Beating The Bloat

27th August 2010

Mary Linehan lifts the lid on one of society's more private problems.

According to Symprove, the probiotic dietary supplement, a third of Brits live with some form of ‘tummy trouble’ such as bloating and constipation…

…and unsurprisingly, many of us tend to be too embarrassed to do anything about it.

Rick Hay, Nutrition Expert for holistic well-being brand Fushi, says, “The cause is what and how we eat. Overloading on a food group that’s not right for your body, too many sugars that feed bad bacteria, and even medication such as the pill all contribute. As does stress. Eating when you’re anxious tightens the gut wall.”

The digestive tract is home to trillions of bacteria – living micro-organisms. Sounds rotten? The truth is, though, that not all bacteria are bad. Many bacteria in the gut – ‘friendly flora’, as they are known – play an essential metabolic role in good health. As well as protecting bowel function and helping balance out the ‘bad’ bacteria that can lead to illness, good bacteria are involved, too, in vitamin production, in aiding the breakdown of carbohydrates and in helping support our immune system.

Rick Hay explains that IBS, bloating, indigestion, constipation, and heartburn aren’t an exhaustive list of problems, but also have side effects such as headaches and lethargy. “A lack of functioning good bacteria can allow an overgrowth of bad intestinal flora such as candida, with symptoms that extend to depression and anxiety.”

Pharmabiotics is the generic term that refers to the study of gut flora and includes both probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are a dietary fibre that as a non-digestible food, stimulate the growth and activity of good bacteria. Probiotics are actually the ‘good flora’. Importantly, there are many different strains of probiotics: some live, others activated within the digestive tract. The various ways in which they are introduced to our system – eg in foods, drinks or freeze-dried supplement form – affects how they are taken up by the body.

Penny, aged 25, had been suffering for seven years. “My problems began when I was a student. I tried to self-manage until my symptoms took over my life. Everything I did needed such meticulous planning I felt I had no life. I’m an active person by nature and like to be doing things, going places – I had to mentally map out where the loos were, wherever I was going.”

Penny tried everything – from over-the-counter medication to eliminating food groups from her diet – but her symptoms continued, and as her general health was beginning to deteriorate she sought medical intervention. It’s always wise to do this if only to rule out more serious conditions; around 1.7 million people in the UK have symptoms associated with chronic digestive problems such as Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative Colitis, for example.

Her doctor confirmed she had IBS, but the drug she was prescribed failed to improve her condition. “Using medication was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, anyway” she explains, “but I was desperate to beat it.”

Penny continued to look for a natural alternative. There are plenty of these on the market, and naturally, just as tummy troubles vary from person to person so do solutions. It may be trial and error.

For Penny the answer was Symprove, a probiotic dietary supplement, based on barley, that contains four live cultures of naturally occurring probiotic bacteria. In drink form, its patented process delivers live cultures more efficiently at their most active and a normal serving provides over 10 billion live bacteria. “While it has an unusual flavour,” Penny says, “it only takes a second or two to swallow… and it works for me.”

Other oral options include Fushi Wellbeing Total Body Probiotic Complex (a blend of five strains of beneficial gut bacteria essential for vitamin production), and Food Science Mega Probiotic ND: eight species of micro organism providing proper digestive tract health and function.

It’s also helpful to try to have a healthy diet and a stress-free existence. If that makes you laugh hysterically, then a nutritionist or complementary therapist could assist in a whole life overhaul…

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