuna and salmon twice weekly, then it’s important to supplement with a fish oil capsule. Our consumption of oily fish has declined by a whopping 60% in the past ten years. Omega 3s are essential to life and are a natural anti-inflammatory, so crucial for gut health. Regular bloating is a sign of low-grade intestinal inflammation. Last, but by no means least, the Kit contains a pot of my high-strength, aged, odour-controlled Garlic tablets, which act as a natural ‘disinfectant’ for the stomach and gut, and are a key supplement in the management of IBS symptoms.
I hope my tips help you sort out any badly behaving tummies and get you back on track. Sometimes it’s just one or two simple tweaks needed to effect a positive change.