Gas, bloating and consptitation are digestive issues that we will all encounter at some point in our lives. They are normal human experiences, but that does not mean they are plesant or enjoyable to go through. Today’s posting will discuss strategies that you can employ to help overcome occasional bouts of gas, bloating and consptipation and improve your overall digestive health. If you believe that you experience gas, bloating and constipation at an excessively high frequency, I highly recommend that you consult with a health professional. You could potentially be dealing with a variety of medical issues that may be beyond the scope of today’s article. With that being said, If you are an otherwise healthy individual, the dietary strategies that I discuss here today will go a long way to improving your digestive health and reducing the occurrence of gas, bloating and constipation.
I should note as well that gas, bloating and constipation are not identical experiences. Although they may often be due to related causes, they can occur independetly of eachother. I have grouped them together for the sake of today’s article because they do often occur together and also because I often receive specific questions relating to how to improve digestive health by addressing all three of these issues. Without further adieu then, let’s get into the tips to help tame your gas, bloating and constipation.
10 Quick Tips to Tame Gas, Bloating & Constipation
1) Eat more fibre: Adequate dietary fibre intake is a very important component of digestive health and overall health. Nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all fibre rich food groups. If you are able to incorporate a little bit more of these foods than you are currently eating, you will go a long way to boosting your fibre intake and digestive health. Depending on your current dietary habits, this could mean as little as eating an extra fruit and handful of nuts a day. If you are someone who does not usually consume many food items from these groups, be sure to incorporate them into your diet slowly to allow your body time to adapt to the increased fibre intake.
2) Drink more water: Consuming enough water on a daily basis is another important component of maintaining your digestive health. Water works in conjuction with dietary fibre to keep things moving smoothly through your digestive tract. Adult women should aim for about 9 cups a day while and adult men should aim for about 12. Make water your first choice over sweetened drinks, artificially sweetened drinks, carbonated beverages, pop, coffee and alcohol, each of which may be contributing to your digestive issues in their own way.
3) Take your time: We all live busy lives and I appreciate that often our meals are rushed. However, eating in a relaxed, measured and controlled manner can go a long way to preventing digestive issues. Whenever time allows, focus fully on your meal and try to eat in a slow and controlled manner. I also recommend you to avoid distractions such as television, computers, cellphones and other technology while eating.
4) Eat smaller meals: People often space out there meals in a manner that works well with their schedule. If you are someone who generally eats fewer , larger meals on a regular basis, it may benefit you to switch to smaller meals and snacks. This is especially true if these larger meals contain a significant amount of fatty or greasy foods. Depending on the individual, regularly eating large meals may be causing some strain to the digestive system. All else equal, you will probably be less likely to experience a gassy, bloated feeling if you consume a smaller rather than a larger meal.
5) Eat less healthy meals & snacks less frequently: Fast food, fried food, baked goods and various treat items are generally low in fibre and very high in fat, which can put a strain on your digestive system if you consume them too often. I am not asking you to give these foods up, but consider having them slightly less frequently, especially if you are suffering from digestive issues more often then you’d like. When cooking at home, frying foods less frequently and choosing leaner cuts of meat will also help this cause.
6) Exercise more than before: Regular exercise can greatly benefit your digestive tract and help reduce the likelihood of experiencing constipation and other digestive issues. I understand every person who reads this blog is at a different level of proficiency in physical endeavours. Whatever level you are at, I urge you to be a little bit more active than you currently are, whether that means taking an extra walk, playing an extra day of sports, whatever the case may be. The more the merrier, incorporating more physical activity will be an important component of maintaing your digestive health.
7) Cut back on sugar alcohols: Have you ever wondered what Sorbitol, Malitol, Mannitol or Xylitol are? They are all sugar alcohols, a special type of carbohydrate that tastes sweet like sugar, but does not provide as many calories as sugar does because our bodies cannot fully digest them. You may have seen these ingredients on your sugar-free gum, candies and other treats and products. Although sugar alcohols are approved for use as food additives in Canada, sugar alcohol consumption may lead to digestive issues such as gas and bloating in some people. If you regularly consume sugar-free items, gum especially, you may want to consider cutting back as it may be contributing to your digestive issues.
8) Don’t overdo dairy: According to a Canadian Digestive Health Foundation report, over 7 million Canadians are affected by lactose intolerance. Lactose is a carbohydrate found in dairy products that people with lactose intolerance may have a hard time digesting. Adult men and women in the 19-50 age bracket are recommended to consume 2 servings of dairy daily, this amounts to 1 cup of milk and a 3/4 cup of yogurt a day. If you think that you overconsume dairy products, or often eat a lot of dairy in one sitting, this could be contributing to your digestive issues. However, you do not need to give up dairy to remedy the problem. Eating dairy in smaller amounts, eating dairy products with other foods at meals, and choosing cheese/yogurt more often than milk should help improve your digestive system’s ability to tolerate dairy products. Minimizing high fat dairy choices such as whipped cream, ice cream and butter will also help.
9) Know the usual suspects: Certain foods such as beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, onions and cauliflower are notorious for causing gas and bloating. These foods also happen to be extremely nutritious. If you suspect these foods to be causing you gas or digestive irritation, you may consider eating them in smaller amounts/less frequently than usual or, if you are in a social situation where having gas would cause you to feel uncomfortable, you may opt to avoid those foods in that circumstance. Otherwise nutritious food items such as spicy foods, eggs, red meat or wheat may also cause digestive issues in some people. Do not cut these foods out of your diet without due cause, review point #10 below for suggestions on how to deal with these and other potential problem foods.
10) Be mindful/Try a food journal: All of the advice I have provided thus far should be considered in the context of being mindful of what you are eating. Those of you who have a history of digestive issues should always be aware of the foods you are eating and the amount you are eating them in. For example, eating four eggs a day may cause digestive distress in an individual whereas eating two may not. Knowing what you ate, when you ate it, and how much of it you ate will go a very long way to helping you determine the types of foods that may be causing you problems. For this reason, I recommend trying a food journal, where you can record this information on a daily basis and make it much easier for yourself to determine the foods that cause you specific digestive symptoms. It may take time to develop enough of a history to determine the types and amounts of foods that cause the problems, but it will be well worth it in the end.
11) Stay upright after meals: I often encounter individuals who will eat a large meal and proceed to kick their feet up, lay on the couch or go straight to sleep. Doing so will interrupt your digestives ability to function properly and made lead to digestive issues in both the short and long-term. Try to remain up right for at at least 30 minutes after a meal in order to ensure this is not contributing to your digestive issues.
I sincerely hope this article has provided you at least a few helpful suggestions to propel you on your journey to better digestive health. I appreciate how frustrating digestive issues such as gas, bloating and constipation can be as I personally have dealt with them in the past. Fortunately, I have been able to overcome many of my own digestive issues by following the guidance that I provided above, although that may not necessarily be the case for everyone. Depending on the severity of your issues, you may require action beyond what I have discussed here today. Please do not hesitate to consult with your healthcare professional in such cases. I also urge you to not drastically restrict your intake of certain healthy foods or food groups, as this could have long-term implications on the adequacy and balance of your diet. Keep in mind that it will take time, effort and committment to adjust your eating style to minimize gas, bloating and constipation and improve your overall and digestive health. Many of you, however, should benefit from making a few small but significant changes to your diet. As always, I wish you the best of luck incorporating these changes and in all your other food and nutrition related endeavours.
Until next time, Eat Up!
Andy De Santis RD MPH