Our grateful thanks to Julie Thompson from the charity Guts UK and probiotic scientific expert, Dr Linda Thomas, for their contribution to our radio report - which you can hear again via the audio page below- To link through to Guts UK click here to visit their website.
Hear this report and a selection of our recent features together with an eclectic mix of iconic music via the new. Word on Health radio stream click here to listen
A digestive disorder or disease is any health problem that occurs in the digestive tract. Conditions may range from mild to serious. Some common problems include heartburn, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and lactose intolerance.
What are the symptoms of gut problems: The first sign of problems in the digestive tract often includes one or more of the following symptoms:
If any of the symptoms listed persist for more than a few days for no obvious reason, it would be wise to book an appointment to see your doctor - or speak to your pharmacist.
Do not ignore repeated passage of blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss or an unexplained alteration in bowel habit if you are over the age of 50. It could be due to cancer.
If you're wondering whether your digestive tract may be performing at its best, look for the following signs of a healthy gut:
Poo-Torial As we reported, a way to discover how your gut health is to monitor what comes out of it. As our friends at Guts UK tell us - There's a taboo surrounding toilet habits, but your poo is an indication of your health. Checking your poo includes being aware of the colour and consistency, but also how frequently you empty the bowels - click here to visit Guts UK Poo-Torial
Taking care of your gut health Moderating your intake of alcohol, exercising more and not smoking are sensible measures. Their is increasing evidence to suggest cutting back on the consumption of red meat may also be beneficial.
Diet: To avoid problems such as constipation, heartburn and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it's important to eat the right foods. Grateful thanks to the NHS for the following information
Fill up on fibre It's a good idea to try to eat more fibre or roughage, as most people in the UK do not get enough. A diet rich in fibre can help digestion and prevent constipation.
Aim for the recommended dietary intake of 30g of fibre a day.
For a healthy bowel, you need fibre from a variety of sources, such as:
Some people find cereals and grains bring on bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. If that's the case, get your fibre from fruit and vegetables instead or alternatives
Drink plenty of fluids It's important to keep drinking, especially water (aim for 6 to 8 glasses per day). It encourages the passage of waste through your digestive system and helps soften poo.
Fibre acts like a sponge, absorbing water. Without fluid, the fibre cannot do its job and you'll get constipation.
The NHS reminds us, A good way to make sure you're getting enough fluids is to drink a glass of water with every meal. Avoid caffeine drinks as they can cause heartburn.
Cut down on fat for a healthy gut Fatty foods, such as chips, burgers and fried foods, are harder to digest and can cause stomach pain and heartburn.
Cut back on greasy fried foods to ease your stomach's workload.
Try to eat more lean meat and fish, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and grill rather than fry foods.
Go easy on spice to avoid tummy troubles Many people love spicy food and it does not bother their digestive system. Others find their tummy is upset when they have spicy food.
It's not just scorching hot foods like chillies that trigger heartburn. Milder but flavourful foods like garlic and onion can also bring it on.
If spicy foods give you heartburn, stomach pain or diarrhoea, go easy on them in future.
If you already have a problem like heartburn or an irritable bowel, avoid them completely.
Beware gut symptom triggers Some people find particular foods cause them problems. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, salad dressings and fizzy drinks, can trigger heartburn, while wheat and onions may cause irritable bowel syndrome.
And if you cannot digest lactose (lactose intolerance), the sugar in milk, you'll develop wind and diarrhoea after drinking milk or eating dairy products, including cream, cheese, yoghurt and chocolate.
Try to stay away from foods and drinks that trigger your digestive symptoms. Keep a food diary to work out which foods cause your symptoms.
Choose the right drinks to ease digestion Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, colas, tea and some fizzy drinks, boost acid in the stomach, leading to heartburn in some people.
Fizzy drinks in general tend to bloat the tummy, which can also lead to heartburn.
To make digestive problems less likely, choose drinks that are not fizzy and do not contain caffeine, such as herbal teas, milk and plain water.
If you cannot do without your coffee or tea, limit your intake to 1 or 2 cups a day.
Probiotics are so-called "friendly bacteria" that are also found naturally in the gut.
There's some evidence that they may be helpful for some conditions, including helping irritable bowel syndrome. But there's little evidence to support some other health claims made about them.
Probiotics are available as supplements from health food shops, or in live yoghurt, which is a good natural source.
If you want to try them, it's best to take them every day for at least 4 weeks to see if they work for you.
If you have an existing health condition or a weakened immune system, talk to a doctor before taking any probiotic supplements.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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