The way we eat, sleep, work and socialise can all be organised to give the gut the respect it deserves.
Eat slowly: Chewing releases enzymes which kick-start digestion. It also gets food to the stomach in manageable, well-chewed slivers. Bolted-down food can take down lots of air with it, leading to uncomfortable wind.
Eat regularly and moderately: The first meal of the day wakes up the gut and stimulates a bowel movement, so keep regular by having breakfast at the same time every day.
Get to bed: Lack of sleep can disrupt bowel function, appetite and mental function. Insomnia sufferers should rule out late-night fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine.
No smoking: Smoking not only affects the lungs but also the gut. Cigarettes increase the likelihood of heartburn, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease and cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach and pancreas. It can also diminish the sense of taste.
Only take antibiotics when they’re really necessary: They can disturb the delicate balance of the gut flora and cause digestive disturbances, so don’t nag your doctor for them.
Relax: Eating while stressed can cause indigestion in the short term as well as aggravating existing gut complaints such as IBS.