06/20/2016 04:05 EDT | Updated 06/20/2016 04:59 EDT

Tummy Troubles? Summer Foods May Be To Blame

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Woman with irritable bowel syndrome

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.

2. Cabbage

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.

5. Stress.

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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