From “butterflies in our stomach” to “gut instincts,” our digestive system has a way of communicating with us. Stomach ache, gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation are also ways our bodies signal to us that something’s not quite right. While occasional digestive upset is often the result of something we ate, nerves or a poor diet, sometimes symptoms can be an indication of a more serious problem. It’s important to tune in and take action to keep your digestive system functioning well.
Are you having these issues two or more times a week?
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
Partner with your doctor: Your doctor will help you identify patterns that may be relevant to your health, assess your risk for certain diseases, recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle habits that can address symptoms, determine if diagnostic tests are needed, and identify a condition that might not otherwise have been considered.
Keep a digestive diary: Invest some time in keeping a detailed diary each day of what you eat, symptoms experienced, when they occur, problem foods, and anything that, at least temporarily, eases your discomfort. This information can provide important clues to help you and your doctor solve your issues.
Make changes to your lifestyle
- Eat a healthy diet including fiber from fruit and veggies. (LINK)
- Cut back on processed foods and foods high in saturated fat, sodium, caffeine, carbonation, aspartame, and simple sugars.
- Eat smaller meals, chew your food slowly, and relax while you eat.
- Drink more water and less alcohol.
- Increase the good bacteria in your digestive tract by taking probiotic supplements and eating foods that contain probiotics. (LINK)
- Exercise more and maintain a healthy weight: 30 minutes of daily exercise can make a big difference in keeping everything moving.
- If you smoke, quit: Ask your doctor for support. (LINK)
- Get enough sleep and avoid eating before bed or lying down after eating.
- Avoid certain medications, if possible: Aspirin and NSAIDs can affect your stomach over the long term. Antibiotics can upset the balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Identify sources of stress and develop a realistic plan to deal with stressors in your life. It’s important to avoid “swallowing your emotions.” Learn to release feelings of resentment, anger and frustration productively.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Causes, triggers and treatment
- Fiber for fabulous digestion: 8 tasty sources for Summer
- Say hello to good gut bacteria: The power of probiotics
- Do I have GERD?
- Savvy ways to sneak superfoods into your diet
The Good News
A healthy digestive system is within your reach: Live well and trust what your tummy is telling you.