Problems with your gut can be embarrassing and hard to know how to treat by yourself. But with the help of trusted tips from Healthily, you’ll discover how to take care of your gut and feel more confident in yourself.
1. Don’t ignore your gut health
Gut symptoms can have a big impact on your daily life. Whether you’re struggling with stomach cramps and diarrhoea or can’t get your jeans done up because of bloating.
Yet busy lives and sometimes embarrassment mean that many of us ignore our gut health problems.
Dr Rebecca Thomas, Healthily clinical adviser and GP says: `We know that 4 out of 10 people in the UK are estimated to have a gut problem including stomach ache, constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence and heartburn. But you can get help to improve your gut health. Easy solutions are often available either with self-care measures, treatments from a pharmacy or a diagnosis from your doctor so don’t put up with pain and discomfort and don’t be embarrassed to seek help.’
2. Understand how your guts work
Getting to know your gut is the key to keeping it working well. Around 100 trillion microorganisms live in your gut and this is called the gut microbiome, which is unique to every person.
The gut microbiome consists of helpful bacteria and fungi which digest food (good bacteria), and keep unhelpful or ‘bad’ bacteria under control.
Your gut is a muscular tube which runs from your mouth to your bottom, moving food through by contractions called peristalsis. The whole process from eating food to waste products coming out the other end takes between 2 to 5 days, although this can vary.
Learn how to help your gut health with Your Healthy Gut Guide: safe and science-led tips and solutions at Healthily. Dr Thomas says, ‘You can find out everything from probiotics for gut health to what causes constipation. All information is based on the latest research and reviewed by doctors.’
3. Get in a routine with your poo habits
Feeling ‘bunged up’ when you can’t go to the loo can really affect your day and make you feel uncomfortable – perhaps you avoid meals with friends or become self-conscious at work.
Twice as many women than men are affected by constipation especially when going through hormonal changes such as during pregnancy, before a period, or in the perimenopuse and menopause. So keeping your bowel habits regular is important. Top tips include:
– drinking an extra 2 to 4 glasses of water a day
– making time to go to the toilet when you need a poo (don’t ignore this urge because you’re in a rush)
– eating plenty of fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains.
4. Don’t get dehydrated from diarrhoea
We all get this from time to time – passing looser or more frequent poos. This is commonly due to:
– tummy bugs
– food poisoning from bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter
– irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
When you have diarrhoea your body loses vital salts and sugars which can cause headaches, tiredness and dizziness so it’s important to stay hydrated.
Learn more about what causes diarrhoea and how to treat it.
5. Keep the pain of indigestion at bay
If you get indigestion you’ll know that painful feeling in your upper tummy or burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) only too well. This usually happens soon after eating or drinking and may mean you dread mealtimes.
But there’s plenty you can do to ease the pain, such as giving your body 3 to 4 hours breathing space to digest a meal before bedtime. This helps keep your stomach acid from travelling towards your food pipe while you’re lying down, and so prevents your symptoms.
6. Get to know your IBS triggers
Because irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that causes a wide range of symptoms – from bloating to diarrhoea – it can be hard to know how best to deal with it.
There are many risk factors for IBS such as being female and being aged between 20 and 30, which is the most common time to have it.
But there are some things more likely to set off IBS and getting to know your triggers is key to easing your symptoms. These include:
– certain food and drink – 90% of people with IBS say particular foods trigger their symptoms
– tummy bugs and food poisoning
– being stressed – that ‘butterflies in the tummy’ feeling you get in stressful situations such as job interviews is a clue to the close connection between your gut and your emotions.
Read more about IBS triggers and find out what pharmacist treatments can help.
7. Beat the Bloat
A bloated tummy can make you feel puffed up and can be painful. Causes include constipation, swallowing air when eating, food intolerances, coeliac disease and IBS.
Tips for avoiding bloating include :
– eating less of foods known to cause bloating including broccoli and onions
– cutting out fizzy drinks
– not talking while you eat so you don’t swallow as much air.
Discover more about bloating, plus which medicines can treat it.
8. Limit the foods that make you fart
It’s normal to fart between 5 and 15 times a day. If you feel you’re breaking wind a lot and it’s causing you embarrassment and discomfort there are steps you can take. Try cutting down on:
– ‘diet’ foods that contain artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, including sugar-free chewing gum – they ferment in your gut and cause gas build up
– baked beans, plus other pulses and lentils, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and dried fruit (make sure you still get your 5-a-day fruit and veg by switching to alternatives)
– beer or fizzy drinks as they contain gas.
Read more diet tips plus how remedies from your pharmacist can help with farting.
9. Get red flag symptoms checked out
Never let any gut symptoms go on for too long without seeing a doctor to find out the cause. In some cases, this may be a sign of a serious underlying illness such as cancer.
Wait no longer than 2 weeks if you’ve been taking a pharmacy remedy and still have symptoms.
The following are symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor as soon as possible and are regarded as red flags:
– bleeding from the bottom or very dark or black coloured poo (like tar)
– unexpected weight loss
– worsening or very bad heartburn, indigestion or stomach pain
– sudden and persistent change in bowel habits
– persistent vomiting or vomiting with blood
– difficulty swallowing
For more advice on caring for your gut health, read the guide from Healthily below.