No one wants to talk about it. Some people even think it is normal. For them, anyway.
I’m talking about digestive ailments—gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation.
Sometimes it’s severe. Sometimes it’s just annoying and unpleasant. But putting up with these frustrating conditions does not have to be the norm.
We must start with first defining “normal” digestion.
Normal bowel movement frequency can range from three per week to three per day, of formed stool without straining. This will depend on age, activity and diet. Also, passing gas is normal—from 1/2 to 1 1/2 liters per day—but nothing painful and excessive with bloating.
Here are some tips to help keep things going smoothly:
Find your fiber
First and foremost, make sure you have a good balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds. Many Americans only get about 50 percent of the recommended amount of fiber in their diet. Eating a low-fiber diet and high-fat, greasy foods is a surefire way to leave your stomach complaining. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Drink enough water
Dehydration can lead to poor digestion and constipation. Women should aim to get 9 cups of fluid. Men should get 12 cups. And yes, water is best.
Get in some probiotics
Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in your gut, are a hot topic in nutrition right now. They clearly have shown benefit in healthy digestion and staying regular. Look for natural sources such as kefir, yogurts with live and active cultures, homemade or unpasteurized sauerkraut, fermented veggies (kimchi), or miso. Probiotic supplements can also help with digestion if you aren’t able to get enough variety through diet.
Manage your stress
Our gut and brain are very closely connected. Ever have butterflies in your stomach when nervous? Stress and anxiety can cause many of these symptoms with or without a good diet. Side note: Those good probiotic gut bugs can also produce neurochemicals that help decrease stress and depression.
Take out FODMAPs
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are essentially certain fibers and sugars that are more likely to ferment in the gut and cause unpleasant side effects such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. These include things like lactose in dairy, fructose in sweeteners and some fruits, fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and beans, and polyols in mushrooms and sugar-free foods.
FODMAP is frequently used for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. If you have followed the basics of healthy eating and still haven’t seen improvement, it may be helpful to avoid these foods. Seek help from a trained registered dietitian in this area to get started.
Talk with a registered dietitian
Implementing changes can be hard, especially if it comes to taking out multiple foods like FODMAPs. Talk to your doctor about a referral to see a registered dietitian for further help in managing these issues. Your tummy will thank you.
As always, talk with your doctor to ensure there are no other causes to ailments such as allergies, celiac disease, Crohn’s/colitis, medication side effects or others.