The Diet Debate: Can you eat your way out of abdominal discomfort
All of us have suffered from a stomach sickness of some sort. Whether it is the more embarrassing gassy kind, bloating, heartburn, stomach cramps or even severe pain – everybody experiences abdominal discomfort from time to time. Our diet is directly related to our digestive health and consequently to our overall wellbeing because let’s face it – cramps and crankiness go hand in hand and nobody with flatulence dares to be too friendly! If you are regularly experiencing tummy troubles, you might want to consider some dietary adjustments.
First things first
If you are really bothered by your belly, talk to a healthcare specialist. You might have an underlying disorder, such as an ulcer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chrone’s disease or a food allergy. Alternatively, stomach problems could be a side effect of medications. Rule these out first.
The usual suspects
If you know that your abdominal discomfort is not caused by a serious health problem, it is time to have a good look at your diet. It could be that you are affected by a food intolerance or that your consumption of foods notorious for upsetting a good gut is taking its toll. Common culprits include:
- Wheat and other glutinous grains
- Cow’s milk
- Preservatives and artificial flavourings
- Sugar and sweeteners
- Carbonated drinks
- Soybean products
- Processed or deep-fried food
If you have an idea as to which of these foods are triggering your intestinal issues, exclude them from your diet for two to four weeks to see if the result will not make it worth it to cut them out permanently. If you have no clue if any of the items on this list are making life uncomfortable for you, consider an elimination diet under the guidance of a dietician. It takes willpower and sacrifice, but the outcome could be greatly beneficial to your belly (and maybe to those within smelling distance, too!).
Healthy but hazardous
Even some foods with great health benefits can lead to a sore or swollen stomach and should maybe be eaten in moderation. Again, test all of these and see which ones might be your abdominal aggressor:
- Acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes
- Gas forming foods – for example: legumes, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
- Foods that stimulate the intestines such as chillies and other spicy foods
Make your stomach smile
Preventing digestive discomfort also means stocking up on nature’s goodness for the gut. Get plenty of:
- Fibre through vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruit in moderation (as the natural fruit sugars can contribute to fermentation in the gut).
- Filtered water.
- Probiotic power foods, such as fermented vegetables or condiments (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut or apple cider vinegar) and cultured dairy or non-dairy products (e.g. yogurt).
- Good oils: Coconut oil, macadamia oil and cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil.
- Protein – especially fish, chicken, eggs and nuts (red meat should be eaten in moderation as it takes long for the body to digest it).
Other tummy tips
Apart from eating the right foods, how you eat them also matters! Here are some helpful hints:
- Eat more regular, smaller meals rather than infrequent, large meals.
- Steer clear of overeating – even binging on good stuff!
- Eat slowly and chew well.
- Do not lie down or sleep shortly after eating.
You can often eat your way out of abdominal discomfort as it is greatly influenced by your diet. Take time to tackle your tummy troubles by taking on better eating habits!
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