DIY FOOD FIXESWhen times are tough, added stress can play havoc with your digestion. But here are seven foods that will chill you out and ease the pain
Your digestive engine needs tuning. The anxiety that naturally comes with austerity can upset the pipes and valves that your food travels down, grinding down your ability to absorb nutrients. “Pressure ties your entire digestive system in knots, as nerve cells in the bowel are connected by the nervous system to the brain,” explains Dr Charles Murray, secretary of the British society of Gastroenterology. Fortunately, you can eat your way out of this problem. MH has identified the seven points in your body that require attention in order to max out the nutritional value from everything you eat. Let’s fine-tune your digestion for 100% fuel efficiency.
1) CARB UP YOUR MUSCLE GROWTH
One side-effect of stress-induced living is a propensity for mouth ulcers. They hamper the way your body refuel as, if blood leaks out, it taints food and is known to cause chronic indigestion.
TOOL UP Take the sting out of eating and increase your nutrient uptake with this ratio: one part carbs to two parts protein. “Carbs increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, which helps your body break food down,” says nutritionist Kelly Reith. That means protein is shuttled to your muscles faster and every other nutrient gets pushed along too. Nutritionist Emma Wells, who specialises in digestion, suggests a bowl of porridge before your poached eggs at breakfast, then a chicken sandwich with granary bread for lunch. “And for dinner, have a handful of buckwheat noodles with a beef stir-fry,” she says. This provides the exact fuel mix that your engine needs.
2) EAT FAST FOOD WITHOUT THE CLOGGING
Cramming a quick sandwich stalls your nutrition. Your oesophagus, which ships food to the stomach, gets congested when you’re stressed, limiting nutritional uptake.
TOOL UP Bin the bag of nuts from your desk drawer and keep a bag of licorice instead. It reduces the stomach acid which causes the jam, says Dr Leo Galland of the International College of Nutrition. Your food will get through easier, boosting your energy levels and reducing indigestion. For a higher concentration of the path clearing ingredient, take one DGL licorice supplement (£6.60,healthmonthly.com). It’ll smooth your digestive progress nicely.
3) DOUSE HEARTBURN FOR GOOD
All the foot of your oesophagus, this valve is your stomach’s door staff. When it’s in a good mood, your food gets past without a fuss. But studies in The Journal of Psychosomatic Research show that if food is denied entry under stress, it can be kicked back to the oesophagus, ramping up heartburn.
TOOL UP Quell the burn with slices of apple. “Apple acids ease reflux,” says Dr Brian Fennerty, from Oregon Health & Science University. Try sweeter varieties, such as braeburn or pink lady, which are more easily digested. Your stomach’s new door policy. Indigestion out, nutrients in.
4) EAT A POTATO TO AVOID STOMACH CRAMPS
When food reaches your stomach, B vitamins are broken down, bolstering your immune system, But stress hormones bring the process to a halt.
TOOL UP After a long day, take the strain off your stomach with a baked potato. The skin from one is packed with enough vitamin B6 to increase the production of stomach acid. And research in the Journal of Nutrition shows that it’ll also bolster your body’s protein uptake-giving your muscles a free fuel injection. Fortifies cereal is the next source of B6, so have a bowl of Weetabix before bed. It’s an overnight service for your nutrition and digestion.
5) STOP THE TROTS WITH CHERRIES
The small intestine is where your body absorbs magnesium, iron, plus calcium which reduces cholesterol, lowering your risk of heart disease. But under stress, fats can cause diarrhea.
TOOL UP To maximise your mineral intake, call on the flavonoids found in cherries, plums or strawberries. Studies at the Oakland Research Institute found that they stop diarrhea by inhibiting one of the proteins responsible. Eat a bowlful of fruit with natural yoghurt three times a week. Tuning your small intestine is the single most effective change you can make because this is where your body absorbs the most nutrients.
6) ARTICHOKES AID COLON DIGESTION
This 6ft tube is a munitions factory for your body, producing vitamin K which increases your bone strength. But stress disrupts it and increases your risk of IBS.
TOOL UP Make your meals less gut-wrenching by eating artichokes. “Proper digestion here depends on bacteria in your gut that thrive with prebiotic foods,” says Murray. You need 5g of prebiotics day and artichokes have the highest concentration. “Add them to omelettes, salads or pizza,” says Wells. Do it twice a week to keep your internal arms factory at full-tilt.
7) RYE BREAD FIGHTS CONSTIPATION
The rectum may be your body’s exhaust, but stress causes blockages. Anxiety slows the rate at which you process food, halting your nutrient intake.
TOOL UP Fibre ensures your body doesn’t bottle things up. 25g a day will prevent constipation, so reach for some rye bread. Research in the Journal of Nutrition found that four slices of rye (great with pastrami and gherkins) is more effective than laxatives. So you won’t miss out on your food’s fuel because it’s stuck in a jam further up your digestive motorway. It’s the final component in your newly-tuned digestion engine.