Six Tips to Prevent Digestive Problems

Prevent gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, pain

A woman grabs her stomach, experiencing digestive problems.

Prevent gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, pain

It happens to everyone from time to time after eating too much or eating something that doesn’t agree with you. Your digestive system really feels it – and it’s not good.

Symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas or heartburn. The tough part about stomach and digestive issues is that it can make it hard to sleep, work or get through the day.

“Digestive issues can be uncomfortable or embarrassing,” says Kaylan Graham, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley. “People usually don’t want to talk about them, even with their doctor. But these issues are often not serious and can even be prevented.”

Digestive issues usually go away after a while but for some people they may be recurring symptoms that need medical attention. Contact your primary care physician if you have digestive issues that won’t go away.

Six tips to prevent digestive issues

Many digestive issues can be eliminated with some simple lifestyle changes. Try these six tips to help your digestive system stay on track.

1. Eat small, frequent meals

Prevent indigestion, bloating and heartburn by changing how often you eat without increasing your overall calorie intake.

Instead of three meals a day, enjoy four to five smaller meals and eat them slowly. Taking time to chew food properly makes you feel full, which can help prevent overeating that can cause gas, bloating, heartburn and indigestion.

2. Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol

Water helps your body flush waste and toxins, and helps your colon eliminate waste, which prevents constipation.

The amount of water you need every day may depend on numerous factors, such as activity level, geographic location and temperature. If you have questions about how much water you need per day, check with your doctor.

“Make sure you also limit your alcohol consumption,” notes Dr. Graham. “Alcohol interferes with acid secretion and nutrient absorption. Too much alcohol can contribute to heartburn, diarrhea and liver issues.

3. Exercise regularly

Daily physical activity can help your body’s digestive system move things along and eliminate waste. Try walking, cycling, swimming, using an elliptical trainer or hiking.

4. Maintain a healthy body weight

Extra pounds, especially around the midsection, can make digestive issues, such as heartburn, gas and burping, worse.

If you need to lose weight, you don’t need to rush it. Make easy, small changes for healthy weight loss.

5. Eat a balanced diet

“Stay away from fried, greasy foods that are hard to digest,” notes Dr. Graham. “Instead, fill your plate with fiber-rich foods, like cherries, grapes, bell peppers, beans, whole grains and nuts.”

Add fish to your list of healthy foods as well. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can improve digestive issues by stabilizing cell walls to reduce inflammation. Federal food and environmental agencies have declared that eating fish is part of a healthy eating pattern.

Probiotic-containing foods also help with digestion. Probiotics, such as yogurt and kefir, contain good bacteria that can fight any bad bacteria lurking in your gut.

6. Manage your stress level

Stress can cause “butterflies in your stomach.” A sad experience can be “gut-wrenching.” The reason is because your brain has a direct impact on your stomach.

“Your digestive tract is controlled by a complex system of about 100 million nerves that start in the brain and end in the gut,” notes Dr. Graham. So, your emotions cause chemical and physical responses in the body that can result in stomach pain and discomfort. If ongoing stress is an issue for you, try meditation or other relaxation techniques and make sure to get enough sleep.”

When should you see your doctor about your digestive problems?

“Sometimes an upset stomach or chronic heartburn can be signs of a more serious condition,” adds Dr. Graham.

They can be signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers or gallstones. Contact your primary care doctor if digestive issues are intefering with your daily life.

If you have severe symptoms, such as problems swallowing, bloody or black vomit or stool, abdominal pain or have unexplained weight loss, seek immediate medical attention.

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