Quiz time! What is your gut telling you?

The digestive system is the centre of our mental and physical health – it absorbs the nutrients we need for our immune system, brain function and energy production. So how is yours doing?
Quiz time! What is your gut telling you?
July 10, 2017   |    Shona Wilkinson


For each statement, answer: A – B – C -D

How would you best describe your eating habits?
A… Slow and sluggish – you take longer than most to finish a meal.
B… Rushed – blink and you’ll miss it.
C… Grazer – I’m a frequent picker, with a tendency towards sweet sugary foods.
D… Regular – I eat nutritional meals at the same time most days.

Poo – what is your type?
A… Constipated – infrequent, hard lumps that are often difficult to pass.
B… Loose – mushy, often with undigested food and passes with a lot of gas.
C… Alternating – changes, like the wind.
D… Sausage-shaped – smooth, well formed and easy to pass.

How do you usually feel after a meal?
A… Uncomfortable – I frequently experience indigestion and bloating.
B…Acidic – I often have reflux and heartburn, which is worse when stressed.
C… Crave sweets – I can’t finish a meal without something sweet.
D… Comfortable – I feel relaxed and appropriately full.

Now look at your tongue – is it:
A… Light pink – pale in colour and slightly swollen?
B… Like a road map – multiple cracks, often with bad breath.
C… White – white coating, which is worse first thing in the morning.
D… As expected – warm pink colour, no lines or coating, even surface.

Wind – the great social inconvenience. Are you:
A… Stormy – very gassy but not particularly smelly. Loud and proud!
B… Pretty average – medium level of gas, a bit smelly but not excessively bad.
C… Depends on what I’ve eaten – worse after sweet or sugary foods.
D… Like roses – not excessive and certainly not smelly.

What about previous medications and substances?
A… A few antibiotics – no more than five courses in my life.
B… I rattle – I take a lot of pharmaceuticals and medication.
C… Frequent antibiotics – more than 10 courses in my life.
D… I’m quite healthy – nothing major, but I do take some natural supplements.

How regular are you and how long does a number 2 take?
A… Infrequent – a few times each week. I have time to read a book on the loo.
B… Most days with urgency – when I need to go, I need to go!
C… There is no rhyme or reason – it’s anyone’s guess how many times I will go today. Sometimes it takes ages, but other times it’s an emergency. I often don’t feel empty.
D… Two or three times daily – like clockwork after each meal and I’m left feeling comfortable.

Read more: Find out if you listen to your body with our health quiz 

Simply count up which letter you’ve chosen the most and see what it says about you over the page. If your results are mixed, it may indicate you have more than one digestive disorder.


You scored…

You may wish to think about taking a digestive enzyme. Low levels of enzymes can cause indigestion, sluggish bowel movements and general discomfort after eating.

Enzyme production can be low for a number of reasons – mild bloating 30 minutes to an hour after eating indicates a problem with enzyme production specifically in the small intestines.

Ensure you are consuming enough B vitamins and calcium, as these are needed for enzyme production. Low levels can lead to constipation, which will play havoc with your gut, as well as your confidence.

Constipation means that faecal matter is sitting in your intestines long enough for toxins to be reabsorbed, which puts stress on your liver, as it has to do its job of detoxifying twice. It can also be painful. Ease this by consuming between seven and nine portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and opting for whole grains.

You probably need to allow yourself more time to eat. Life can be busy, so we often find ourselves eating on the go, such as while driving or working. However, each mouthful should be chewed 30 times before swallowing, and food should have become liquid enough that you could drink it.

Food that is not broken down properly can get pushed through our digestive system too quickly. Thinking about food for 15 minutes before starting a meal will help your body to produce enough hydrochloric acid, which is essential in digestion.

Try chewing on a few fennel seeds before and after each meal, as this stimulates the gastric juices to flow. Meals should also be at regular times each day. Skipping meals can lead to bad food choices and overeating at the next mealtime. Eating at the same time allows your body to prepare itself for digestion.

Having a sweet tooth, a white coating on your tongue or alternating bowel movements can indicate the need for some extra friendly bacteria. A probiotic may be the best choice for you. Medications such as antibiotics can also decrease the friendly bacteria in your gut, leaving you more susceptible to yeast infections.

Support your gut bacteria by consuming enough fibre, avoiding sugary foods and de-stressing. Getting enough fibre is essential as it provides a food source for the beneficial bacteria, as well as aiding bowel movements needed for the elimination of toxins.

If you don’t see any improvement after a month or so, it may be worth speaking to a nutritionist about a stool test to see what is going on.

You seem to have your gut function sorted. Stay on top of it with a healthy balanced diet that contains enough fibre and vegetables. Just because you have a current lack of, or very few, symptoms doesn’t mean that you’re invincible. A probiotic is always a good supplement for gut maintenance and acts much like a digestive health insurance policy.

When travelling, be sure to take extra precautions. A probiotic designed especially for travelling is a great idea, combined with some vitamin C to help prevent any gut infections from taking hold.


Good gut health starts with chewing. We need to chew our food slowly and properly to break it down and stimulate stomach acid production. Our saliva starts to attack the carbohydrates, while chewing allows food to be penetrated with stomach acid once it reaches the intestines.

Think about your food as you eat it – try practising ‘mindful’ eating, which means really concentrating on what you eat – this will not only help you to enjoy it more, but is an opportunity to breathe out the stress of the day.

Stomach acid must be the right pH and in the right quantities to break food down and destroy unwanted pathogens. Stomach acid also helps to protect us against the H. pylori bacteria, which can cause ulcers in the stomach lining. If you have too little stomach acid, or indigestion, you may need to get your thyroid checked, as low levels of certain hormones can contribute to this problem.

Be careful to avoid foods you are intolerant to, because they irritate the gut and decrease the ability of bacteria to adhere to the gut wall. A food intolerance test is useful if you suspect you are eating foods that do not agree with you.

Irritation in the gut can cause the lining to become less integral and lead to tiny food particles entering the blood stream, where they can trigger an allergic reaction.

The best way to keep your gut in check is to consume plenty of fruit and vegetables as they provide much-needed fibre. Omega 3 fats from oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, a probiotic supplement and/or fermented foods are also recommended to support the good bacteria by making the gut a more favourable place.


3 gut health tips from Dr Sara Celik of renew life

1. Probiotics for a Healthy Microbiome
Stress, medications and a diet high in sugar can disrupt the gut microbiome. To increase ‘friendly’ bacteria in the intestines, consider a daily high-potency probiotic supplement. Choose one that has an enteric coating to ensure the beneficial bacteria make it to the intestines. By populating the intestines with ‘good’ gut bacteria, food intolerances, bowel movements, gas and bloating may improve.

2. Digestive Enzymes for Proper digestion
Enzymes are necessary for optimal digestion and are naturally found in a variety of foods. With the average diet being enzyme-deficient, foods are not properly broken down. When foods are only partially digested, a person may experience gas, bloating and constipation. A digestive enzyme supplement can reduce these symptoms. Opt for a multi-enzyme formula.

3. Fibre for Optimal Digestion
Although there are plenty of tasty ways to increase dietary fibre – legumes, quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds, apples, avocados and berries – most people are not getting enough. The average person needs between 30 and 40 grams of fibre a day, but most only get 10 to 15 grams. Add a powdered fibre supplement to your morning smoothie or cold-pressed fruit juice.and/or fermented foods are also recommended to support the good bacteria by making the gut a more favourable place.

Sugars and refined carbohydrates should be kept to a minimum, as they weaken our resistance to detrimental bacteria and parasites leading to a host of gut problems.


Tummy talk… Balance asked Londoners about their digestive health

James Vaughan, 27, PR intern, says: ‘Breakfast, lunch and dinner – that’s it for me, with nothing in between. I am strict with my diet as I’m allergic to dairy – it isn’t lactose intolerance, though. If I eat dairy, my face goes red. So, if I want a pizza, I take antihistamines before so I can still have it. I eat fruit and veg, but I am guilty of eating a lot of carbs in the evening.’

Jenny McDonald, 26, copywriter, says: ‘I eat regular meals and snack if I’m hungry. I tend to avoid cabbage because it gives me wind. I used to take supplements, but it became too confusing. I eat lots of veg, bananas and fruit roll-ups, which are great. I get a nervous tummy and cramps, but a hot water bottle helps to ease that.’

Jean-Louis Nancy, 62, operations manager, says: ‘After I get to work, I have a late breakfast, then I eat the rest of my food later in the day. I am vegetarian and I don’t have any intolerances, but I’m careful with milk as my stomach doesn’t tolerate it well. I take supplements and eat plenty of fibre.’

Theo Berkley, 26, account manager, says: ‘Luckily, I can eat everything, and I eat fruit every day. I don’t have any digestive problems and nothing affects my stomach. I should eat a little more fish and veg, but that’s it. Stress can hurt my back, but my tummy feels all right.’

Daniela Koltramata, 28, marketing manager, says: ‘My tummy is quite robust generally. I eat very regularly and I consume as much fruit and fibre as I can. However, stress is the thing that affects my stomach the most. I get tummy aches and then I don’t want to eat.’

Emily Marshall, 21, theatre director, says: ‘I don’t eat at regular times – it depends on my day and they are very varied. But I always start with a smoothie. I try to eat two more meals, but am often out at dinner time. I am a vegetarian, too, and stick to vegan food where I can, but it’s difficult when I’m out. My stomach is sensitive to dairy, nerves and stress.’

Jessica Dunley, 28, producer, says: ‘My lifestyle is very busy, so I eat rubbish on the go. I am a snacker. I have hyperthyroidism, which means my digestion isn’t great. My condition also means my energy levels are low. I take medication to boost my energy levels, but it also makes me less hungry. I’m supposed to watch what I eat, but I’m too busy. I do take probiotics, though, which really help.’

Fred Leitz, 28, musician, says: ‘I stick to certain mealtimes as much as I can. I have a robust stomach, I would say. I could eat less red meat and dairy, but generally I eat healthily. Spicy foods can have a negative effect though, as can being on holiday.

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