January detox: Kick start your system
Christmas and your digestion
The festive period is traditionally a time for good food and lots of it, but it can take its toll on your body. Indulging yourself on Christmas food, which is often rich in fat and low in fibre, can make your digestion sluggish. We all eat more during the festive period, and you’ll probably have had one too many late nights, too.
On top of all this, you’re less likely to exercise during the holidays. This means your body will be out of sync – and the first organ to feel the effects is your gut. Digestive transit will be slow and you’ll feel bloated and uncomfortable.
Remember, if you have normal bowel movements every 24 or 48 hours, then you don’t have a problem with your digestive transit. However, after 48 hours this becomes a digestive problem and any longer becomes constipation. To kick start your digestive system and remedy digestive problems, you need to get your natural rhythm back.
Get your routine back
Your gut works like your body clock. To resynchronise your body’s digestion, you need to start eating at set times every day. Avoid snacking whenever you feel like it and don’t skip meals.
In the same way, it’s important to take your time eating, savouring your food and chewing properly. Swallowing too quickly is one of the main causes of bloating, as you’re essentially swallowing air.
Remember not to get up from the table too quickly after eating. Go to the bathroom straightaway whenever you feel the need. Don’t linger with your newspaper, though! Your gut will get into bad habits and start taking its time, leaving you with sluggish digestive transit.
Eat the right foods
It’s essential to choose the right foods to boost your digestion. Start by increasing your fibre intake. You should be eating around 30g of fibre a day (most of us don’t get anywhere near this amount in our diets). Concentrate on eating enough fruit and vegetables (using the five-a-day rule as a guide), and make sure you eat pulses like lentils and beans, even if it’s just a handful. Don’t forget about whole grains as well, and go for wholemeal bread as a matter of preference.
Some probiotics can also benefit digestive transit. Not all strains of bacteria are effective, but bifidus activus (found in Activia yoghurts, for example) has been scientifically proven to improve digestion. The effects are particularly noticeable when you eat these yoghurts regularly.
Finally, always make sure you drink 1.5 litres of water a day.
It’s time to reacquaint yourself with your fitness regime. Exercise encourages digestive transit, and walking or gentle exercise are good ways of getting those muscles moving again, especially in your stomach. Engaging abdominal muscles will massage your digestive system back into action. 30 minutes of fast-paced walking a day is enough to do this (you can break it up into shorter walks).
Modern life is fast-paced, and no doubt you’ll be running around again in no time once the holidays are over. Stress has an instant effect on digestion, and is directly responsible for sluggishness and other digestive problems. This means it’s essential to beat stress. Take it easy over lunch and set a bit of time aside every to relax.
Make sure you get enough sleep and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Getting into good sleeping habits is also important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.