5 lifestyle tips for a healthy tummy
Digestive problems and stomach upsets can be prevented, relieved and even banished by simple lifestyle changes.
Beat stress to ease tummy troubles
You may have noticed a feeling of unease in your stomach during times of stress. That's because anxiety and worry can upset the delicate balance of digestion.
In some people, stress slows down digestion, causing bloating, pain and constipation, while in others it speeds it up, causing diarrhoea and frequent trips to the loo. Some people lose their appetite completely.
A solution is to avoid eating when you're feeling very anxious, stressed or unhappy.
It also helps your digestion if you avoid arguing at the dinner table, as getting angry can put you off your food or make eating harder. Try to keep mealtimes happy and relaxed.
Stop smoking to prevent reflux
Smoking can weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of the food pipe and allow acid from the stomach to travel in the wrong direction back up, a process known as reflux.
Reflux causes the symptoms of heartburn, and can bring on or aggravate stomach ulcers and inflammatory conditions of the bowel.
Smoking is also an important risk factor for stomach cancer.
Eat properly to help your digestion
It's very easy to spend our working lives eating on the move or at our desks, gulping down food between meetings and then crashing out in front of the TV with a takeaway in the evenings.
But eating this way can play havoc with our digestive system.
Follow some basic rules to prevent problems:
- Do not rush your food. Take the time to eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chew each mouthful well.
- Do not overeat. Reduce the size of your portions at mealtimes, or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
- Eat regularly and try not to skip meals.
- Avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed. Eat your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
- Make sure you have plenty of water to drink.
Lose excess weight to beat heartburn
If you're overweight, your tummy fat puts pressure on your stomach and can cause heartburn.
Shedding some pounds may relieve digestive symptoms like heartburn and other acid-related stomach complaints.
Binge drinking causes acid-related digestive disorders
Moderate drinking will not hurt your digestive system, but binge drinking increases acid production in your stomach, and can cause heartburn and aggravate other digestive disorders.
Binge drinking is defined as drinking 8 or more units of alcohol in 1 session for men, and drinking more than 6 units in 1 session for women.
Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019
Next review due: 28 August 2022