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Are You Sabotaging Your Stomach? 6 Tips to Naturally Improve Digestion

Updated on September 21, 2009

Heartburn, stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are many different kinds of digestive problems. People often suffer from these disorders so often that they think it's 'just part of life.' But it's not. Stomach problems can be treated and prevented, many times with small changes to our routines.

Why live with digestive problems when you don't have to?

1. Eat More Fiber

Eating fiber is a great way to keep your digestive system running smoothly. It's easy to add more fiber to your diet.

The American Dietic Association recommends consuming 20-35 grams of fiber a day.

I start my day with Kellogg's All-Bran Strawberry Medley cereal. It has 40% of the daily recommendation of fiber.

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber (plus vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), so make sure to snack on some throughout the day.

Kellogg's FiberPlus Bars are great when you're craving something more chocolatey. One bar contains 35% of the daily recommendation of fiber. I get the Chocolate Chip ones.

If you still have trouble getting enough fiber, try a convenient fiber supplement. I like Metamucil Clear & Natural (previously known as Metamucil Fibersure). It's a clear-mixing, tasteless powder that can be added to almost anything: water, tea, yogurt, cooking, baking.

Increasing your daily fiber intake can help with many conditions, including constipation, stomach discomfort, and PMS.

Fiber Doesn't Have to Taste Like Cardboard

Fiber One Raisin Bran Clusters, 17.25-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 4)
Fiber One Raisin Bran Clusters, 17.25-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 4)

Contains 11 grams of fiber per serving, 43% of the daily value of fiber.

 

2. Say Good-Bye to Soda

There are numerous reasons to quit drinking soda: the high fructose corn syrup, the high sugar content, the empty calories. It's been widely publicized that cutting soda from your diet will help you avoid diabetes and lose weight. But there's another reason stop drinking soda...

Soda causes gas.

Yes, it's obvious. The carbonation in soda can cause a lot of physical discomfort.

I've pretty much stopped drinking soda altogether. After a few weeks of not drinking soda, I stopped having any desire to drink it. So it's true: if you stop eating something that's bad for you long enough, the cravings go away.

The other day, I had some soda while at a fast food restaurant, and about a minute or two after my first sip I had sharp stomach pains. It was like a really bad stitch in my side. It was so painful I had trouble eating.

If you drink soda on a regular basis, you may not even realize it's causing digestive problems. Avoid drinking soda for a while and see how you feel.

Instead of soda, drink water. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is very important both for your digestive health and your overall health, and soda is no substitute for H2O.

3. Milk Doesn't Do Every Body Good

Many people are lactose intolerant and don't even know it. If your body doesn't handle milk well, it can cause diarrhea, stomach pains, and even acne.

Pay attention to see if any physical discomfort occurs after consuming a dairy product. Milk and ice cream are the dairy items most likely to cause digestive problems. Yogurt is the dairy product least likely to cause problems.

The best way to see if you have a bad reaction to dairy is to completely cut dairy products out of your diet for a while. Then, slowly add dairy back in and see if your symptoms return.

4. Eat More Yogurt

I often see yogurt listed in those "superfoods" lists. Yogurt is full of good stuff like calcium, lactic acid, and probiotics.

Yes, yogurt is a dairy product, but it rarely causes the same problems that other dairy products can. Lactic acid aids with the digestion of the small amount of lactose found in yogurt.

Greek yogurt is touted as the best yogurt, but it can be expensive. I eat Kroger Fruit-on-the-Bottom yogurt: very yummy with lots of calcium.

Dannon has been promoting their Activia yogurt as a digestion aid. It contains their patented probiotic Bifidus Regularis, which "is scientifically proven to help with slow intestinal transit when eaten daily for two weeks." I ate Dannon Activia for a year or so. It tasted good, but I don't think it had any benefits over normal yogurt.

There are also yogurts on the market that contain fiber: two in one!

Save Money and Have Fun Making Your Own Yogurt

5. Make Sure to Take a Probiotic Supplement

I love probiotics. I take one Accuflora caplet every day.

I also got my boyfriend to start taking Accuflora. He was skeptical at first and would only take one when he was having stomach problems, which cleaned out his system. I told him if he took one caplet daily, his system would balance out and he wouldn't have the 'cleansing' reaction anymore.

My boyfriend has almost no stomach problems now. He used to get frequent heartburn, but not anymore! I no longer have to bother him to take his probiotic supplement; he never misses a day.

Personally, I look for a supplement that has a good variety of probiotic strains. Some products only contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, which doesn't seem like a good value for the money.

A lot of medicines (especially antibiotics) kill the good bacteria in our stomachs, which is one of the reasons it's so important to take a probiotic supplement. There are many strains of probiotics, and together they fight almost every common digestive ailment, even food poisoning and ulcers!

You'll be amazed at what a difference probiotic supplements make.

The Best Probiotics

Accuflora- Probiotic Acidophilus Dietary Supplement, 240 Caplets
Accuflora- Probiotic Acidophilus Dietary Supplement, 240 Caplets

This is what I use. I like that it has a variety of probiotic strains and it's much cheaper than the alternatives.

 

6. Peppermint Gels Help with Stress

Even if you eat right and take probiotics, anxiety can still tie your stomach in knots. A loud, rumbling stomach during a presentation is horribly embarrassing. I used to take Pepto-Bismol for stress-induced stomach problems, but then I found a better way to handle it.

Peppermint oil has anti-spasmodic effects and can help with numerous conditions.

Indigestion: Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food passes through the stomach more quickly.

Flatulence/Bloating: Peppermint relaxes the muscles that allow the body to rid itself of painful digestive gas.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Some studies have shown that enteric-coated peppermint capsules are helpful in treating symptoms of IBS, such as pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

(Source: University of Maryland Medical Center.)

Whenever my stomach is grumbly, whether it's from stress or my erratic eating habits, I take one peppermint gel capsule and soon after my tummy is nice and quiet.

Feel Better - Naturally

The first five tips will help you prevent stomach discomfort, and the sixth tip will help when stress and anxiety get the best of you.

Why go natural? Why not just use over-the-counter medicine?

Over-the-counter medicine is used to treat symptoms after the fact. When you take a tablet for gas or constipation, you're already suffering. By making a few changes to your diet, you can avoid problems altogether. Treating the cause is better than treating the symptoms.

Over-the-counter medicine can be a double-edged sword. Mylanta treats heartburn but can cause constipation. Pepto-Bismol treats only some cases of diarrhea: if you take Pepto-Bismol when you're suffering from food poisoning, you're actually prolonging the problem and making it worse.

By following my six tips, you'll improve not just your digestive health but your overall health. You can lose weight, feel more energetic, and truly enjoy life.

What About You?

Do You Have Digestive Problems?

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    • the pink umbrella profile image

      the pink umbrella 

      6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

      pepto chewable are my best friend. i am super high anxiety and i always have pepto on hand. can pepermint upset your stomach???

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