Diarrhoea affects 10% of the population on a regular occurrence, so what can be done to help with this?
The new Life in Rhythm plan developed by leading experts on behalf of Imodium explores how the combination of foods we eat, the mood we are in and the amount of physical activity we undertake on a daily basis can alter digestion.
The plan is designed to try and reduce the woes of a sensitive gut and help sufferers improve the rhythm of their digestive health with five easy day-to-day steps for mood, food and movement.
Here we take a look at what movements can be done to help keep your gut healthy.
Our bodies are designed to move every day so it’s when we are sedentary, that intestinal problems may occur. Gentle daily movement or exercise combined with a healthy diet can reduce tension and stress, increase energy levels and enhance the way our digestive systems work, supporting improved overall digestive function.
We need to maintain flexibility, strength and correct alignment so that our body can operate at its best. Movements that stretch the chest can improve breathing, which stimulates healthy intestinal contractions aiding proper and smooth digestion, whilst strengthening the digestive system. Stretching the pelvic and abdominal area can reduce inflammation, helping to ease symptoms.
Regardless of your shape, size or age, incorporating simple movement exercises into your lifestyle can help you improve your overall health and ease the discomfort you may experience on difficult days. Renowned movement and fitness expert
Angie Newson has developed a simple daily movement plan to help you improve your digestive health.
1. Warm up – extremely important before any movement as opening the front and the sides of the body allows the internal organs to relax
• Stand tall with feet hip distance apart and parallel
• Inhale and stretch the arms up, exhale and lower the arms down – repeat five times
• Stretch the right arm straight up over your head and bend from your waist to the left – return centre
• Stretch the left arm straight up and bend from your waist to the right – return centre
• Repeat the side bends 5 more times as this opens the sides of the body
• Rest the hands behind you on the lower back to maintain length in the tailbone, draw the shoulder blades down, broaden the collar bones and extend the spine into a small back bend – hold for 5 breaths
2. Cat/Cow – mobilises the spine
• Kneel with your knees and hands on your mat, aligning hands under shoulders and knees under hips
• Ensure the spine is in a neutral position and the abdomen is lifted
• Round your lower back, bringing your tailbone through your legs and nodding your chin towards your chest into a Cat like position
• Return to neutral position leading with the tailbone
• Draw your shoulder blades down; lift your head and your ‘sitz’ or sitting bones into a cow like position
• Alternate between Cat/Cow 5 times, maintaining your own flow and speed
3. Bridge – mobilises and stretches the spine with control from the abdominals
• Lay down facing upwards with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart
• Place your arms by your sides, palms down and relax your shoulders
• Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, slowly peel your spine off the mat one vertebra at a time, pressing your feet down to lift your hips
• Inhale as you pause at the top and exhale as you lower your spine to return to the mat – repeat 5 times
4. Reclining Angle Pose – improves the flow of energy in the pelvic and abdominal areas, as well as mobility and pace in the digestive system
• Lay down facing upwards with your head on a folded blanket or small cushion. Bend your knees, legs together and feet on the floor
• Bring the soles of your feet together so your knees descend to the sides and have your heels close to your tailbone
• Place pillows or cushions under the knees for more comfort if required
• Stretch your arms up and behind you along the floor to lengthen your body and then rest them at your sides with the palms turned up. Close your eyes
• Focus on your breathing, inhaling deeply and exhaling so that your tummy rises and falls accordingly. Repeat 5 times and then return to normal breathing. Relax for 5 minutes
5. Legs Up the Wall – reduces inflammation in the abdominal area and naturally cleanses the body
• Sitting sideways against the wall, swivel yourself round so your legs swing up the wall
• Ensure your inner thighs are touching and feet are flexed
• You can have a folded blanket underneath your head for added comfort
• Rest your arms a little away from your sides, palms turned up
• Close your eyes and completely relax, breathing gently as you sink deeper into the ground
• Stay for as long as you feel comfortable
Next up is food…Our bowel health is dependent on what and how we eat. Everyone’s digestive system is different, meaning that diarrhoea can be triggered by a range of foods. It will come as no surprise to learn that research by IMODIUM® found that rich and spicy foods like Indian and Chinese topped the list of foods eaten
at home which, people say, have caused diarrhoea, followed by, fish or shellfish and barbecue.
This doesn’t mean that those with a sensitive gut should miss out. The old adage ‘everything in moderation’ is a good approach to take and sometimes a change of diet to something high in lightly cooked vegetables, low in meat and reduced dairy and wheat can be a great support.
Leading Nutritionist Amanda Hamilton explains why eating habits are important for digestive health: “With the hectic lives we lead, meals often become our lowest priority but it’s extremely important to get into good eating habits in order for our body to function properly.”
1. Despite their known health benefits, some people are sensitive to popular cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they feed bacteria. Try swapping cruciferous vegetables and other ingredients such as onions for green beans and chives
2. Wheat and dairy can be triggers for digestive upset related to food intolerances. If you are experiencing digestive upsets, switch rich and creamy pasta-based dishes such as Spaghetti Carbonara to wheat-free pasta with tomato based sauce
3. Salads make a great lunch or even a light dinner, however some popular ingredients could leave your tummy feeling unsettled. Beans are increasingly popular as an ingredient in salads because they are high in protein and low in fat, however, they are also well known for their effect on digestion. Try to switch these for another ingredient for example, Indian-based pulses such as red lentils can be easily adapted for salads or small chunks of cheese such as feta provide protein and flavour
4. Indian food is hugely popular but if you are prone to having digestive upsets, rather than a dish with a spicy sauce, choose a dry dish such as tandoori chicken served with boiled rice. This has a much lower fat content than many other Indian dishes. Fatty foods increase contractions in the intestine, which can aggravate a sensitive gut
5. If you are heading out for Mexican food, try to avoid fiery chillies. These can irritate nerve fibres in the gut, which has been linked to abdominal pain in people with IBS. If cooking at home, chillies are hard to replace however as an alternative try paprika, plenty of lime and coriander which will help keep the flavour authentic
Last but not least, it’s mood…Many people don’t realise that the way we ‘feel’ emotionally can impact our physical body. According to Dr Nick Read, Gastroenterologist and Psychotherapist from the IBS Network, for frequent sufferers, it’s often changes in food and mood that can trigger a bout of diarrhoea.
Research by IMODIUM® showed that our lifestyles today could be a major contributor to some people suffering more frequent diarrhoea. 42% of people attribute stress and anxiety as the main cause of their diarrhoea with 78% of people claiming to generally feeling stressed and 53% saying they are more stressed than 10 years ago.
Dr Read explains the impact of mood on digestive health and has provided some helpful Do’s and Don’ts to help you keep your diarrhoea worries at bay.
He says: “In stressful situation, the brain can alter the balance of digestion, speeding up the passage through the intestine and resulting in diarrhoea. It’s important to listen to your body – if you’re suffering from stress-related diarrhoea either at home or the workplace – it’s telling you to slow down.”
DO’S AND DONT’S
DO Reduce your stress levels – try to relax by learning to breathe deeply and slowly to calm yourself. It’s important to take breaks especially when you start feeling frazzled in order to avoid panic or stress. If you are worried about something talk to someone who can help you.
DO Have fun – laughter is a great stress reducer and boosts the immune system, which is often weakened by stress.
DO Walk if off – physical activity works off the biochemical and physical changes that stress causes in your body.
DON’T Consume lots of alcohol – diarrhoea causes the body to lose fluids. Drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice but stay away from alcohol and milk, which could further irritate your gut.
DON’T Worry unnecessarily – diarrhoea can be treated using an anti-diarrhoea medicine containing loperamide. It works by slowing down your digestive system, allowing your body to absorb more fluid from the bowel and relieve the symptoms – allowing you to get on with your day.