Do you schedule your day around bathroom breaks, turn down invitations or avoid activities in public because you fear having an accident? Rest assured, you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from digestive problems every day. This is often the result of bacteria in food, infection, stress, medications or chronic medical conditions, including Colitis, Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). No matter the cause, anyone who has frequent digestive problems faces daily challenges.
While your clinician may suggest dietary guidelines and prescribe medication to improve your digestive health, you can take steps that will help you get through the day with greater comfort and ease. Follow these 10 tips to improve your digestion.
1. Create Your Digestion Treatment Plan
Your clinician will determine the reasons for your digestive problems and work with you on a treatment plan. This may involve taking medication, avoiding certain foods or adopting new habits. In some cases, a genetic test can be a useful resource to help guide treatment.
2. Pinpoint Your Digestive Triggers
There are many factors that can trigger digestive problems. These triggers vary from person to person. Consider the following questions:
- What foods or drinks upset your digestive tract? Coffee, dairy products and carbonated beverages are known to trigger gas or diarrhea for some people.
- Do situations or events seem to trigger your digestive problems? Travel, menstrual hormones and social situations are common triggers.
- Are there prescription and over-the-counter medications that cause your digestive problems to flare up? Keep a record of how specific medications affect you, and be sure to discuss them with your clinician.
To help you make these connections, keep a journal of what you eat and drink, what medicines and supplements you take, and daily events. We created a Medications & Supplements Diary for Genomind test-takers which they can access on the Patient Portal. They can export their diary and take it with them to clinician visits.
3. Keep A Balanced Diet
Eating right can help prevent digestive problems or soothe your system when problems flare up. Follow your clinician’s instructions on which foods to eat and which to avoid. Pay attention to portion sizes, as well as how often and how quickly you eat.
Including fiber-rich foods in your diet can add movement to your digestive system and add bulk to your stool, which naturally regulates digestion. Increase your fiber intake gradually to prevent bloating, gas and diarrhea. Some fiber-rich foods include sweet potatoes, prunes and spinach.
4. Stay Hydrated
Water is necessary for good health and normal digestive function. Water also helps keep stool soft, yet solid and well-formed. If you experience diarrhea, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Water is the best choice, while caffeine and alcohol can worsen dehydration.
Traveler’s diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps. It’s caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. While traveling, drink bottled water, juice or sports drinks. Remember that contaminated water may be used to make ice, coffee or tea and to rinse raw produce.
5. Practice Healthy Hygiene
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use the bathroom and before handling food. Washing your hands helps prevent transmission of potentially dangerous bacteria that can cause digestive problems.
Diarrhea can cause pain or itching. To treat this, try using pre-moistened, alcohol-free wipes to clean the affected area. Keep the skin dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose, breathable clothing.
6. Stay Prepared
Be prepared in the event an accident occurs. Keep emergency supplies on-hand at home, work, school and on the road. Helpful products may include:
- Fast-acting medication (for gas, bloating or diarrhea)
- Pre-moistened travel wipes
- An extra pair of underwear
- Plastic bags to dispose of soiled wipes and clothes
7. Practice Stress Management
Does stress cause or aggravate your digestive problems? You may be able to relieve stress with relaxing activities including exercise, yoga, meditation or a hobby. Be realistic and flexible as you customize activities to your individual needs. Activities such as attending a yoga class might make you feel insecure on a day when your digestive problems flare up. In that case, find an activity to destress in private. In other cases, stress cannot be avoided. Consider talking to a friend or therapist who can help you cope with tough situations and relationships.
8. Seek Help for Digestive Concerns
Your family and friends want to help you stay healthy. Help them understand how digestive problems affect you and what they can do to support you emotionally or practically.
Sometimes it helps to connect with others who suffer from similar digestive problems. Support groups, whether in-person or online, may help end your isolation and provide a forum for exchanging ideas. Ask your clinician if they can recommend a group that might be right for you.
9. Take Control Of Your Digestive Health
Speak with your clinician by providing detailed feedback and asking questions about your treatment program. Consider the medication you’ve been prescribed, its effectiveness and potential side effects. There may be other medications you can try. Before trying over-the-counter remedies or supplements, check with your clinician or pharmacist to determine which could be right for you. Keep track of your experiences and questions so you can discuss them with your clinician.
10. Avoid Digestive Miracle Cures
Alternative digestive treatments, such as colon cleansing and fasting, are not fully researched. And although some alternative treatments show promise, many are expensive, ineffective or dangerous. Always consult your clinician before adopting new treatments.
The Genomind® Mental Health Map™ is a genetic test may help individuals who are looking to improve their overall health and wellbeing. The results report analyzes genes in seven key areas, including Eating Behavior and provides personalized, actionable information that helps individuals make changes to their lifestyle, habits and activities in order to improve their quality of life. Learn more and order yours today.