Dr Harold Stossier, Medical Director at the Viva Mayr Clinic, an Austrian ‘spa hospital’ popular with the rich and famous, has developed an eating programme aimed at improving digestion and banishing bloating. The programme is based on an eating plan originally created by Dr Franz Mayr over 80 years ago as a spa ‘cure’ for poor digestion. Although it is also designed to produce weight loss, it offers sound dietary advice that some IBS sufferers may find helpful.

The main guidelines are:

– Drink at least two litres of water every day between meals, up to 15 minutes before eating and from one hour afterwards.

– Avoid drinking whilst eating, as it dilutes the enzymes in your saliva that begin the digestive process. Sipping a small glass of wine is ‘allowed’, as it helps to break down fats.

– Coffee and tea should be avoided because they contain caffeine, which can irritate the gut.

– Also avoid fizzy drinks, because they cause wind and bloating.

– Don’t eat when stressed, or whilst you’re on the move.

– Eat foods that are harder to digest, such as raw fruit and vegetables, before 4 p.m., because the digestive system is at its most efficient then.

– Your breakfast and lunch should be your biggest meals and your evening meal the smallest.

– Choose easily digested foods in the evening, such as lightly cooked vegetables and fish, preferably no later than 6 p.m., as this is when the digestive system is beginning to slow down.

– It’s better not to eat at all than to eat in a hurry, as this leads to fermentation in the gut. Chewing your food between 30 and 40 times before swallowing aids nutrient absorption.

– Base your meals on fruit and vegetables, with small amounts of good-quality proteins and fats.

– Don’t overdo animal proteins: pulses, nuts and seeds provide protein in a more easily digested form. White meats such as chicken and turkey are easier to digest than red meats. Goat’s and sheep’s cheeses are more digestible than cheeses made from cow’s milk.

– Cut down on carbohydrates, especially white refined ones. Aim to eat small portions of wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta.

– Two-thirds of your diet should be alkaline foods, i.e. vegetables, potatoes, ripe fruit, nuts and seeds, milk and cream, herbs, spices and cold-pressed oils.

– Acidic foods such as meat, fish, dairy foods, cheese, animal fats, grains, pulses, citrus fruits, refined and processed foods, alcohol, coffee and tea should make up the remaining third of the diet.

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