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Your good gut guide

Your gut can be the source of numerous embarrassing and uncomfortable conditions and symptoms. But there is natural help available

Acid reflux

"People sometimes use the term acid reflux and sometimes heartburn, but actually heartburn is the burning internal sensation people experience as a result of acid reflux," says Sian Eustace of health store Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. "Acid reflux occurs because the sphincter at the bottom of the oesophagus does not close properly and stomach contents such as stomach acid can flow back up into the oesophagus. It is important to improve digestion as a whole when dealing with acid reflux. This can involve simple changes such as making sure to chew food really well, eating more slowly and mindfully or using digestive aids such as bitters or digestive enzymes. It can be really helpful to eat well before bedtime as reflux can be exacerbated by lying down or reclining soon after eating. Where there is damage to the oesophagus through prolonged reflux, herbs such as centaury, slippery elm or aloe vera can help to soothe and heal the mucous membrane."


When food is not broken down it can build up gas in your digestive system and make you feel bloated around your abdomen. Foods like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts cause excess wind which can lead to bloating. Eating too quickly and drinking fizzy drinks can also be culprits. Aim to eat a balanced diet, limit your sugar intake and try activated charcoal which helps absorb excess wind in the gut. Digestive enzymes can also help break down foods that may be triggering your bloating, and the probiotic l-plantarum can help.


"One key recommendation for dealing with constipation is to make sure that you're drinking enough water," says Sian Eustace. "It is such an important change to make, and if you're adding fibre to your diet, such as psyllium, you'll need to drink even more! Dried fruits such as prunes, dates and figs can be very useful additions to the diet and products containing senna can help in the short term as they create a peristaltic movement in the bowel. They shouldn't be relied upon longer term as the bowel can become dependent upon them. A simple change you can make is to put a step beneath your feet when sitting on the toilet. Raising the knees above the waist can help with the physical action of passing a stool."

Other tips for relieving constipation include taking probiotics as sometimes a lack of beneficial flora can cause problems. Take a magnesium supplement as this can help relax the intestinal muscles, making passing stools easier.


"Flatulence can be an embarrassing complaint, but there are several options to help with it," says Sian Eustace. "If you eat lots of beans and other pulses, you may find that this leads to significant flatulence. Making sure to cook and to chew the foods very well will help to reduce this side effect, and you can further increase digestibility by adding a strip of kombu sea vegetable into the pan with the pulses as they cook. Digestive teas such as fennel, caraway or aniseed can be helpful for reducing gas and bloating."


"Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition which affects the gut, causing gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea," says Sian Eustace. "It can be very debilitating as symptoms can come on very suddenly and be severe. There are certain probiotics developed to support people with IBS and support the gut biome. Peppermint oil can, for some people, soothe the gut and help reduce uncomfortable spasms in the bowel. Psyllium husk can be useful as a gentle fibre, particularly where there is constipation, but it can also help with diarrhoea as it can help bind too.

"If you suffer from IBS looking at your diet is very important. Consider keeping a food diary to determine which foods trigger symptoms and can be avoided. Many people have good results using the FODMAP diet though it can be tricky to adjust at first.

"In terms of lifestyle, IBS symptoms are often greatly exacerbated by stress, so using tools such as mindfulness, yoga, t'ai chi or other gentle exercise can be very helpful."

Other tips include taking slippery elm as it has calming and soothing properties helping to calm inflammation. Including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir can help build up the good bacteria in your gut. Increase your intake of fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt or sauerkraut and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger or rosemary. And it's a good idea to eliminate processed, oily and sugary food.

Leaky gut

"Leaky gut can occur as a part of certain conditions such as Crohn's disease or coeliac disease," says Sian Eustace. "It means that some particles from food in the process of being digested, can pass through the gut lining into the bloodstream.

"The most important thing to do is to look at your diet. People with coeliac disease should remove all gluten from their diet. For non-coeliacs it's important to remove all foods which cause symptoms to flare, and to bring in a wholefood diet without refined carbohydrates or other processed foods. Consider the importance of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir etc alongside probiotic supplements. One product which can be really helpful in this condition is l-glutamine which can be found in powder or capsules."

Other tips include taking omega-3 fatty acids as they can help reduce inflammation in the body which can be a cause of leaky gut. Aloe vera juice is soothing and protecting and helps your body replace lost mucous.

Health store help

Good supplements for digestion include:

  • Aloe vera – soothing and healing to the digestive tract.
  • Centaurium tincture or camomile tea after meals – for acid reflux and low stomach acid.
  • Chlorella – great source of protein, can increase the number of good bacteria in the gut.
  • Digestive enzymes – try one with herbs such as slippery elm, papaya and chamomile and aloe vera juice, before meals to prevent gas and bloating.
  • Glutamine powder – healing for the digestive tract.
  • Herbal teas – chamomile, valerian or peppermint teas have antispasmodic properties. Ginger, fennel teas relieve gas and bloating.
  • Magnesium – from dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, certain fish, avocados and bananas. Can help to relax the muscles in the intestine.

Probiotics and digestive enzymes to facilitate the digestive process.

  • Slippery elm – good for heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Vitamin C – has a healing and cleansing effect in the gut so is good for constipation.

Check with your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or change your diet.

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