Suffer from cramps, flatulence or bloating? A few subtle tweaks to your diet could make all the difference.
1. USE PROBIOTICS
“Some strains of probiotics, such as lactobacillus plantarum and bifidobacteria infantis, may help reduce abdominal pain, flatulence and belly distension,” says CK Yao, a research dietitian at Monash University.
Probiotics can also promote anti-inflammatory effects by interacting with the gut immune system.
“This may help to reduce hyper-sensitivity reactions of the gut that can manifest as abdominal pain or bloating,” Yao explains. As some people find that taking probiotics worsens digestive symptoms such as bloating, always start with a small dose of probiotics.
2. WATCH FOR FOOD SENSITIVITIES
Eating foods to which you’re sensitive can cause inflammatory reactions in your digestive system and body. Cutting out suspect foods for weeks and then reintroducing them is the best way to test for reactions. While we’ve all heard of common culprits such as gluten and dairy, lesser known problematic foods include:
• Vet salicylates and amines. The stronger the flavour, the higher the level of these natural chemicals found in soy sauce, pumpkin, broccoli, capsicum, watermelon, strawberries, honey, coffee and cheese.
3. BEWARE FODMAPS
“Certain molecules called FODMAPs – found in excess fructose from some fruits and lactose in some dairy foods – can be poorly absorbed by some people in the small intestine and digestive tract and feed the bacteria there,” says Dr Sue Shepherd, an Australian dietitian and senior lecturer at La Trobe University’s Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
“The bacteria can then digest or ferment these molecules, triggering symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, including abdominal bloating and pain, nausea and excess wind,” says Shepherd, who specialises in dietary intolerances and developed the low FODMAP diet in 1999 to help improve people’s digestive health.
“To avoid FODMAPs, which include foods like baked beans, onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, cauliflower and fruits such as apples, peaches and pears, it is best to consult with an accredited practising dietitian,” Shepherd says.