This week, it’s Love Your Gut Week, seven days dedicated to raising awareness of gut health – and the impact that it can have on your life.

Launched by Yakult UK in association with a number of charity and healthcare bodies, including Core – the Digestive Disorders Foundation, Bowel & Cancer Research, St Mark’s Hospital Foundation, The IBS Network, the Bowel Disease Research Foundation and the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology, Love Your Gut Week is all about highlighting what’s normal – and what isn’t – when it comes to digestion.

We’re not always willing to talk about our insides, so digestive disorders and issues often go undiagnosed and untreated, leaving people uncomfortable, in pain and embarrassed.

Your gut plays an important part in your day-to-day life – and when things start to go wrong, it can cause major issues. Your gut can misbehave because of a number of issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, cancer, and it can even be affected by factors such as stress.

A less-than-fully-functioning digestive system can affect your mental health too – so it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that your belly behaves.

And there are lots of things you can do to boost your gut health.

Diversify your diet

A varied diet will do wonders for your insides. Include carbs, protein rich foods, nuts, oily fish, lean meat, cereals and fibre.

Have breakfast

A healthy breakfast – think porridge, oats, and avoid sugary cereals – is a great start to the day. It’ll set you up for what’s to come, and help avoid any tummy rumbles in that mid-morning meeting.

Keep active

Exercise boosts your digestive health too. You don’t have to be hitting the gym every day or running a marathon – but shifting any excess weight around your middle can really help your digestive system. Exercise also helps you relax and feel good, releasing endorphins or happy hormones. Less stress? Fewer problems with your gut!

Listen to your body

Get to know your own body – are there any foods that give you an upset stomach? Is there a certain time of day where it’s better for you to eat? Many people find that dairy, certain vegetables and grains can give them digestive issues if they have IBS or a sensitive digestive system. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as wind, diarrhoea or constipation, keep a food diary and see what’s triggering you – then cut it out and see how it goes. Always consult a doctor or dietitian before making any major dietary changes.

Take your time!

Throwing your dinner down your hatch then rushing to take the kids to swimming/dance classes/football isn’t giving your system time to digest your food. Set time aside to sit, eat and process. It’ll ease your stress levels too.

Get some sleep

Not getting enough sleep can affect your mental state, as well as your bowel function, appetite and weight. So aim for that eight hours a night – and avoid caffeine, sugar and fatty food before bedtime.

De-stress

Stress is a huge factor in digestive health, and triggers many conditions. If you can’t cut stress out of your life completely, find ways of relaxing and unwinding and doing something for you. Even if it’s an hour at night in front of the TV, taking up knitting, going for a walk on your own or meditation, find something that’ll calm your mind and your belly.

For more hints and tips on good digestive health, head to the Love Your Gut website at www.loveyourgut.com

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