GIVE these hacks a try for a healthy tummy, healthy mind – and a happier you.
If your gut is causing you worry or is affecting your day-to-day life, speak to your GP.
Your clothes feel wrong, you can’t get comfy and your self-esteem is shattered – gut trouble is no fun. According to the charity Guts UK, 43% of Brits suffer with tummy problems – and women experience more constipation, bloating, flatulence and pain than men.
It can affect mental health and wellbeing, too. Research has found the state of our gut microbiome (the good and bad bacteria living in our digestive tract) can impact our mood, immune health and weight.
Even if you have an iron constitution, there are quick and easy ways to show your tummy some love that don’t require expensive supplements.
We asked the experts for their most effective three-minute gut-soothers…
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Try the Wind Relief yoga pose
“This pose focuses on placing gentle stimulating pressure on the abdomen to release any tension,” says Gabriella Espinosa, yoga teacher at online platform Movementformodernlife.com.
“Lie on your back and bend and hug one knee at a time into the chest.
"Hold the front of the shin on the bent leg, pressing it into your chest. Breathe evenly, hold for five to 10 breaths and add a gentle side-to-side rocking motion.
"Release the legs, straighten them and relax.”
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“Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe a troubled gut, alleviate bloating and indigestion and support digestion,” says Melanie Dixon, nutritional therapist at Vitaminology.
To make a turmeric drink, place one cup of milk, 1tsp coconut butter, 1/4tsp ground turmeric and 1tsp ground ginger into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Pour into a pan, bring to a simmer and serve warm. Add honey to sweeten if needed.
Lie on your left
“Some of the body’s largest organs, such as the liver, surround and put pressure on the gut,” explains Melanie. “Lie on your left-hand side to allow the gut more room.
"The valve food passes through from the stomach into the small intestine is on the right-hand side of the lower stomach. Lying on your left takes pressure off the valve to support its function.”
Massage away constipation
Can’t go? Reema Patel, dietitian and nutritionist at Dietitian Fit & Co, recommends this constipation-relieving massage. Lie on your back and apply a massage oil to your tummy.
“Stroke upwards from the base of your abdomen towards the ribcage using the flats of your hands. Then, place both palms of your hands on your back and move your hands forwards, over your hips and down the sides of your pelvis, toward the groin.
"Next, place a fist in the lower-right groin area, and slide your hand up towards the ribcage and around the side in a circular motion.
"Then knead your abdomen from top to bottom 10 times.” Reema says this helps relax muscles and stimulate movement along the gut.
Snack on cucumber
“Not many people realise cucumber contains quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce bloating,” says Eleanor Thrupp, nutritionist at Innermost.
Store cucumber sticks in the fridge for a speedy, bloat-busting snack at any time of day.
Chew 20 times
“Digestion starts in the mouth, so take time to enjoy your food, chewing each mouthful roughly 20 times,” says Eleanor, who also recommends avoiding phones or TV while eating.
“Distracted or hurried eating can cause you to eat more than you would normally. Eating too fast can also lead to bloating and indigestion, as your body doesn’t have time to digest properly.”
Have a hot shower
“Gut bugs love sleep,” says Liv Morrison, dietician at health app Keep It Cleaner.
“If you’re a night owl or someone who struggles to get to sleep, try having a really hot shower for two minutes right before you get into bed.
"It’s a simple but effective trick to promote sleep, which in turn supports good gut health.”
Up your plant intake
“The quickest way to improve your gut health is to eat at least 30 different plant foods each week,” says Liv. That sounds like a lot, but we can all squeeze at least a few more veg types in with these easy tricks:
- Add spinach, cucumber, kale, frozen cauliflower or courgettes to smoothies.
- Rotate Asian greens in stir-fries – try Chinese broccoli, choi sum, pak choi.
- Add canned legumes to curries or pasta sauce.
- Try sticks of celery or fennel with houmous, not just carrots.
Stroke a pet
Research has found that pet owners have a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome than those without pets.
“Dogs expose humans to an array of microscopic organisms, many of which do wonders for our gut wellbeing and immunity,” explains Dr Caitlin Hall, chief dietician at fibre experts Myota.
Don’t own a pet? Even cuddling a friend’s dog for a few minutes offers exposure to the microbes in their fur.
Stock up on fennel seeds
“A spoonful of fennel seeds can help gas go down,” reveals Deirdre Nazareth, certified practitioner at Functional Medicine Associates.
“Fennel seeds are anti-inflammatory, packed with fibre and antimicrobial.”
Toast fennel seeds for a few minutes to release the aroma and oils, then chew or steep crushed seeds in hot water and drink as a tea.
Avoid water with food
Drinking water before and after meals is fine, but avoid fluid while you eat, as it could slow digestion. Deirdre recommends drinking room-temperature water, too.
She says: “Ice will shock your intestines, causing them to contract and slow down digestion.”
Walk it off
Take a walk around your garden or round the block after dinner.
Dr Natalie Geary from Light Touch Clinic says: “Walking after you’ve eaten allows starches and lipids in your stomach to digest, helping prevent bowel issues, digestive concerns and acid reflux.”
The three-minute de-bloat ab routine
“The more you strengthen the muscles in your stomach, the more gas you’ll push out,” says David Wiener, PT and nutrition specialist at workout platform Freeletics.
Spend 30 seconds to a minute on each of these moves…
Side plank hold left/right
Prop your body up on your left elbow with right foot on top of the left. Keep head, shoulders, hips, knees and feet aligned.
Keep your right hand above your shoulder, arm straight. Hold for 30 secs then swap and repeat on other side.
Sit with knees bent, only your bum touching the ground. Keep feet and knees together, lean back to 45° or until you feel your core engage.
Keep your arms straight and twist to one side. Return to the centre and repeat on the other side.
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Start in a high plank, hands below shoulders, feet on the ground, arms straight and your head, shoulders, hips and knees aligned.
Bring your left foot up to your right hand, then as you jump it back to its original position, bring the right foot up to your left hand. Keep alternating.
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