09/27/2011 08:18 EDT | Updated 11/27/2011 05:12 EST

5 Ways to Tame Tummy Trouble

Antacids, heartburn medications and proton pump inhibitors are some of the top selling drugs in North America. It is no coincidence that the Standard American Diet (yes, SAD for short and no different from the Canadian diet) is understood by some to be the worst in the world. Of course you know what you should eat and what you should avoid but what if there were also simple ways to prevent the gut discomfort? Taking these five simple steps could improve your digestion and prevent all the bloating, gas and acid before it begins. You can work on the SAD diet next.

Step 1

Stop swallowing air. Drinking, eating too quickly and talking while you eat forces air into the system which causes belching and gas. Have a nice big glass of water before you begin (a little lemon juice in it will help get the stomach acids ready to work) and maybe one after but none of this sip, sip, sip throughout. Slow down, chew, breath and then talk. Sounds simple, right? It isn't.

Step 2

Add a good, stable probiotic supplement to your day; they are the good bacteria your body uses to break down food. I believe that it is actually these bacteria that do all the digesting and with inadequate amounts, the gut can't work effectively, causing gas and bloating. Supplementing with the good guys gives your guts a fighting chance.

Step 3

Increase your fibre intake; many nutritionists believe you need between 25 and 35 grams of fibre per day. Without it, your system slows down and waste gets all backed up. Try to get your quota from foods like beans, bran, green vegetables and chia. A morning muesli gets you going in more ways than one.

Step 4

I think we should eat every three hours. Leaving the stomach empty for too long can allow acids to build up and overwork. A little nibble of nuts or a piece of fruit is all you need. Think of it like tossing a few scraps to the lions before you enter the pen.

Step 5

Calm down. I think that much of our tummy troubles are actually brain related. In fact, there is a direct link between the stomach and the brain. Between 80 and 95 per cent of your serotonin (the "feel good" brain chemical) is made and stored in the digestive system. When your head gets all hyper, your guts react. A deep breath and a cup of camomile tea goes a long way.

Nothing will replace a good diet full of fresh, whole foods and a peaceful place to calmly eat them. That said, focusing on giving your digestive system the tools it needs to work, goes a long way.