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Gut Week highlights impact of grabbing food on-the-go is having on gut healthCreated by Charlotte in Being You, Health and fitness
The old adage ‘three square meals a day’ might have had its day in favour of a new way of eating, allergy led by a group dubbed The Hunter Grabbers by Gutweek.org.uk. This refers to almost a third (31%) of older people (aged 55+) who don’t in fact eat three square meals per day, and who grab snacks twice during the day and once after dinner, which could lead to problems with their digestion.
Brits’ daily eating habits have been chewed over to uncover the impact of how, where and the speed at which they eat, to launch Gut Week (19th – 25th August), the national digestive health awareness campaign, now in its 15th year. It seems their speedy, stressful and snacking ways could be having a serious impact on their digestive health.
Going, going, gone
The research reveals many older people are fast foodies:
- With 60% eating breakfast in 10 minutes or less
- With 31% wolfing down lunch in 10 minutes or less
- Despite over half (51%) of older people who cook their dinner at home taking between 31 and 60 minutes to prepare dinner, 55% have gulped it down in 20 minutes or less.
The demise of eating meals around a table is more apparent than ever with 30% of older people eating their breakfast in front of the TV, and 43% eating dinner in the same place. This now common practice can be problematic as people tend to eat more than they usually would as they’re concentrating on the TV, not on what they’re eating.
Dr Nick Read, physician, psychotherapist and Medical Adviser to the IBS Network comments: “It’s important to allow enough time for digestion and to eat at set times. Rushing to finish a meal or snacking ‘on the go’ can hinder digestion leading to bloating, abdominal pain and bowel upset. Eating just before going to bed impairs sleep and can lead to emotional tension and indigestion the next day.”
Nutritionist Jane Clarke adds: “I’ve seen an increase in people experiencing digestive complaints, which can be really painful and debilitating. The most common causes are people’s lifestyle; we’re under lots of pressure to juggle work and our personal lives, making it hard to switch off, relax and enjoy our food.”
“Altering your posture while you eat, taking your time plus working out which foods agree with you, will give the body the best chance of being able to digest them. More often than not, changing these habits has an immediate effect and within hours the symptoms can disappear.”
Eat, drink and be… stressed
In the UK, fewer than one in ten (6%) people enjoy a lunch hour away from work, whilst one in three (33%) eat lunch sitting in front of the computer answering emails. A hunched posture can cause acid reflux and heartburn.
“It’s worrying that almost a third of the people in the UK feel stressed and anxious most days” continues Dr Nick Read, “as these feelings can activate the sympathetic nervous system which can increase intestinal sensitivity and cause spasms, bloating and indigestion.”
Top tips for healthy digestion from Dr Nick Read:
- Relax and allow time to eat your meal – if you are rushed or feeling stressed, it can give you indigestion and abdominal spasm.
- Don’t eat fatty meals if you are in a hurry. Fat takes longer to digest than other nutrients and is more likely to induce pain and make you feel sick.
- A glass of wine during a meal helps digestion; half a bottle makes it worse as it can irritate the stomach.
- Avoid vigorous exercise straight after a meal as this can activate the sympathetic nervous system and impair digestion, although going for a gentle stroll can help your meal go down.