Sunday 25 January 2015

Bloated? It's time for a food awakening

Digestive complaint: Sonia Harris, from Dublin, suffers from bloating and says she can trace it back to when she started her job in PR three years ago
Digestive complaint: Sonia Harris, from Dublin, suffers from bloating and says she can trace it back to when she started her job in PR three years ago

It's a subject that most us avoid like the plague, but the reality is that digestive problems affect everyone at some stage of their life.

The reason why we avoid the topic is that it makes for embarrassing conversations about constipation, excess wind and bloating. A survey last year showed that one-in-five people are too embarrassed to discuss their constipation with family, friends or colleagues.

But digestive problems can seriously affect the quality of life of sufferers. It's estimated that around 15pc of the Irish population suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which can cause painful cramping and leave sufferers feeling lethargic.

Then there are the more serious conditions of Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which can be extremely painful and limit what activities people can carry out.

Today is World Digestive Health Day, which aims to raise awareness of common digestive problems.

"Digestive discomfort could be the result of a number of reasons -- stress, diet, tiredness, and lack of exercise," says Professor Eamonn Quigley, a Cork-based gastroenterologist and the current president of the World Gastroenterology Organisation.

"It is usually a sign that something in your lifestyle needs to change. In some instances, it could also be a potential precursor to a more serious disease such as colorectal cancer."

For most people, however, digestive problems are triggered by something in their lifestyle.

Nowadays we have busier lives and usually eat on the run, don't have time to exercise and have stress in our lives. It's no wonder that our digestive systems protest at having to put up with so much.

Sonia Harris, from Dublin, suffers from bloating and says she can trace it back to when she started her job in PR three years ago.

"I've always suffered a bit with bloatedness but it has gotten worse over the last couple of years," she says. "I wake up in the morning with a fairly flat stomach. By the middle of the afternoon, I'll notice that it is starting to stick out a little. By the time I get home in the evening, it's very noticeable."

Sonia's condition is a common one, especially among Irish women.

But whatever your digestive complaint, there are steps you can take to get your gut working like clockwork again:

> Eat a better diet

system

A good immune system is essential for healthy digestion. Illness and infection can both affect your immune system, as can lack of sleep and excessive stress.

> T ake your time eating

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