We all look forward to the change in pace and a slightly more relaxed lifestyle during the summer months. The problem with more relaxed schedules is the opportunity to take your eye off the wellness ball. Summer food can be less than healthy, with irregular timing of meals and the abundant availability of snacks, treats, picnics and patios. Tummy troubles can ruin a good barbecue pretty fast, but before you reach for an over-the-counter medication, make sure you are solving the right problem.
Antacids like Tums may work for some gurgles or overindulgent indigestion but may make other issues worse. Buscopan will stop those lower abdominal cramps and associated pain in their tracks (it actually works to relax the muscles that cause the cramping), but be sure you are properly managing your specific concern. Food can be a trigger for abdominal cramping but these symptoms could also mean that your body is flagging a more serious issue.
Try avoiding the following food culprits first, talk to a pharmacist about over-the-counter meds, and then be sure to see a doctor if the trouble continues. And relax! It's summer.
Tummy Trouble Culprits:
1. Deep-fried foods
Of course you want to indulge a little on vacation, but fried, buttery or creamy dishes can be hard to digest, causing burps, gas or cramps. Opt for baked or grilled chicken or fish, and dip into small amounts of any sauces on the side.
Cole slaw is a delicious side dish for any summer meal, but boy does it bloat. That crampy, gassy feeling is caused by the fact that the sugars in cabbage can't be broken down in the stomach or small intestine, so they get all the way to the lower, larger intestine for processing. The trapped gas can cause cramping. Try a roasted cabbage cole slaw with an apple cider vinegar. Roasting not only breaks down some of the offending food, it enhances the sweetness of this cruciferous vegetable, and the vinegar gives your gut the boost it needs.
Some have trouble digesting what are known as FODMAP foods -- high fibre foods containing sugars that simply can't be digested. These are otherwise healthy foods such as watermelon, wheat, rye, barley, apples, onions and beans that some bodies can't tolerate. Most people try removing the entire list for two weeks to see if there is improvement.
4. Unfamiliar Foods
When travelling, you are exposed to new things that can affect your body. Water and food grown or handled in different places can contain minerals, nutrients or bacteria that can cause cramping. You may not get full-on sick, but you also may never know where the cramps are coming from. You don't necessarily have to avoid the local fare, just be certain you have an appropriate indigestion solution in your suitcase that can help.
The gut responds to internal and external stimulus, and there is nothing worse than that clench before a big, important stressful meeting/date/dinner/trip/presentation... Honestly, breathe. You are in control of your breathing, everything else is an illusion.
Any way you slice it, life gets easier when days get longer, schedules loosen and food fuels rather than hinders. Wellness means accepting the things you can't change, changing the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Sip some mint tea and it will relieve gas and decrease cramping, says Jacqueline Wolf, M.D., physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of A Woman’s Guide To a Healthy Stomach. “However, mint also relaxes the high pressure zone between the esophagus and stomach and may give some people heartburn.” If you’re prone to heartburn, you might try chamomile tea or another soothing herb tea. Avoid sugarless mint gum because its artificial sugars may cause gas, bloating and burping, Wolf adds.
Dr. Wolf says no studies show that this helps, but you may benefit from the probiotics in plain unsweetened yogurt, particularly if you have diarrhea that has been caused by a course of antibiotics. The yogurt could add healthy bacteria to your gut, which can reduce pain and make it feel better.
You know apple cider, but you may not know about this vinegar, which is a fermented juice made from apples. Upset stomach is sometimes believed to be caused by a lack of acid in the stomach, not too much acid, as is commonly assumed. When too little acid is the case, putting more acid in your tummy can help. Apple cider vinegar also contains a host of nutrients including vitamin B and vitamin C. The vinegar itself can be strong to the taste, so mix a tablespoon or two in hot water, add a little honey, and you'll be good to go.
Rice is an easy-to-digest food that increases the absorption of fluid, says Dr. Wolf. Eating some white rice when you’ve had the runs may restore your stool to normal and make your stomach feel better because the starch of the rice will coat your stomach.
To relieve nausea or vomiting, Dr. Wolf recommends ginger, which has anti-nausea properties. You can pour boiling water over slices of ginger and let it steep for several minutes, or find prepared ginger tea at your grocery store.
Extracted from the aloe plant, which is commonly used to soothe burns, aloe juice has been known to coat your stomach and relieve heartburn and stomach aches. The juice, which is sold in health food stores, can also help push toxins out of your system and clear things out. But keep in mind that it can also act as a laxative, so watch how much you take.
This easy to peel fruit is easy to eat—and digest when your belly feels blah. Bananas can help firm up your stool, says Claudia Gruss, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association and a practicing gastroenterologist at the Arbor Medical Group in Norwalk, Connecticut. They also have potassium, which is good for you if you’ve been unable to eat due to prolonged illness.
Toast is a good option when you feel a little hungry after stomach distress, says Dr. Gruss. Top it with some jam and you’ve got an easily digestible mini-meal that will be tolerated by your tummy and give your body some sugar as well. And some health web sites suggest that the char that forms when you burn toast can have a soothing affect on the stomach, so you may want to try overcooking it a bit.
High in antioxidants, fennel is known to have natural anti-gas properties, and can also help flush toxins from your system. Try eating a half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, or cut some fresh fennel to chew on.
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