Sunday, 2 February 2014

Your guide to embarrassing tummy troubles

Do you suffer from embarrassing tummy troubles like bloating, wind and constipation? Don’t worry you’re not alone. Most people suffer some kind of gastro-intestinal (GI) issue at one point or another in their life. The problem starts when the issue lasts for more than a few days, comes back again and again and interferes with your day-to-day life. So how do you know when your tummy trouble moves out of the normal zone? I've put together a simple trouble-shooting guide for common tummy niggles.

So what’s normal?

Feeling bloating or having a full feeling after:
  • You’ve just eaten a large meal or drunk a large volume of fluid
  • You’ve eaten really fast and not chewed your food properly
  • You subconsciously swallow air while eating, often use a straw when drinking or drink a lot of 'fizzy' drinks
  • You’ve just eaten a meal high in fibre-rich legumes, fruit, vegetables or grains that your body isn’t used to

Passing wind or gas:
  • Anywhere between 2-30 times a day
  • More than usual when you’ve eaten lots of ‘windy’ vegetables like onions, cabbage, broccoli or beans and legumes
  • Or when you’ve been eating lots of processed, fatty, sugary or spicy foods or excessive alcohol

What about bowel habits?
  • Going to the toilet anywhere from 1-2 times per day to once every 3-4 days. Everyone is different and has their own ‘normal’
  • Not going to the toilet quite as often as your usual amount if you’ve:    
  • Not drunk enough water
  • Or not eaten enough fruit, veg, legumes or grainy foods

There are many other causes of tummy troubles that may not be related to diet. Studies have shown a complicated interaction between our brain and our gut meaning emotions can impact on GI function, as well as hormones. Stress, menstruation and medications can all play a part.

Putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls can help
to ensure you don't rush your meal as this can lead
to pain and bloating.

Take control of your gut

Here are some tips to try if you want to do stop feeling embarrassed wearing tight clothes and take back control of your GI system!
  • Eat regular meals and don’t overeat
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well
  • Make sure you’re drinking enough fluid each day (aim for 6-8 glasses) and limit alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meats, reduced fat dairy, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes and nuts
  • Increase fibre intake slowly to prevent exacerbating symptoms
  • Ensure you’re getting a mix of the 3 types of fibre: soluble (found in fruit, veg, oats, legumes), insoluble (found in wholegrain bread, cereal, rice & pasta, nuts & veg) and resistant starch (found in cooked then cooled potato and rice and firm bananas)
  • Exercise can also help keep your bowels moving

Experiment with beans, lentils and pulses to add extra
fibre to your day!

When to seek more advice
  • Abdominal or tummy pain that is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • Mucousy or bloody poos
  • Significant straining, pain or urgency to go to the toilet
  • You haven’t been to the toilet or have had difficulty going to the toilet for 2 weeks or more
  • You have a family history of bowel cancer

 A doctor can help rule out Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and bowel cancer. A dietitian can help manage symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or food intolerances and determine your food triggers with more specific and individualised advice.

Useful Links

Find out exactly how much fibre you need, and how much you’re getting, with the Kellogg’s All-Bran fibre calculator here or the Kellogg’s All-Bran fibre tracker app available from the app store.

Find out more out bowel conditions such as IBD and IBS, how the GI system works and possible causes for your GI symptoms at the Gut Foundation website here

Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian near you on the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) website here

Baked beans are infamous for their ability to increase
wind, but don't blame the humble bean! As long as you
increase fibre in your diet slowly, along with plenty
of fluids, you shouldn't have a problem!

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