Health / 23.06.2015

4 easy tips for better digestion (and less stress)

By Cheryl Freedman
'Flight-or-fight' stress playing havoc with your digestion? Here's how to get a happier gut

free_shutterstock_34420600.jpg tummy

You’re late for work, you forgot to cancel your friend for dinner and the kids have got colds. It’s not a full-on crisis, but your stomach is still in turmoil. Sound familiar? We bet it does.

More of us than ever are living with low levels of stress – the sort of background hum that isn’t life-threatening, but that means we never truly relax. The bad news is, being constantly in ‘flight-or-fight’ mode can play havoc with our digestion.

‘Typically, in flight-or-fight situations, our bodies divert energy away from peaceful processes like digestion and prepare our bodies for action,’ says nutritionist Caroline Harmer of digestive experts Renew Life.

But if we never switch into a more relaxed ‘rest and digest’ state, our digestive systems aren’t working at their full capacity.

Meanwhile, more research behind ‘brain-gut theory’ suggests our emotions directly affect our digestive system. ’Ninety per cent of the feel-good serotonin is produced in the digestive tract,’ says Harmer.

And our toxic lifestyles are fuelling even more digestive discomfort, says Harmer. ‘Regular exposure to toxins such as air pollution, household cleaners, processed food and drinking water can all negatively affect our metabolism, make us feel sluggish and increase stress levels.’

But you can take control. Rebalance your life, and tummy, with nutritionist Kim Pearson’s top 4 tips for a happier gut – and, ultimately, a happier you:

1 Rest and digest

Crumbs in your keyboard? You’re not alone, but scoffing a sandwich in front of your computer really isn’t a good thing. ‘Take time out to eat lunch away from your desk,’ advises Pearson. ‘Focus on your meal and chew food thoroughly to allow food to digest effectively. This will help ensure you’re absorbing the maximum nutrients from your food and prevent bloating and digestive issues. This relaxed state can bring a feeling of contentment and balance to your digestive system – and your mind.’


 2 Get some happy head space

Less stress means a calmer digestive system. So if you haven’t yet jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon, now could be the time to do it. ‘De-stress by taking time to clear your mind. Meditation has countless proven health benefits from reducing stress and improving general wellbeing to possibly even slowing the rate at which we age. Start by doing just 10 minutes per day and aim to build up to half an hour,’ says Pearson.

3 Swim for serotonin

You might not make an instant connection between exercise and good digestion. But, as Pearson points out, exercise helps you relax – which means less churning in your tummy. ‘Studies show exercise elevates serotonin levels, reducing stress and improves general wellbeing. Try swimming as a fantastic, non weight-bearing exercise to help you tone and relax at the same time.’

4 Try a detox

According to Pearson: ‘Environmental toxins can build up within our body over time and create a toxic load. This can place our bodies under stress as we try to reduce toxicity.’ One way to try and cleanse your body could be giving herbal systems such as Renew Life’s CleanseSMART a whirl. Or try a juice cleanse to help you back on track. Sorted!

4 easy tips for better digestion (and less stress)
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4 easy tips for better digestion (and less stress)
'Flight-or-fight' stress playing havoc with your digestion? Here's how to get a happier gut
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