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Beating the belly aches

Q I'm a 54-year-old male with embarrassing digestive symptoms. I find that after every meal my stomach makes loud gurgling noises and I belch excessively. I also feel as if food just sticks in my stomach as if it's not being digested, any ideas what might be causing this?

AYour symptoms could be caused by a number of factors so it's important that you consult a GP or a nutritionist to make proper investigations. It's possible you may be suffering with hypochlorhydria which is a digestive disorder in which there is a low level of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This is common in adults over 50.

I would suggest that you avoid eating large amounts of food at each meal, stick to eating smaller meals more often during the day. If you have limited amounts of stomach acid and digestive enzymes then large meals will greatly increase symptoms. Don't drink large amounts of liquids for 30 minutes either side of a meal either as this will reduce digestion further.

Consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement before meals. Alternatively, you could take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a little warm water 20 minutes before a meal to get your the digestive juices flowing. You might also benefit from eating more green bitter foods such as rocket, radicchio and endive which promote digestion, consider having them as a salad starter before your dinner. Try drinking herbal teas which aid digestion such as fennel or peppermint after meals.

QI'm 41 and have recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure. My GP has suggested that I make some lifestyle changes before he decides whether I need medication, what would you advise?

AFirstly, I would have your weight and body fat assessed and lose weight if necessary. Being overweight causes the cardiovascular system to work overtime which often places an extra strain on circulation. Following a low GL diet is one of the best ways to manage weight in the long term.

Diet wise, I recommend that you increase anti-oxidant-rich foods, which improve circulation and cardiovascular health, such as blueberries, cherries, chillies, garlic, turmeric, ginger and olive oil.

Try to consume oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or sardines two to three times per week to improve circulation. A magnesium deficiency may contribute to high blood pressure so eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils.

Avoid smoking and alcohol and reduce the amount of salt you consume. Most processed foods are high in salt so eat as natural as possible.

Besides diet, exercising regularly and reducing stress will be vital in preventing the condition from getting any worse as you age. Stress management techniques which you may find beneficial include P-Cals, meditation or yoga.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one to one consultations to meet your individual health requirements. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie