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Dietary Tips for Digestive Distress

Stop Your Bellyaching!

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Diet and Lifestyle Habits to Stop Your Bellyaching

You're not doomed to suffer from digestive distress for the rest of your life. In addition to your doctor's advice, the following dietary and lifestyle changes can help prevent and control heartburn, indigestion, GERD and ulcers by decreasing gastric secretions and minimizing regurgitation.

Foods to Avoid
Although every person reacts to foods differently, it's a good idea to narrow down the foods that might cause you problems.  Avoid or limit the following foods and beverages, which are known to cause irritation and spasms, until you can pinpoint your specific triggers:
  • Alcohol
  • Butter or margarine
  • Caffeine-containing foods and beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Citrus fruits and citrus juices
  • Coffee (regular and decaf)
  • Cream-based sauces
  • Fatty meats
  • Fried foods
  • Garlic
  • Gravy
  • High-fat foods
  • Mint flavors
  • Nuts and nut butters (including peanut butter)
  • Oils
  • Onions
  • Pastries
  • Pepper
  • Peppermint
  • Salad dressings
  • Spearmint
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Vinegar
Tips for Meal Planning
Planning your meals and meal times can help prevent heartburn in the first place.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals that are higher in protein, which helps keep acid levels more consistent.
  • Drink fluids between meals, but limit beverages during meals since they may cause bloating.
  • Avoid stressful situations at mealtimes. Eat in a calm, relaxed atmosphere making sure to eat slowly and chew your food completely.
  • Attain and maintain a desirable weight. Excess weight puts pressure on the abdomen and internal organs and can lead to digestive problems.
  • Remain upright (standing or sitting) for 30 minutes after eating. This helps relieve pressure.
  • Stop eating several hours before bedtime. If you lie down or fall asleep soon after eating, you're more likely to suffer acid reflux.
Other Lifestyle Habits
These other tips will also help prevent digestive distress.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking causes a host of serious diseases, but it also negatively affects your digestive system. Smoking is known to cause heartburn, peptic ulcers and other digestive distresses.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Tight clothing and belts put pressure on the abdomen and increase reflux and discomfort.
  • Elevate the head of your bed while sleeping.
  • Ask your doctor about antacids. They can help increase pressure on the lower sphincter (a good thing!) and neutralize gastic contents. Always use as directed and with your doctor's approval.
  • Don't exercise on a full stomach. Wait at least two hours between eating and exercising to prevent the exercise-induced heartburn.
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About The Author

Tanya Jolliffe Tanya Jolliffe
Tanya earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition and has more than 20 years of experience in nutrition counseling and education. She is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. See all of Tanya's articles.



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