Nutrition for a healthy gut

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Healthy nutrition - What affects digestion & what helps?

Do you often suffer from abdominal pain and other digestive problems after eating? This is most likely not a coincidence. In many cases, unbalanced or unhealthy diets can affect the digestive tract directly and trigger frustrating symptoms. This can be unpleasant for those affected, but luckily your diet can be influenced. We’ll explain what you can eat to avoid stomach aches and other stomach problems and how to maintain a healthy gut. 

Why you might experience digestive symptoms after eating

As soon as you enjoyed a delicious pizza, the first unpleasant abdominal pain announces itself - many people suffer from gastrointestinal complaints because of their diet. Why is that? Ingested food can cause difficulties in the stomach and intestine for two reasons:

  • The digestive tract tries to get rid of foods it is sensitive to as quickly as possible. The gastric nerves, for example, react to spoiled or incompatible foods and the transport of food can be unusually accelerated - resulting in abdominal pain and cramps after eating, as well as nausea and diarrhoea.
  • In contrast, food that is difficult to digest, such as fatty foods, can only be digested with great effort and therefore spends usually more time in the stomach and intestine. During the prolonged digestion processes, among other things, large quantities of gases can be produced - bloating, abdominal pain and feeling of fullness make life difficult for those affected.

The resulting stomach problems can occur either on their own or in connection with larger disorders of the digestive tract such as functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs).

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What to eat in cases of digestive symptoms

Various foods and dishes can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms and should, therefore, be avoided. In addition, you can try smaller meals and see how your gut responds. You should consult with your health professional about any changes to your diet.

Stomach friendly vegetables include carrots, pumpkin, broccoli or peas while ripe fruits like a banana is usually well tolerated as well. Digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain can be triggered by high-fat and sugary foods, bloating foods (such as onions or cabbage) and stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine.

Gentle methods of cooking such as steaming not only help to preserve as many nutrients as possible but also relieve the stomach and intestines. Also, take time to eat and chew slowly to take work off the stomach.

In order to deal with recurrent gastrointestinal complaints, it can also be a good idea to try well-tolerated medicinal products. Thanks to its combination of medicinal herbal extracts, Iberogast® can soothe sensitive nerves, normalize movements of the gastrointestinal tract and reduce pain and inflammation.

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Why is healthy nutrition important for digestive wellbeing and what foods are good?

Our health is significantly influenced by the way we live. A health-conscious lifestyle, physical activity and a healthy diet have a positive effect on our health and help to prevent illness. A balanced diet is your starting point to regular digestion. For example, if our food is low in fibre, it can cause constipation. We usually notice the importance of good digestion only when the intestine starts complaining.

What constitutes a healthy gut diet?

The bacteria in our intestines are important for our health. There are foods which can promote the intestinal flora and foods which do not or might even be harmful.

The following nutrients might support your intestinal flora:

Dietary Fibre

Dietary fibre is divided into water-soluble and insoluble forms. The soluble form of dietary fibre is found primarily in legumes such as beans, peas or soya, in fruit such as apricots, blackberries and prunes, vegetables, oat bran and barley. The insoluble form of dietary fibre is found primarily in wholemeal products, vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, fruits like apples and bananas, nuts and seeds. A healthy mixture of both is recommended, as they serve as "food” to the intestinal bacteria and thus support them.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of fibre - non-digestible, carbohydrate food components. They also serve the intestinal bacteria as food and thus help to maintain healthy intestinal flora. Good prebiotic food sources are for example raw chicory, artichoke, bananas and fibre-rich foods such as rye.

Probiotics

In contrast to prebiotics, probiotics are living microorganisms. They help process the food through your gut. Researchers are still trying to figure out which ones are best for certain health issues, but there have been positive results for GI symptoms.

 

Foods you should be careful with

On the other hand, there are foods that do not necessarily harm the intestinal flora but do not support it either. In general, you should limit the intake of convenience and processed foods as they often contain fats, sugars and additives that can put a strain on the intestine and immune system.

Foods low in dietary fibre such as in our favourite desserts like cakes and sweet should also be eaten in moderation.

FODMAPs are short-chain sugars that are poorly absorbed within the small intestine but can be rapidly fermented by the intestinal microbiome. Since these carbs pull more water into the bowel, some people may experience gas, bloating and diarrhoea after consuming them. Low FODMAP diets are another way to positively influence your diet however it is a good idea to check with your health professional first.

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Healthy nutrition feels good and tastes good!

Healthy and digestive nutrition does not exclude tasty dishes. As long as a balanced and well-combined diet is maintained, it is good for body and soul. If your meal is rich in fibre and cooked with ingredients high in minerals and vitamins you are already on your way to promoting your digestion and well-being!

Overall, it is very important to be versatile. A healthy diet doesn’t mean only eating fruits and vegetables. Prefer vegetables, but always remember to change the ingredients every now and again. This ensures a balanced and healthy diet.

In addition, when including carbohydrates like bread, pasta and rice, try to focus on whole grains. This can increase the amount of fibre in your food. Also, try choosing different fats such as vegetable fats like rapeseed oil as these can be better for your gut. Attempt to avoid saturated fats and to consume salt and sugar only moderately.

Here are a couple of meal suggestions for a healthy diet, that are well digested by the stomach:

  • Wheat risotto with steamed paprika, zucchini and rocket
  • String-bean salad with lean roasted poultry
  • Salmon with lamb's lettuce and steamed red beetroot

Take your time to make the most out of healthy nutrition

Stress reduction, as well as regular meals without time pressure and with sufficient liquid intake, can in general help you take control over some digestive problems and increase the well-being of the digestive system, in combination with the nutritional suggestions provided above. Just try to incorporate the following tips into your everyday life:

  • Drink enough water
  • Eat a balanced meal
  • Chew slowly and thoroughly
  • Create fixed rhythms and routines
  • Move sufficiently

Tips

If your diagnosed with a functional gastrointestinal disorder such as IBS or FD, or have functional symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating or indigestion, a balanced diet and nutrition can go a long way to helping you feel better. If you need something extra to treat your symptoms, using a clinically proven1,2 herbal supplement such as Iberogast®, which can start working quickly to provide relief to a variety of these functional gastrointestinal symptoms, might be a good idea.

A bottle of Iberogast on green background, surrounded by herbs

Iberogast® harnesses the power of herbs to relieve multiple functional digestive symptoms

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.