Digestive distress can sideline you when you least expect it, whether you over-ate last night, have the flu or just got the electric bill. While symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, indigestion or discomfort are often temporary and harmless, they can be unpleasant and come at the worst times—like when you’re far from the comforts of home.
To avoid the rumbling and roiling that can spoil family fun or embarrass you in public, take these steps:
- Avoid triggers. Dairy products, fatty foods, soda and caffeine are common troublemakers for people with sensitive stomachs. Chewing gum made with sugar alcohols and eating broccoli, cauliflower and baked beans can also cause problems. You may find you can tolerate a little of something that, in quantity, causes problems.
- Slow down and enjoy your food. Gobbling meals isn’t good for your gut, since it can mean over-eating or swallowing too much air as you race to the bottom of the plate.
- Lose your stress. If stress makes you grab for junk food, try a few deep breaths to calm yourself first. Meditate, take yoga, go for daily walks, try journaling or practice deep breathing to keep stress at bay. Exercise is also a good stress reliever, but avoid vigorous activity right before or after meals.
- Dispose of waste. Eat high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and drink enough water to soften stool and speed waste through your colon—this helps prevent diarrhea, constipation and gas. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too much fiber too soon can cause stomach distension.
- Time your food. A routine meal schedule helps regulate bowel function. Eat smaller portions of food more frequently rather than two or three large meals. Avoid eating before bed.
- Try ginger. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, studies show ginger can relieve some cases of nausea and vomiting. Caution: Small doses are safest. Try ginger tea or a ginger supplement. Powdered ginger sometimes causes nausea, heartburn, gas and bloating.
- Stop or limit smoking and drinking. Both can cause indigestion, as well as more serious health problems.
If these measures fail to bring relief, don’t resign yourself to a turbulent tummy. Talk to your healthcare provider. Medications you’re taking may irritate your stomach’s lining. When abdominal pain interferes with your daily routine, it can indicate a serious condition.