Tummy troubles are one of the most common complaints when people come to see me in the clinic.
Indeed, most of us have at some stage or another experienced digestive discomfort. And while there are a seemingly endless number of home remedies and natural fixes to manage these complaints, the question remains - which of them actually work?
Constipation and fibre
Constipation can be caused by a number of factors, but one of the most common is a bad diet. In particular, it’s low dietary fibre intake that is correlated with constipation among those living in Western countries like Australia.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds all contain fibre, so I recommend making them the feature of your meals and snacks and consider meat and animal products as a side rather than the star ingredient. But, since few of us have a perfect diet all the time, it can be handy to have something on hand to increase fibre intake and help support healthy bowels.
I make a supply of homemade fibre supplement with two parts psyllium husks to one part each of chia and flax seeds. Blend them all up to a powder and then store in a dry glass jar. Two teaspoons in a large glass of water deliver more than five grams of soluble and insoluble fibre. Start with one serve a day and don’t take any more than three; that will provide around half your daily recommended intake of fibre.
Whenever you increase your fibre, it’s also important to ensure you’re getting enough water. Men should be aiming for at least 2.6 litres of fluid per day, with women needing 2.1 litres. This increases if you are particularly physically active, so keep in mind your individual needs may differ.
If your constipation is ongoing, painful or you notice blood in your stool, "trust your gut" and visit your doctor immediately.
Painful bloating and peppermint
Uncomfortable bloating is a fairly non-specific symptom common in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. If you’ve been told by your doctor that you have IBS, you may be interested to know that there are some promising natural remedies to help manage symptoms.
Peppermint oil is a traditional herbal medicine that has long been used to manage bloating and gastrointestinal pain, and now a large review of the scientific evidence has concluded that it is indeed effective. Be sure not to ingest peppermint essential oil, but rather seek out enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules that are approved for use in IBS.
Nausea and ginger
You’ve likely heard of pregnant women sipping ginger tea as a gentle way to reduce nausea associated with morning sickness. It’s also often recommended in nausea from other causes, like motion sickness. The early research on the subject looks promising, but there is still more to be done. In the meantime, the safest approach is to check with your doctor first, then try a cup or two of ginger tea - I like using grated fresh ginger steeped in boiling water for five minutes - to see if it works for you.
The most important thing to remember is that if things don’t feel right, make sure you get to your GP.
Reece Carter is a naturopathic nutritionist, author and Jodi Lee Foundation Trust Your Gut ambassador. www.jodileefoundation.org.au