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Should we be teaching people how to eat, not what to eat?

16 Sep 2014 11:14
We recently took a call from a customer who suffered with diverticulitis, her question was should I be eating a lot of fibre?

The answer given is not meant to be medical advice, if you suspect that you might have diverticulitis then you should consult your GP, who will treat you according to the severity of the disease. What we are trying to do is give you some shared experiences and answers which we know has helped some sufferers. 

The short answer to "should I be eating fibre" is yes. Fibre can and does help with digestion, form proper stools and keep everything moving along nicely in the intestines. However, if you are in the middle of a bout of pain, normally felt down the left hand side of the body, then it might be better and probably is, just to rest the bowels until the soreness has gone. Resting means eating little, or maybe just a liquid alternative for a meal or two and only eating foods that you know don't affect you and drinking plenty of water.

Water is key, ignore your body's needs for water at your peril. Drink a pint in the morning before breakfast, one with your lunch and one when you clean your teeth at night before retiring.  You can still drink tea or coffee during the day as normal but water is paramount for a healthy digestion system.

Food, such as; pasta and wheat or gluten based items, if you are dehydrated can absorb all the spare fluid in your gut and cause constipation, if you suffer with bowel issues these are often best avoided entirely. Swap pasta for wild, brown or white rice (you can mix half and half)  or potatoes, both are kinder on you and don't cause the same amount of bloating. If you don't believe it then cook up a handful of penne pasta, drain and measure the amount of water left. Then pop the cooked pasta back into the water, leave it for 4 hours to soak and measure the water residue again. Imagine if you had not had a drink of water all day, where would that pasta get the extra moisture needed to be digested? Your gut of course, which leaves little or no moisture left for softer stools, bloating and constipation ensues and straining the bowel can cause diverticular disease or at least add to it.

Which brings us back to the original title of this blog, should we teach people how to eat, instead of what to eat? In discussion with our customer, who wished to lose 4 stones in weight, it came to light that because of the nature of her busy work life and general lifestyle that she was lucky to drink just 6 fluid ounces in one day. Not enough...

However, now over fifty years of age, could it have been a different story if she had been taught how to eat?

When our children are growing, how many of us offered them plain water to drink, over cordials or fruit juices? How many gave clear, fresh, cool water as an added drink after a milk feed as a baby, even just an ounce or two? How many of us have a jug of clear, fresh, cool, water on the dinner table each night? How many of us carry a bottle of water with us as we go - to work, for a walk, shopping, or carry one in the car?

We can hear the protests - "I'd be chained to loo, if I drank that much water!" Consider this though, a dehydrated geranium gets a pint of water thrown into the soil and the majority of it runs right out, but once that geranium is saturated, then the water stays in the soil and can be topped up without fear of it running out the bottom immediately. We are a little like that too, re-hydrate the cells and top up frequently and the trips to the loo will slow down naturally.

So maybe "we are what we eat" but we are also what we drink and while food portions need to come back under our control and healthier choices need to be made, so does the unsung hero of our well being - water -  need to be drunk. 

If we could get into the habit of offering water to the first sign of hunger, the first minutes we opened our eyes after sleeping, the first drink we think of when we are thirsty, the last drink before bed. And, offering it at meal times and checking with our young children - by asking or offering them water frequently, then maybe adult diseases like this might be avoided or at least reduced and obesity curbed.