We’re becoming more open about discussing many issues pertaining to our physical and mental health, from periods to anxiety , but many commonplace digestive problems still fly under the radar as they’re considered taboo or even funny (see, farting). The thing is, where bloating and wind is concerned especially, we’ve all been there, and for the one in five of us suffering from IBS in the UK, they can be debilitating and painful daily occurrences that hamper everything from progress at work to simply having a good day.
Avoiding trigger foods, getting regular exercise and drinking enough water can make a huge difference to how our digestive system functions, but the discovery and coining of the term ‘prebiotics’ changed the game where both gut and overall health was concerned. Speaking of which, if you suffer from any of the following, here’s how and why prebiotics could help…
No matter how balanced your diet or how stress-free or active a life you lead, that uncomfortable ‘balloon in stomach’ feeling can quite literally pop up when it’s least welcome (it’s never exactly received gladly, but big presentation/ wedding day/ milestone birthday bloating takes the biscuit). Bloating can cause relative discomfort or be more intensely painful, and if you’re experiencing the latter or are frequently bloated, it’s time to make an appointment with your GP. If your bloating is intermittent, the following lifestyle factors could be at play:
Too much salty food
Excess sodium can cause water retention, making bloating worse and causing skin to look puffy. Check salt levels in food (the NHS advises that adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day, which equates to 2.4g of sodium) and be aware of typically high salt options when you’re eating out - think soy sauce soaked ramen and anything that goes big on cheese, anchovies, olives or smoked meat and fish.
Sounds ridiculous, but in practice, modern life can make ‘gas and air’ provoked bloating pretty likely. If you’re a fast eater and a fast talker, you could be prone to taking in air that causes gas in our stomach and impaired digestion, both of which contribute to bloating. Use this as an incentive to take a leisurely lunch break and chew your food slowly.
Not just of the prosecco variety, but carbonated drinks can increase bloating across the board. The odd fizzy drink is unlikely to pose a problem, but if you rely on carbonated drinks for hydration, stick to flat options that are ideally low in sugar. Good old water comes to the fore every time, but infusions and herbal teas make things slightly more interesting.
From a dental health perspective you’re golden, but if you’re a regular gum chewer and experience bloating pretty often, there could be a connection. For one, gum can lead to you swallowing more air, and for some the sweeteners that gum contains (sorbitol is a typical artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum) can cause stomach upsets, leading to discomfort and stomach distension.
As well as taking the above into account, adding a prebiotic supplement such as Bimuno Daily , £11.99 for 30 sachets, could help to reduce bloating by regulating high gas producing bacteria in your gut and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the lining of your large intestine. On the subject of gas (we’re not holding back here)...
You might assume that trapped wind was an issue that mainly newborns had to deal with, but if you suffer from flatulence regularly, often accompanied by aforementioned bloating, you’ll know that that’s far from the case. First things first, passing wind is totally normal - gas is produced by the bacteria that lines your colon and we can produce between 0.5 to three litres of it a day. We’re not suggesting you measure that, but if you notice that you’re passing more than is normal for you, the same triggers that prompt bloating could be to blame, as could eating large meals (try six small meals a day instead to see if that helps matters), consuming lots of sulphur-rich or ‘gassy’ foods such as beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower and even some medications. Antidepressants, statins and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDS ), of which ibuprofen is one, can all make wind worse, but always consult your doctor on this rather than ditch your prescription.
Otherwise, stomach soothing herbal teas containing ginger or peppermint can help to ease excessive flatulence, as can adding probiotic foods such as live yoghurt and kimchi to your diet and trying a prebiotic supplement. Both of these will foster the growth of good bacteria in your gut, which should help to improve your digestion, and Bimuno Daily’s prebiotic content has been shown to encourage the growth of ‘low gas-producing’ bacteria especially, which is good news if you’re looking to reduce flatulence.
Being bunged up isn’t much fun in any capacity and chances are that if you’re constipated you’ll know about it, but just in case typical symptoms include dry, hard or lumpy stools and a reduction in frequency of bowel movements, feeling full and bloated, straining when you go to the loo, a loss of appetite and stomach ache. These symptoms can also be indicative of other health problems, so if you’re experiencing intense pain or passing blood in stools, make an appointment with your GP asap.
If you’ve established that constipation is the issue, however, it could be caused by everything from stress to medication to a sedentary lifestyle to diet. Iron supplements or iron-rich foods such as red meat and shellfish can lead to you being less regular than normal, as can not getting your recommended daily 30g of f ibre . Given that the majority of us Brits only clock up between 15-18g, you may have identified your constipation culprit right there. In addition to increasing your fibre intake by way of fruit and vegetables and wholegrain bread, rice and cereals, prebiotics provide a dose of non-digestible fibre that helps to relieve constipation while helping to keep your bowels healthy and working like clockwork. By increasing the levels of good bacteria in your gut, prebiotics encourage your intestines to retain the right amount of water, a factor that’s key in keeping bowel movements regular and comfortable. If your constipation doesn’t move on despite your best efforts, you feel very fatigued or you’ve noticed blood when you go to the loo, call a doctor.
The opposite end of the spectrum, but about as fun. Diarrhea is typically associated with food poisoning and norovirus, and prebiotics can act as a preventative measure against the colonisation of harmful diarrhea causing microbes such as E.coli, salmonella and shigella bacteria, viruses such as the dreaded noro and parasites. They’re not a surefire safeguard or cure by any means, but they can make it less likely that harmful microorganisms will settle in your digestive system.
Illness aside, getting diarrhea can also be an offshoot of a food intolerance or allergy and certain medications, so seek advice from a doctor if you suspect that any of these are at the root cause. Stress and IBS can also make episodes of diarrhea more likely. Prebiotics can help on both counts - studies show that Bimuno Daily can help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in adults, while research also indicates that Bimuno Daily can help to reduce the diarrhea and abdominal pain associated with IBS. If your diarrhea gets worse or lasts for more than a few days, seek advice from your GP.
All of the above at once
First off seek a medical opinion, but bloating, constipation, diarrhea, winds and cramps are all symptoms of IBS that can fluctuate over time. The causes of IBS aren’t yet known, although anxiety, genetics and our modern diet and lifestyles are thought to play a part in why the condition is becoming increasingly common ( it’s particularly prevalent in women ). Everything from reducing stress levels to exercise and trying a low FODMAP diet can help, but research is particularly promising where prebiotics are concerned. Scientific evidence indicates that taking Bimuno reduces the bloating, diarrhea and pain associated with IBS, while a study published in the journal Gastroenterology concluded that taking the prebiotic supplement daily was at least equally as effective as adhering to a low FODMAP diet in terms of managing and relieving IBS symptoms.
The especially good news is that these positive changes have been shown to be sustained - IBS sufferers still reported an improvement in symptoms two weeks after they’d stopped taking Bimuno, unlike in the low FODMAP testing group in which participants reported that their symptoms returned immediately after stopping the diet. While there’s still no cure for IBS, and everyone responds differently to both lifestyle changes and medication that aims to ease symptoms, having another tool in the IBS first aid box could be invaluable to sufferers. If you have IBS, Bimuno IBAID pastilles are designed for more sensitive stomachs, or start off with half a sachet of Bimuno Daily to allow your gut to adjust.
Lastly, if you suspect that your stomach issues are stress related, Professor in Food Microbiology at the University of Reading Glenn Gibson highlights that the gut-brain connection could play a part improving mental wellbeing too:
“Since gut health is closely linked to serotonin production in the brain, taking a prebiotic supplement such as Bimuno may help to reduce stress and anxiety.”
Alongside prioritising relaxation, movement and a healthy diet, adding a prebiotic to your day could well make a real a difference to IBS - it did for me, as you can read here …
Bimuno Daily Powder, £8.99 for 30 sachets until the end of November, £11.99 thereafter, buy online .
Disclaimer: Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.
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