Having worked with digestive problems for the last 17 years, it is obvious that how we eat has a huge effect upon health. There are constant changes in the recommendations of how we eat, what to eat, the next superfood… it’s hard to know if we are doing things right.
Being the individuals that we are, there is no way of eating that will suit everyone & the best way to tell if you are eating correctly is to think about yourself for a moment. Ask yourself…
· Do I get symptoms of digestive upset like fullness, bloating, tiredness after eating, acid reflux, indigestion…?
· Are my stools irregular or erratic?
· Do I feel fit or fatigued?
If you have no symptoms, you are likely doing ok, some of us are lucky enough to have an ‘iron gut’ constitution. If you do have any of the above, it may be worth thinking about what, & the way you eat.
In my experience, with our changing seasons, eating local, seasonally available foods is the way forward & certainly in the colder months, eating as many warm, cooked meals as possible is beneficial.
Let’s imagine our stomach is like a cooking pot & a flame sits underneath it. The flame needs to be strong enough to ‘cook’ what we eat into a soup & then we can extract nutrients we need. This flame is in constant fluctuation depending on our climate, stress levels & the foods we eat.
If our flame is burning well, we can digest most foods, gain nutrients & be healthy. If our flame is weak, the soup will not cook, food will not be digested properly & the nutrients will not be gained. This can lead to several symptoms like a chronically snotty nose or congestion, bloating, fullness, lack of appetite, nausea, weight gain & many more.
So, after a little look at yourself & how you feel… the question is, how do I get a digestive system which gives me no grief? Here are some main points to consider if you have problems with your digestion.
· Eat local foods – The stomach works as an adaptive, it has contact with the external environment. Through this, the body will be influenced by what we eat. If we eat foods from the climate we are in, the body will know what changes it needs to make to exist in the environment around us. If we eat foods from exotic places too often, this can affect the body’s fluid metabolism & lead to poor health.
· Eat warm, cooked meals – Take the workload off the digestive system. Cooked meals have already been broken down slightly through the cooking process so our ‘cooking pot & flame’ have less to do.
· Vary your diet but keep meals simple – It seems fashionable to put too many ingredients in a meal. The thought being to expose yourself to as many potential nutrients as possible, but it can be too complex to deal with for an exhausted digestive system. Keeping meals simple tends to ease symptoms of digestive upset.
· Think outside the box – Expose yourself to local foods that have been forgotten. Explore different meats such as game, use berries from your hedgerows in recipes, to make compotes or syrups… Every time you consume something that you don’t get from your average supermarket shop, you are giving your body the opportunity to gain different nutrients to maintain health.
· Reduce foods you know cause you problems – You probably know if certain foods make you react. If your coffee gives you heartburn & makes you run for the loo, fresh chewy bread makes you bloat or milk products make you wheeze… Many people know the culprits for their troubles but still do nothing about it. I don’t support the elimination of a food unless necessary, reduction in those foods or sometimes even just adjusting the way in which you prepare them can give the system the break it needs. Making milk warm & not drinking it from the fridge can already reduce its mucogenic effects.
If you can do the above 80% of the time, you should see an improvement in your digestive problems. Your overall absorption of nutrients will increase & the body will be able to maintain health more effectively, even build the reserves it needs to deal with the fluctuating demands of life.