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Nutrition advice for digestive wellbeing

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A holistic, healthy intake of a variety of foods and nutrients affects many aspects of health in the body, including the digestive system.

Listed below are general dietary management tips to be incorporated on a daily basis to better support digestive wellbeing, and promote regularity:

  • When selecting starchy foods, opt for unrefined carbohydrate sources, which also offer a source of fibre. For example, choose a high fibre breakfast cereal, choose brown or whole grain bread over white, opt for whole grain pasta and crackers and leave the skin on potatoes in potato dishes.
     
  • In general, enjoy a varied diet that includes lean protein from both animal and plant sources as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables.  You should aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
     
  • Increase fibre intake gradually, allowing the gut enough time to adapt to the change in the fibre content of the diet. Severe increases in fibre intake over short periods of time can lead to bloating and discomfort. Start with small amounts of high fibre foods and increase intake slowly while monitoring the digestive response.
     
  • Follow a diet generally low in fat. Fatty foods tend to delay digestive transit. Furthermore, fatty fried foods can irritate the gut and may result in discomfort if consumed in excess.
     
  • Avoid over-consumption of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and tobacco which also tend to irritate the gastrointestinal tract and may cause digestive disturbances. Over-consumption of carbonated beverages and frequent gum chewing has also been associated with bloating and discomfort.
     
  • Take time to relax, be seated and enjoy meals slowly as opposed to guzzling food down quickly while standing or walking. It is also important to ensure that food is chewed properly.
     
  • Be aware of appropriate serving sizes for different foods and avoid overeating.

  • Ensure you drink plenty of water together with your increased fibre intake. As a general guideline, adult men need about 13 cups of fluid from drinking water and beverages per day, and women need about 9 cups.


For further information, please contact the Pick n Pay Health Hotline registered dietitian on 0800 11 22 88 or e-mail her on healthhotline@pnp.co.za. For details of a registered dietitian in your area, go to the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) website at www.adsa.org.za.

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