By Kim Thomas of US Health Corps
Digestive problems can wreak havoc on your quality of life. Gastrointestinal issues don’t only leave you uncomfortable, but they also make it difficult to maintain a normal life. After all, it’s hard to be present in a business meeting or social gathering when you’re constantly worried about finding a bathroom or triggering your symptoms.
Thankfully, there’s good news: Many digestive health problems can be prevented or controlled through natural methods. By controlling your diet, getting enough physical activity, and avoiding triggers, you can reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and feel better every day.
Getting to Know Your Gut
Before you can improve your gastrointestinal health, you need to understand it. Start a digestion journal and log your daily diet, bowel movements, symptoms, and other details relevant to your condition. Logging helps you identify foods that trigger symptoms and track how variables like mood, energy, and sleep are influenced by your digestive health. If you need more information, you can learn more about digestive health journaling at the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research or use an app to easily track your data.
You should also get familiar with the friendly bacteria that keep your gut healthy. Most people have heard of Lactobacillus, but they don’t realize there are other types of probiotic bacteria. For instance, Akkermansia, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii are just a few of the probiotics aiding digestion, immunity, and mental health. If you’re taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic foods, include them in your log to identify which ones ease your symptoms.
Healing Your Gut Naturally
Digestive health problems may be caused by your diet, your genes, your immune system, or a number of other factors. Often, it’s not a single cause but a convergence of risk factors that give rise to digestive disorders. But no matter the cause, lifestyle changes ease gastrointestinal symptoms. Here’s what you can do if you’re living with one of these common digestive issues.
When you’re constipated, it’s difficult to pass stools. Your bowel movements may be infrequent or incomplete, and straining may cause painful hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
Chronic constipation is treated by increasing fiber intake (especially soluble fiber), drinking more water, exercising, and consuming dietary prebiotics and probiotics. You should also avoid holding it when you feel the need to use the bathroom, as ignoring the urge to go may ultimately worsen constipation.
● Heartburn or GERD
Occasional heartburn — that burning sensation that rises from your stomach to your chest — is common and not serious. However, heartburn that occurs regularly or grows in severity could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease. If not controlled, GERD can seriously damage the esophagus.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends eating smaller meals, eating at least three hours before bed, and avoiding exercise immediately after meals to relieve GERD symptoms. Pay attention to which foods trigger heartburn and limit their presence in your diet, especially at dinner. Fatty foods, alcohol, and acidic beverages, among others, are common triggers.
● Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Everyone experiences stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation once in a while. But when those symptoms don’t go away, you’re dealing with IBS.
The cause of IBS varies, which means you’ll need to identify your unique triggers to control your symptoms. Women’s Health explains that fatty foods, dairy, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners are common triggers, but so are stress and anxiety. If changing your diet doesn’t ease your symptoms, experiment with relaxation techniques.
Improving your digestive health doesn’t come without a little sacrifice and hard work. It’s difficult to give up favorite foods and change lifestyle habits, especially when there’s no guarantee your symptoms will disappear completely. However, relieving your GI symptoms can vastly improve your quality of life, and that’s always worth it.
Image via Unsplash
Kim Thomas’ mission is aligned with that of US Health Corps, and that is to triumph over chronic disease. Her mission is to advocate for those suffering from chronic disease and she enjoys writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.