How To Fix Your Chronic Stomach Issues
Use these helpful tools to figure out what’s really causing all that cramping, bloating and gas — and get rid of it for good.
What you eat affects your digestion big time, but so do a lot of other factors.
Whether it’s constipation, diarrhea, gas or the dreaded bloat, everyone deals with digestive discomfort at one point or another. Occasional digestive symptoms usually aren’t an issue — maybe you just ate too much in one sitting or you’ve got a virus that will pass — but chronic digestive issues can indicate an underlying issue.
The thing is, it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on. From food sensitivities to inflammatory diseases, any number of things could be contributing to your symptoms. You should contact a doctor if you have severe or persistent symptoms, but by knowing the basics of digestion and using the right tool, you could get to the bottom of your digestive discomfort and restore health to your gut.
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Important Note: The Low Fodmap Diet Isnt For Everyone
Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, only people diagnosed with IBS should follow a low FODMAP diet. If you suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms, be sure to consult your health care provider and dont self-diagnose and treat your condition.
A lot of people think theyve tried a low FODMAP diet by cutting out only certain food groups, but this isnt a true FODMAP dietits just avoiding foods similar to if you were lactose intolerant, Oikarinen said. FODMAP is cutting every high FODMAP food. If you dont need to go this extreme, you probably dont need this diet.
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Keep Your Belly Happy
A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help keep your digestive system healthy and your immune system strong and ready to fight off bugs that might upset your stomach. And watch for triggers â anything from foods that have acid like tomatoes, to fizzy drinks, to stress at work.
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Fluids Partner With Fiber To Help With Flow
Fluids play an essential role in partnership with fiber to get solids through your system. In fact, one of the easiest digestive tips to follow is to stay hydrated throughout the day. Water is a great choice to speed digestion, but almost any fluid will do. Be careful with caffeinated beverages and sodas if you have reflux they can be triggers for heartburn, and caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing fluid loss.
Gastroenterologists View Of Dietary Options
Ultimately, food is a form of medicine, and following a gastroenterologists dietary recommendations can help to seriously improve and maintain your health. A specialized diet may reduce the need for many medications and give you the chance to take charge of your gastrointestinal health.
If you’re concerned about the health of your gut, or would like to discuss how your diet may be affecting your digestive health with a gastroenterologist in the Dallas/Plano TX area, please fill out our appointment form or call us at 972-867-0019.
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Why Specific Foods And Diet Are Recommended For Gastritis
Foods that soothe gastritis, such as broccoli sprouts and yogurt, are recommended because they are known to balance out the acidity in the stomach and cool the internal system. Proper nutrition for gastritis issues is critical in treatment and healing.Peptic ulcers often accompany gastritis, and the act of eating is what most often triggers the pain associated with these two gut issues.
Because of this, doctors often start treatment with a simple elimination diet to remove offending foods that are generally known to cause gastritis symptoms in most people. A diet for gastritis sufferers is sometimes the only course of treatment required to get the problem under control. Food can truly be medicine in this case.
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When To See Your Doctor For Stomach Pain
Stomach pain comes in various forms and might range from intermittent pain to dull abdominal aching, stabbing pains that remain constant.
Alarming signs that suggest a more serious condition include:
- Chronic or severe abdominal pain that makes it difficult to do normal activities
- Evidence of gastrointestinal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
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Clear Liquids With Electrolytes Can Prevent Dehydration
When an upset stomach is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, its easy to become dehydrated.
Vomiting and diarrhea cause your body to lose electrolytes, the minerals that maintain your bodys fluid balance and keep your nervous system functioning correctly.
Mild dehydration and electrolyte losses can usually be restored by drinking clear liquids and eating foods that naturally contain electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
Water, fruit juice, coconut water, sports drinks, broths and saltine crackers are great ways to restore fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances associated with mild dehydration .
If dehydration is severe, drinking a rehydration solution containing an ideal ratio of water, sugars and electrolytes may be necessary (
Pectin Supplements Can Prevent Diarrhea And Dysbiosis
When a stomach bug or foodborne illness causes diarrhea, pectin supplements can help speed up recovery.
Pectin is a type of plant fiber found in high quantities in apples and citrus fruits. Its often isolated from these fruits and sold as its own food product or supplement .
Pectin is not digested by humans, so it stays within the intestinal tract where its very effective at firming stools and preventing diarrhea .
In fact, one study found that 82% of sick children taking daily pectin supplements recovered from their diarrhea within 4 days, compared to only 23% of children not taking pectin supplements .
Pectin also relieves stomach upset by promoting the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Sometimes, people develop uncomfortable symptoms of gas, bloating or abdominal pain due to an imbalance of bacteria in their intestines.
This can happen for a variety of reasons, but is especially common after gut infections, after taking antibiotics or during periods of high stress (
While pectin supplements are effective at relieving diarrhea and promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria, its unknown whether natural foods rich in pectin would have the same benefits. More research is needed.
Summary Pectin, a type of plant fiber found in apples and citrus fruits, may help shorten the duration of diarrhea and promote healthy gut bacteria when taken as a supplement.
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Foods That May Cause Heartburn
Foods commonly known to be heartburn triggers cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and delay the digestive process, letting food sit in the stomach longer, says Gupta. The worst culprits? Foods that are high in fat, salt or spice such as:
- Fried food
- Carbonated beverages
“Moderation is key since many people may not be able to or want to completely eliminate these foods,” says Gupta. “But try to avoid eating problem foods late in the evening closer to bedtime, so they’re not sitting in your stomach and then coming up your esophagus when you lay down at night. It’s also a good idea to eat small frequent meals instead of bigger, heavier meals and avoid late-night dinners and bedtime snacks.”
Go Easy On Spice To Avoid Tummy Troubles
Many people love spicy food and it does not bother their digestive system. Others find their tummy is upset when they have spicy food.
It’s not just scorching hot foods like chillies that trigger heartburn. Milder but flavourful foods like garlic and onion can also bring it on.
If spicy foods give you heartburn, stomach pain or diarrhoea, go easy on them in future.
If you already have a problem like heartburn or an irritable bowel, avoid them completely.
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How Does The Low Fodmap Diet Work
The best way to prevent bloating, gas, diarrhea and all other tummy issues is to avoid the very foods that are likely to ferment during digestion. This is where eating foods low in FODMAPs can help.
The easiest way to describe the FODMAP diet is eat this, and not that, Oikarinen said. The FODMAP diet isnt a forever diet, but it helps you identify which foods to avoid or limit depending on how your body responds.
Research has shown 75% of people with IBS who have tried the FODMAP diet experienced fewer and/or the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms. This means no more pain or cramping after eating, no more worries about rushing to the restroom or the discomfort of not being able to go, Oikarinen said.
The FODMAP diet should be done under the care and direction of a health care provider and/or a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you navigate the different types of foods to eliminate but also help you gradually add foods back in over time while monitoring symptoms.
The low FODMAP diet is broken down into three phases:
Basic Dietary Steps To Support Gut Health
Habits such as skipping meals, eating lots of processed foods, and gobbling your meals quickly can contribute to digestive distress.
You may not even need a special diet if you just follow these tips:
- Limit processed foods, especially white breads and refined sugar
- Focus on high-fiber foods that contain a variety of insoluble and soluble fiber
- Reduce your intake of saturated fat by choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy
- Incorporate probiotics
- Dont skip meals
- Limit your alcohol intake
Regular physical activity helps keep your GI tract moving so digestion and bowel movements go smoothly. Drink plenty of water to facilitate digestion too.
If you smoke or chew tobacco, kick the habit for the sake of not only your digestion, but your overall health.
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Bland Carbohydrates May Be More Easily Tolerated
Bland carbohydrates like rice, oatmeal, crackers and toast are often recommended for people suffering from upset stomachs.
While this recommendation is common, there is little evidence to show that they actually help relieve symptoms.
However, many people report that these foods are easier to keep down when youre not feeling well .
While bland carbohydrates may be more palatable during an illness, its important to expand your diet again as soon as possible. Restricting your diet too much may keep you from getting enough of the vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to heal .
Many people with an upset stomach find bland carbohydrates easier to tolerate than other foods, but there is little evidence to show that they actually relieve symptoms.
The 12 Best Foods For An Upset Stomach
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Almost everyone gets an upset stomach from time to time.
Common symptoms include nausea, indigestion, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
There are many potential reasons for an upset stomach and treatments vary depending on the underlying cause.
Thankfully, a variety of foods can settle an upset stomach and help you feel better, faster.
Here are the 12 best foods for an upset stomach.
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Five Steps To Improve Your Digestion
Aging may spur digestive issues, but Dr. Rizk suggests five steps you can take to counteract those challenges.
1. Maintain a healthy diet.
- Add fiber to meals by including raw vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- Reduce salt consumption.
- Avoid white foods such as bread, rice and potatoes.
- Drink water or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day so your urine is almost clear.
- Eat a variety of protein like beans, fish and lean meat.
2.Avoid foods that trigger heartburn or reflux. For some, dairy causes the worst stomach problems. For others, it could be gluten. Since its different for everyone, try an elimination diet if you are uncertain about which foods cause issues for you. Talk to your doctor about getting tested for food allergies and food sensitivities to help find the culprit.
3. Consider a probiotic. Probiotic supplements, which contain helpful good bacteria, sometimes can aid people with chronic constipation. However, dont take them for diarrhea unless it is after specific types of infections. Probiotics also come in the forms of certain yogurts , live sauerkraut, kombucha and tempeh.
4. Check your medications. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can cause digestive problems. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects and ask for a substitute if a medicine is causing nausea, diarrhea, constipation or other concerns.
Sports Drinks And Noncaffeinated Sodas
Vomiting and diarrhea with upset stomach can cause dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are the best way to prevent dehydration. If you’re having trouble keeping liquids down, try sucking on ice chips and taking small sips of water. You can also drink noncaffeinated sodas, such as Sprite, 7UP or ginger ale.
Take care to avoid caffeinated sodas, since caffeine can make your upset stomach worse. The carbonation from sodas inflates the stomach while increasing its internal pressure. Combining higher pressure and caffeine’s effects makes acid reflux more likely.
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Foods To Eat When You Have Gastroenteritis
During gastroenteritis, it is important to eat as normally as possible. In fact, eating helps the lining of the intestine to heal quickly and allows the body to regain strength. On the contrary, not eating prolongs diarrhea.
Start by eating small amounts of food. Then, gradually increase quantities depending on your appetite and the improvement of your condition.
Make sure you rehydrate well by drinking water or a rehydration solution preferably, especially if you cannot eat. If your child is breast or bottle-fed, he or she can continue drinking his or her regular milk, without diluting it. Offer it more often, in small quantities. To find out more about rehydration, read the page Hydrating and rehydrating when you have gastroenteritis.
Which Diet Is Best For Your Digestive Health
When you hear the word diet, you may think mostly of your waistline after the holidays, or of the latest fad diet thats doing the rounds on Facebook and all the glossy magazines. But have you ever considered dieting to improve the health of your gut?
Thats right there are diets designed to counteract uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Embarrassing wind
Yes, the food you eat can make a huge difference to the way you feel! Think of your food as a form of medicine that can help heal your gut.
The best diet for gut health, depending on your needs, can be the Mediterranean diet, the paleo diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, the elimination diet, or the low-FODMAP diet. But which is the best fit for you?
Food choices are becoming more prevalent in the conversations I am having with my patients relative to how to improve their health. As a digestive health specialist in Plano, TX, I wanted to share some insight into these different dietary options. My hope is to get people thinking about food as an integral part of their health.
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What Causes Digestive Issues
Most of the time, no one thing triggers gastrointestinal problems, and often, GI symptoms aren’t spontaneous. Many people develop digestive issues slowly, when a combination of factors worsens over time. Any of these seven elements could be affecting your digestion:
Diet: Obviously, what you eat impacts your entire GI tract. If you’re allergic to or sensitive to certain foods, your body may revolt in the form of upset digestion.
Hydration: Nothing works well when you’re dehydrated. Water acts as a lubricant for all organ systems and helps your body maintain homeostasis.
Sleep: Lack of sleep affects every part of your body, including your digestive system — and all the hormones that dictate its functions. Studies show that short sleep duration alters the levels of important digestive hormones and that poor sleep harms the healthy bacteria in your microbiome.
Stress: You may not intuitively equate stress with an upset stomach, but research tells us that millions of neurons in your gut communicate with the billions of neurons in your brain along something called the gut-brain axis. When you’re stressed, you also produce excess cortisol, which can trigger a handful of digestive reactions.
Microbiome dysfunction: Your gut contains two kinds of bacteria: friendly and unfriendly. If the bad bugs outweigh the good ones, your risk for all kinds of digestive issues increases.
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Components Of The Brat Diet
Past medical practice advocated a low-fiber, easily digestible diet for people who were recovering from an acute stomach illness involving vomiting and/or diarrhea. An acronym was coined as a simple way for people to remember a set of bland foods that you might best tolerate when ill:
The BRAT diet has also been extended to the BRATTY diet with the addition of the following:
- BRATT: Add decaffeinated tea
- BRATTY: Add yogurt
Eating the foods that are part of the BRAT diet is believed to relieve stomach issues because the foods:
- Are gentle on the stomach. The foods included are low in both fat and protein, which means they are less likely to irritate the stomach and put stress on the digestive system.
- Produce firmer stools. The diet includes low-starch and low-fiber foods, which discourages loose and runny stools.
- Reduce nausea and vomiting. Because the foods in the diet are bland and dont have strong smells, the diet reduces nausea and vomiting. Moreover, it offers symptom relief.
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