Are stomach troubles cramping your style?

If you’re like most Americans, you suffer from some type of GI issue on a daily basis (cramping, bloating, gas, constipation…the list goes on). These symptoms can be embarrassing, distressing, and downright painful.

Before you remove entire food groups or hop into a trendy “elimination diet” (read: exhaustive and unsustainable), try these 5 tips to improve digestion while eating the foods you love:

1. Calm mind, calm digestion 
Think about the last time you sat down to eat sans distraction.

Many of us don’t take the time to do this self-care act due to hectic schedules and a tech-centered world. We eat rapidly and often while scrolling through social media or working on our computers. For me, wolfing down a salad while writing client notes is a surefire way to a stomachache.

Take your time while eating, chew, and try to reduce anxiety surrounding meals. Since our gut is so closely linked to our brain, emotions (stress, anxiety) play a hefty role in how well (or unwell) we will digest and process our food.

2. Movement creates movement 
Getting up and walking throughout the day helps to stimulate the digestion process and can help reduce stress (two birds with one stone!).

Remember, eating while stressed sends a signal to your digestion saying “stop; we’ve got other things to worry about right now.” Try to set an alarm every 30 minutes as a reminder to stand up and move around a bit.

3.  Eat to satisfaction
Overeating creates bloating, gas, and discomfort.

Avoid this by eating until you’re satisfied instead of stuffed. If you’re eating slowly, it’s easier to hear your body’s whisper of “I’ve had enough, I can stop now.”

4. Assume the position
Enter: Squatty Potty.

You definitely don’t need this tool, but getting your knees up in this low squat position helps to relax the lower bowel and makes elimination much easier and faster.

5. Consider a supplement
Probiotics and magnesium supplements have been shown to improve digestion. Be sure to ask a health practitioner if this is something that could be helpful for you.

While there is certainly a time and a place for avoiding certain foods and embarking on an elimination diet, most of us do not suffer from food allergies and do not need to go to these extremes. Try out these tips and your symptoms will most likely resolve on their own.

If your symptoms persist or are more intense than normal, seek help from a gastroenterologist or an allergy specialist.

And if you would like an individualized nutrition plan, make an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians to guide you toward better health, inside and out.

Jenni Leslie

Jenni Leslie is MNT's expert in nutrition counseling for eating disorders of all sorts; anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, and others. She is performs our our genetic testing service: Nutrigenomix. In addition to her work at McDaniel Nutrition, she serves on staff at McCallum Place, an eating disorder treatment center based in St. Louis, MO.